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

P1080368.group.grass.2Last week I had the pleasure of joining 45 lawyers from East Africa to discuss how to defend the rights of communities threatened by the push for land and resources throughout the region.

With generous support from the Ford Foundation, ELAW partnered with Greenwatch in Uganda to host a workshop for lawyers from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.  The aim was to help young lawyers gain the skills they need to defend the rights of communities threatened by extractive industries.

More experienced lawyers came to give presentations and share their expertise.  But they also came to forge ties with the next generation of lawyers and mentor lawyers just starting out.  They depended on experienced lawyers to help them as they got started, and now they are happy to help the next generation of lawyers.

We are also helping build relationships between young lawyers within each country and across borders, so they know they are not alone taking on powerful interests.

In addition to Greenwatch, ELAW partners at the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG) in Kenya and the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) in Tanzania helped organize the workshop.

I left the workshop inspired and full of hope and I believe that we all went away better prepared to defend the rights of communities threatened by unsustainable development.

Jen Gleason
Staff Attorney

The Aranmula Boat Race takes place on the Pampa River, near the site of the proposed airport. Photo by Arun Sinha/CC BY.

The Aranmula Boat Race takes place on the Pampa River, near the site of the proposed airport. Photo by Arun Sinha/CC BY.

ELAW partners in India have sent good news! The Chennai Bench of the National Green Tribunal has shelved plans for a private airport in Kerala that threatened key wetlands.

ELAW partner T. Mohan represented community members in a David and Goliath battle that included a 100-day strike by local community groups opposed to the airport.

Mohan and Devika wrote to thank ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik:  “Many thanks to Mark who provided critical input on the Environmental Impact Assessment, deciphering google maps. His comments proved to be the death knell for the clearance.”

Conversion of rice paddy fields to make way for the airport threatened wetlands and fisheries in the Pamba River basin. The company says it will appeal.  We will keep you posted about this case.

Read more here:

National Green Tribunal judgement

Kerala Govt backs out of Aranmula airport project

Green Tribunal cancels environment clearance to Aranmula airport

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel recently traveled to Haiti to help partners at L’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN) work with communities in and around Caracol, one of the towns near a new marine protected area (MPA), Les Trois Baies.

MPAs have the potential to benefit local communities and help safeguard Haiti’s vital natural treasures for generations to come, if managed properly.

Community members at the workshop

Community members at the workshop

ELAW partners at AHDEN brought together 35 community members − mostly fishermen, salt producers, and farmers − for a two-day workshop. Jean André Victor, President of AHDEN, opened the meeting and set the stage for increasing community involvement in the MPA process.

Heidi talked about MPAs and how the community can be involved in plans for the region and creating the Trois Baies MPA management plan.

Some of the participants were skeptical about becoming involved, and Jean André responded eloquently about the importance of civil society engagement, the strength of community, and the fundamental right to participate. By the end of Jean André’s presentation, community members had clearly opened up to the idea of becoming involved in the MPA process.

Jean André helped the community members organize and create a strategy for engaging with groups with a stake in the MPA. Going forward, ELAW will provide scientific and legal tools as needed to help the community become more involved in the MPA process.

Many thanks to the Waitt Foundation and the Clinton Foundation for making ELAW’s work to protect critical marine ecosystems in Haiti possible!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

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