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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

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

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
Malaysia, Penang Island in red

Malaysia, Penang Island in red

Fishing communities in Malaysia are worried about plans to build an artificial island for 12,000 homes, and a marina and yacht club off the east coast of Penang Island.

ELAW partners in Malaysia called on us for help evaluating the project’s environmental impact assessment (DEIA). ELAW Staff Scientists Mark Chernaik and Heidi Weiskel found that the DEIA grossly underestimates the project’s impact on fisheries and the environment. “The project would result in permanent loss of mudflats and seabed habitat critical for fisheries and birds,” says Mark.

Mark and Heidi know from working with ELAW partners around the world that grandiose coastal developments are at risk of financial collapse if consumer demand for the project evaporates. The DEIA for the project lacks any financial assurances for a remedy should the project be launched then abandoned.

Mark and Heidi’s report critiquing the DEIA was in the Malaysian news last week.

We will keep you posted about advances in the case.

Many thanks for your interest!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

ELAW partner Norma Alvares of the Goa Foundation has won a tremendous victory in India.  The Bombay High Court ruled that the Grand Hyatt Hotel was illegally constructed in the protected Coastal Regulation Zone, which prohibits development within 200 meters of the sea coast and 100 meters of tidal rivers.

Grand Hyatt Hotel

Grand Hyatt Hotel

The Goa Foundation first filed this case in 2007 and fought for 7 years to show that the Grand Hotel Goa falsified plans and constructed the hotel in blatant violation of the law.

Norma says: “The Grand Hyatt victory is significant because it has shown that although the international corporation deliberately cheated and tried to defeat the coastal law – by substituting the approved plans with fake ones, by colluding with the government officials to make all the project files disappear, and abused the court process by repeatedly filing applications and appeals to delay the hearing of this case – the law finally caught up with them: their shameful fraud now stands exposed and they face the prospect of the same fate that ordinary Goans who illegally constructed in the prohibited Coastal Regulation Zone were compelled to do, namely, demolition of their illegal structures.

A three-judge panel will now consider what is the appropriate remedy for the Grand Hyatt’s violations. Norma will be asking the court to order the Grand Hyatt to remove the hotel and restore the coastal zone.

Congratulations to Norma and the Goa Foundation for winning a huge victory, strengthening the rule of law, and protecting India’s invaluable coastal zone!

Bern Johnson
Executive Director

Cancun is a poster child for coastal development gone awry, but nearby ecosystems can still be saved.

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel was in Quintana Roo last week, collaborating with ELAW partners at the Southeast office of Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (Mexican Environmental Law Center). CEMDA is working hard to protect marine and coastal ecosystems from short-sighted development schemes.

Heidi and Minerva
L to R:  Minerva Rosette, Heidi Weiskel

Heidi teamed up with CEMDA’s new Staff Scientist, Minerva Rosette, to review plans for a major housing development near a protected mangrove forest, and an enormous tourism complex proposed for Holbox Island.  The tourism complex would cut channels through pristine mangroves to increase waterfront acreage and build hotels, villas, condominiums, offices, shopping plazas, and roads, to service thousands of visitors.  The project would devastate Holbox’s rich fisheries and stunning landscape, and likely harm the whale shark population.

Heidi and Minerva evaluated different strategies for measuring the carrying capacity of Holbox, and the most effective way to communicate the true impacts of the proposed tourism complex to the Holbox community.

Minerva is an engineer by training and spent the past three years using GIS and other tools to help communities protect the Urique-Batopilas biological corridor.  “Minerva is a wonderful addition to the CEMDA team and ELAW community,” says Heidi.  “I look forward to working with her to protect the extraordinary beauty and rich biodiversity of the Yucatán.”

While in Cancun, Heidi also worked with CEMDA Staff Attorneys Raquel Campo and Ximena Ramos. Ximena is a former ELAW volunteer and recently received an LLM in environmental law from the University of Oregon School of Law.

The key to ELAW’s work is identifying strong local partners, because they know best how to protect local communities and the environment. We provide our partners with the tools and resources they need.

We celebrate Alejandra Serrano, the director of the Southeast office of CEMDA, and her whole team for their hard work protecting the Yucatán.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

ELAW is teaming up with longtime partner L’Association Haitienne de Droit de l’Environnement (AHDEN) to support creating a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Haiti’s Caracol Bay and to promote a new, holistic approach to the sustainable use and conservation of marine biodiversity.

The Bay is home to thriving coral reefs and Haiti’s largest mangrove forest, which together sustain important fisheries in the northern part of the country. The Bay is also home to endangered species such as the leatherback sea turtle.

An MPA in Caracol Bay has the potential to benefit local communities and help safeguard Haiti’s vital natural treasures for generations to come.

ELAW has been working in the Caribbean for many years, building local capacity to protect communities and the environment.  In Haiti, ELAW works closely with Jean André Victor, a well-respected leader in the environmental movement and President of AHDEN.  Jean André came to Eugene for an ELAW Fellowship in 2010 and was featured in the Eugene Weekly.

For more information about MPAs, visit MPAtlas.org, which features a global interactive map and information about MPAs around the world.

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

Cigarettes, plastic bags, food containers, caps, plastic bottles, and more litter the beaches in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. In a new report, ELAW’s science team found that inadequate management of waste at the local level poses a regional challenge.

“Waste management in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras is not just an aesthetic issue, it is a serious public health and environmental problem, says ELAW Staff Scientist Meche Lu. “Data from Belize indicate that approximately half of the waste there is not collected. Much of it is burned or disposed in waterways.”castaway (Print)

Elito Arceo, Chairman of Ambergris Caye Citizens for Sustainable Development (ACCSD) in Belize, concurs: “The amount of garbage that ends up on our beaches and reef is unbelievable. This is not what our tourists come here to see.”

ELAW’s science team recently published: “Ocean Waste in the Gulf of Honduras: Where it goes and what to do about it.” The report was a collaborative effort with organizations in the region working to turn the tide on ocean waste.

“This report shows that first of all we need to take responsibility for our own garbage,” says Arceo. “It’s time for all of us to change our habits. Education is the going to be the key.”

ELAW is helping local partners in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras hold community workshops to call attention to this problem and protect the Mesoamerican reef from further destruction.

Check out the full report here.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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