Kart Varmaari, Estonia

Kart Varmaari, Estonia

More than 70 advocates from 38 countries converged in Berlin by train and plane two weeks ago for the ELAW International Annual Meeting, hosted by the Independent Institute for Environmental Concerns (UfU), our German partner organization.  We rolled our suitcases over cobblestone sidewalks, indulged in warm rolls and cheese and chocolate, renewed friendships, and worked hard.

UfU, ELAW and the Heinrich Böll Foundation co-hosted a conference on “Legal Remedies for Resource Extraction,” with a rich agenda populated by ELAW partners from around the world and a handful of other experts.  Twenty concurrent “Speakers’ Corners” examined diverse topics.  See:   Conference Agenda

JingJing Zhang, Rugemeleza Nshala, Simon Amaduabogha in Feldheim

Tuesday and Wednesday ELAW network members hunkered down to the business of information exchange and trainings.  We worked on “Defending the Defenders,” – what we can do as a network about the rising threats and danger that environmental defenders are facing.  We worked on strategic litigation and creative lawyering outside the courtroom, challenging nuclear power, and the human right to water, among other topics.

Thursday we learned from Green Party representative Bärbel Höhn about Germany’s energy transition.  And Friday we had a hands-on tour of Feldheim, a small community that has successfully made the transition – producing 100% of its energy from renewable sources.  A corollary benefit of Feldheim’s transition is the 0% unemployment rate for its residents.

Germany is a leader in taking on our global climate challenge – their ambitious targets and investments in renewable energy are driving down prices of production for the rest of the world.  We return exhausted, inspired, renewed, determined and full of gratitude for our German hosts.  Thanks, UfU!

Lori Maddox
Associate Director

ELAW is helping lawyers around the world protect communities and the environment, and they need help from scientists. Heidi Weiskel, a marine ecologist and ELAW Staff Scientist since 2012, says:

Scientists help communities understand how a development impacts the local ecology and help lawyers articulate these impacts in court.”

Scientist in Action: Glenn Miller (center)
and ELAW partners Aresio Valiente (left) and
Tania Arosemena (right) in Panama, July 2014

Heidi was joined by ELAW board member Glenn Miller and ELAW partner Fernando Ochoa at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting, to help ecologists learn how they can use their expertise outside traditional academic research.

Glenn is a professor and mining expert at the University of Nevada at Reno. Fernando is an attorney and founder of Environmental Defense Northwest.

Introducing the work of ELAW to ESA builds bridges between these experts and the communities that need scientific analysis,” says Heidi.

Heidi and ELAW Staff Scientists Mark Chernaik and Meche Lu work with Glenn and several other pro bono scientists who share their expertise with hundreds of ELAW partners around the world.

Many thanks to Glenn and all of ELAW’s pro bono scientists who help bring scientific truth to environmental challenges.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

CEMDA logoCongratulations to ELAW advocate Alejandra Serrano and her team at the Mexican Environmental Law Center for their work defending communities and Mexico’s Riviera Maya!

ABC News reports:

“Mexican environmental authorities have levied a $555,000 fine against a project to build a massive trade center south of Cancun to showcase Chinese products. The Attorney General for Environmental Protection said late Thursday the fine was for building roads through wetlands and affecting coastal ecosystems without authorization.”

“The communities are saying enough is enough with out-sized development on the coast,” says Alejandra.  “This fine is a good first step. Our case is pending and we hope the Ministry of Environment will apply the new law of environmental responsibility and follow up on the criminal acts exposed in this case.”

Last year, ELAW Staff Scientist Meche Lu reviewed the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and revealed that the EIA lacked information about the scope and size of the project, the location of coastal wetlands within the project area, the impact of paving on the water quality of coastal wetlands, and more.

For more information, see:

We will keep you informed of our progress protecting the Yucatán Peninsula. Thanks for your interest!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Status of Crimea’s Natural Reserves Uncertain

Eugene, OR, August 20, 2014 — Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide partners in Ukraine are concerned about the fate of protected natural areas in Crimea.  “The status of Charivna Havan National Park, Yalta Mountain Forest Reserve, Cape Martyan Reserve, and three other natural reserves are uncertain,” says Olena Kravchenko, Executive Director of Environment-People-Law, based in Lviv, Ukraine.

