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ELAW’s newest Fellow, Harriet Bibangambah from Kampala, Uganda, arrived on Monday. Over the next two weeks she will work with the ELAW team to strengthen her organization, Greenwatch. She will also attend the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) and meet ELAW partners from around the world.

Harriet is Program and Research Officer at Greenwatch, which promotes public participation in the sustainable use, management, and protection of the environment and natural resources, and the enforcement of Uganda’s Constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment.

“We work at all levels, including traveling to remote villages and sitting down with community members to hear their concerns and share information about oil and gas operations,” says Harriet.

French, British, and Chinese companies have a joint oil venture in the Albertine Rift, with test wells inside Murchison Falls National Park and oil exploration near Virunga National Park, across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Communities need access to information about these developments so they can participate in decisions about natural resources,” says Harriet.

Harriet is part of East Africa’s new generation of grassroots defenders. ELAW has worked with Greenwatch for more than 10 years.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

When tourists visit Panama, they enjoy the beaches, islands, and mountain forests.  ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel was in Panama this month with a different agenda.

Heidi used her marine ecologist’s eye to take in what’s threatening Panama’s natural environment.  She joined ELAW partners to tour a new highway project that has cut through Panama Bay, the site of a proposed mega-port near Colon, and the site of a gold and copper mine that threatens the Tonosi and Quema Rivers on the Azuero Peninsula.

   Heidi (right) and ELAW partners in Panama

“The coral reefs and mangroves in the area where ‘Puerto Verde’ is planned are showing very important signs of recovery from oil spills in the 1980s,” says Heidi.  “If this ‘green port’ — a miserable misnomer — goes forward, the mangroves will be cut and the seabed, including the reefs, will be dredged.  We met with subsistence fishermen and farmers in the area and none of them want the port.”

ELAW is working with partners at El Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM), Centro de Asistencia Legal Popular Programa para Refugiados, MarViva Panama, and Derechos Humanos, Ambiente y Comunidades to ensure that communities and grassroots advocates have the information they need to make their voices heard and protect Panama for future generations.

In February, we will welcome CIAM Staff Attorney Luisa Arauz for a two-week ELAW Fellowship.  Luisa developed an interest in nature and international issues at a young age from her father, a nature guide, and her mother, a diplomat.  Luisa will work one-on-one with ELAW staff and participate in the 2014 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference where she will speak about access to information and participation in environmental impact studies of proposed hydroelectric dams and genetically-modified salmon projects.
Maggie Keenan
ELAW Communications Director
& Fellows Program Coordinator

In Africa, corporations seeking oil, gas, gold, and timber threaten agricultural lands, waterways, and national parks.  ELAW is working with local advocates to level the playing field for threatened communities.  Together we are:

  • Strengthening hydraulic fracturing regulations in South Africa.
  • Reviewing and improving gold mining concession agreements in Ghana.
  • Protecting communities around Kenya’s Lake Turkana from oil development schemes.
  • Building strong NGOs in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda that will work to protect communities and the environment for years to come.
  • Creating strategic tools to dissect complicated natural resource concession contracts and advocate for stronger environmental, social, and fiscal provisions.

Harriet newNext month, we will welcome Harriet Bibangambah, a Ugandan environmental advocate working with ELAW partner organization Greenwatch, for a two-week ELAW Fellowship.  Harriet will work with the ELAW team and attend the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon School of Law.

Stay tuned for more updates about ELAW’s work in Africa and Harriet’s Fellowship.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

Our new ELAW Fellow arrived Saturday night!

Minerva Rosette is an environmental engineer with the Southeast office of Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA, Mexican Center for Environmental Law).  We are collaborating with Minerva to protect communities and coastlines on the Yucatán Peninsula.

During her Fellowship, Minerva will meet with ELAW Staff Scientists to learn about the dangers that herbicides pose to waterways, model protocols for protecting marine fisheries, and protecting fragile soils in Quintana Roo.

Waste management in Mexico is an enormous problem.  Minerva will learn lessons from Eugene’s waste management system on tours of NextStep Recycling, the Glenwood Transfer Station, and Short Mountain Landfill.

Before joining CEMDA, Minerva worked with local communities to conserve the biodiversity of the Sierra Tarahuamara.

We look forward to collaborating with Minerva and connecting her with the global ELAW network!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

I arrived in Oregon on June 19th. To get here I took four airplanes. It was my first time on an airplane, and I was both excited and nervous. My first impression of Eugene was pretty good. Bern Johnson, Executive Director of ELAW, picked me up from the airport and was very friendly.  The next day, the ELAW staff welcomed me in the office and I met ELAW Fellow Imrich Vozár from Slovakia. I began to feel more comfortable. Now I feel at home.

Maria with Aleah (center) and Imrich (right)

My first week in Eugene was difficult. Eugene is very different from the Dominican Republic and the language is not the same. Luckily, ELAW introduced me to the Summer Intern, Aleah Jaeger, who helped me acclimate to Eugene and find my way to the University, the supermarket, and the ELAW house.

I am very happy to be studying English at the University of Oregon. The AEI program is really good and the teachers are excellent. In addition to building my English skills, I am learning about different countries and cultures. My classmates come from around the world and I have met students from China, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan.

Maria and Imrich at BRING Recycling in Eugene, OR

From the beginning, I could tell that Oregon is a green state.  I love the forest and the environment here, the city is clean and the people are conscious of the environment. Early in my stay, I visited NextStep Recycling and BRING Recycling and was amazed at the job that these organizations are doing.  I wish that we used the 3 R’s in the Dominican Republic -reduce, reuse and recycle- but know that this may be difficult. To use the 3R’s we would need the support of politicians in the Dominican Republic.  Then we would need to learn how protect the environment and how to educate citizens about ways they can become involved.

With the exception of a water law and a forest law, which we don’t have, we have many laws to protect the environment in the Dominican Republic. But economic interests often get in the way and many citizens are either unwilling to protect their rights or unaware of them, which presents a big barrier to protecting the environment. I know that the organization where I work, INSAPROMA (Instituto de Abogados para la Proteccion del Medio Ambiente), sometimes has a hard time gaining public support for environmental projects, but we continue to try. We are doing the best we can for the Dominican Republic and I love my job.

Maria at work with INSAPROMA

The knowledge that I’m gaining at ELAW is invaluable. When I return to the Dominican Republic, I will use this knowledge to help INSAPROMA do a better job protecting the environment. Maybe we can’t change the minds of our politicians, but we will continue defending our environment in court. We will also continue teaching community members about the environmental laws we have, because each time one Dominican changes his behavior and becomes environmental friendly we take one step in the right direction.

I want to thank everyone at ELAW for helping me learn and for making me feel at home. Also many thanks to Laurie Prosser and Xialoi Jiang, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the American English Institute for supporting my fellowship.

Maria Rosario Mayi
ELAW Fellow

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