Olena explains:

EPL

“The situation is complicated.  These are lands owned by Ukraine, which has the right and obligation to protect them, but we keep receiving reports that rich Russians are turning parts of these parks and reserves into private estates.  However, there is no possibility to handle these territories properly at present because of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea.”

Olena and her staff at EPL have worked for years to protect the environment through law in Ukraine.  EPL was founded by the late Professor Svitlana Kravchenko, a world expert on human rights and the environment.  EPL has a staff of 13.

While worried about the situation in Crimea, EPL recently celebrated a court order returning to public use similar state-owned, protected lands near Kyiv that the country’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych had closed off for his private hunting.

“This is one of the first decisions in Ukraine that returns illegally expropriated state property to the public,” says Olena.  “Recreation areas must be accessible by the public and not passed to private hands.”

For more information, contact:

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide
maggie[at]elaw.org
@keenanmaggie

Have you heard the news? The Nicaraguan government has revealed the route for a canal it plans to build across the country with help from a Hong Kong-based company.

The proposed canal would stretch 173 miles, about three times the length of the Panama Canal.  It would originate at Punta Gorda in the Caribbean, pass through Lake Nicaragua, and end at Brito, a port on the Pacific Ocean.

Nicaragua workshopELAW partner Lottie Cunningham Wren is a Miskito attorney from Nicaragua who has worked for decades to defend the land rights of indigenous people .

“I am concerned about the impact the canal will have on indigenous communities,” says Lottie, who has called on ELAW for help.

New laws have severely limited public participation in the decision making process and may allow the project to bypass environmental reviews.

For more information, please see the following:

New York Times
Nicaragua Approves Building Its Own Canal

BBC
Nicaragua canal route: Atlantic-Pacific link unveiled

National Geographic
Nicaraguan Canal Could Wreck Environment, Scientists Say

We will keep you posted on our work with Lottie. Many thanks for your interest!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

Last weekend, Live Mint & Wall Street Journal celebrated the work of three ELAW partners — Norma and Claude Alvares at the Goa Foundation and Ritwick Dutta at the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE). This dynamic trio and other inspired advocates in India co-hosted our 2012 ELAW Annual Meeting.

Claude and Norma Alvares

PHOTO: Live Mint & Wall Street Journal

Here are some excerpts:

Norma Alvares & Claude Alvares: The power of two
This duo is one of the foremost reasons Goa retains its charm and a good measure of its environmental heritage.

“The serenity in this partnership — quite evident to anyone who visits the couple’s relaxed, hospitable home in the north Goa village of Parra — is the cornerstone of an extraordinary record of ferocious battles and activism that is one of the foremost reasons India’s smallest state still retains considerable charm and a good measure of its environmental heritage.”

 

 

Ritwick Dutta

PHOTO: Live Mint & Wall Street Journal

Ritwick Dutta: The case for our forests
The 40-year-old lawyer has taken the battle for the environment to the courtroom with more than 350 cases.

“Dutta dismisses the argument that green laws and environmental activism are hurdles to growth. ‘That’s a myth that is being perpetuated. Virtually all projects –over 95% — are cleared; every day over 330 acres of forest land is diverted in India,’ he says. The cases that come for legal challenge are less than 1% of those approved… What drives Dutta is his determination to protect the last remaining natural wild habitats, and what he calls ‘environmental democracy, a process to arm communities with knowledge, and to give them a voice in projects which impact their lives and livelihood.'”

We are inspired by the work of Norma, Claude, and Ritwick, and hope you are too!

All the best,

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Proposed large-scale mining is raising concerns among residents of remote communities in Ecuador.  Copper mining is underway, new mines are proposed, and citizens fear their voices will not be heard.

Workshop participants.

“They lack information they can trust,” says Meche Lu, ELAW Staff Scientist, “They need information and they want to participate in the decision-making processes.”

Earlier this month, Meche traveled to remote regions of Ecuador to participate in workshops for community leaders and residents seeking information about the real impacts of mining and how to review Environmental Impact Assessments for proposed projects.

“Large scale metal mining is proposed in areas with high rainfall and rugged terrain,” says Meche. “This poses substantial risk of soil erosion, water pollution, and acid mine drainage.  The biggest local concern is acid mine drainage.”

Mining operations are proposed for Ecuador’s sub-tropical Andes in fragile ecosystems such as the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, home to the endangered spectacled bear and jaguar. Subsistence farmers and indigenous peoples here support themselves growing coffee, fruit, and sugarcane. They have been fighting gold and copper mining for years.

ELAW is pleased to work with local partners at ECOLEX to help the people of Ecuador understand their legal rights and make their voices heard about short-sighted mining projects.

We will keep you informed of our progress!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Mangroves play a critical role buffering coastal communities against flooding and storms and provide habitat for thousands of species of birds and marine animals.  Recent evidence suggests that mangroves sequester carbon very effectively and healthy mangroves could help protect our climate.

Unfortunately, humans are destroying huge areas of mangroves and if we do not take action they may be functionally extinct by the turn of the century.

 

I am pleased to report on a new resource for protecting mangroves:

ELAW Mangrove Science Database.

Dr.  Heidi Weiskel, ELAW Staff Scientist, worked closely with David Pugh, ELAW Web Designer, to ensure that key research on mangroves, published by more than 75 scientists, is included in this comprehensive resource for citizens worldwide.

We have summarized each scientific study in our Mangrove Science Database in English and Spanish.  We have plotted research on specific mangrove forests on a world map.  As new studies are completed, we will add them to the database.  Our user-friendly tool will help communities and grassroots advocates around the world make the case to protect mangroves.  I encourage you to visit the ELAW Mangrove Science Database and share it with your colleagues.

Thank you!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Central America is home to breathtaking beaches, islands, mountains, and forests.  Unfortunately, proposed mining threatens many of these natural treasures.

Panama river

Sediment laden water flows from the river to the reef.

ELAW Board Member and mining expert Glenn Miller traveled to Panama and Honduras last week to collaborate with ELAW partners at the Environmental Advocacy Center (Centro de Incidencia Ambiental, CIAM) and the Environmental Law Institute (Instituto de Derecho Ambiental de Honduras, IDAMHO) to protect communities and the environment from mining industry abuses.

In Panama, Glenn flew by helicopter to see first hand the destruction caused by copper and gold mines.

We followed the erosion to the coast and saw a large plume of sediment that was being sent to the coral reef…  We also saw a reportedly bankrupt gold mine that had ponds that were near overflowing and no real management of the excess water,” said Glenn.

Open mine

Open pit mine

In both countries, Glenn met with regulators, public health experts, NGO staff, and community members interested in learning about the real impact of mining operations.  Photos from his helicopter tour make clear the hazards of unregulated mining.

It has been amazing and a great success to have Glenn in Panama,” says Sonia Montenegro.  “CIAM staff and the conference participants keep talking about how much they learned.

Public interest attorneys communicating with the government and affected communities are key to protecting the environment through law and key to ELAW’s work.  Courageous ELAW partners like the team at CIAM are working to prevent and remedy mining abuses and ensure that all Panamanians and Hondurans have access to a healthy, clean environment.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

goat_islands_400width

Photo: Jeremy Francis

ELAW is working with partners in Jamaica to protect key marine ecosystems.

The Goat Islands, adjoining mangroves, and at least one fish sanctuary in the Portland Bight Protected Area may be destroyed to make way for a mega trans-shipment port, proposed by the international contractor China Harbour Engineering Company.

Diana McCaulay, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust, writes:

“ELAW is helping us with legal research to build the arguments for our Access to Information case, to get critical information on the benefits of this proposal to Jamaica.  This is like having a large legal department to rely on.  ELAW’s help really extends and improves what we are able to do.”

The Supreme Court will hear the case in October.

In an opinion piece last week for CNN, Wendy Townsend interviewed Diana.  Here’s an excerpt:

“McCaulay says developing Goat Islands extends the global crisis of unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.  ‘Jamaica is a small island,’ she says, ‘but this is happening all over the world, relentless pressure for high impact development that doesn’t benefit local populations, particularly those who use the resources.  Although global climate change is a clear danger to island nations, we are still building on the coast and taking out natural protections like mangroves.  Our regulatory agencies simply cannot cope, especially with players like China who have huge financial resources and care little about the environment.'”

We will keep you informed of our progress protecting the Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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