South America possesses a great variety of biomes that range from the largest forest in the world to the glaciers of Patagonia. However, all of them have something in common: they are constantly threatened by the interests of the extractive industry in a global scale. Mining, oil extraction, deforestation, floods by hydroelectric dams done randomly without proper regulation or planning, threaten all biodiversity and those who have lived in harmony in their traditional territories for centuries. Learn more about this area of support and some initiatives:
Monitoring mining expansion
South American countries have received infrastructure investments that are quite often questionable in regard to their socioenvironmental impact on the region. There are increasing incentives for large mining industries with the justification of stimulating economic development.
Mining activities have been monitored by local communities and the third sector to ensure the human rights of affected populations, survival of traditional customs, and protection of natural resources. An example of this is the Observatory of Mining Conflicts in Latin America (OCMAL), pulling together over 40 organizations from Mexico to Patagonia. This articulation strengthens the process of disseminating information, supports campaigns to defend people affected by the industrial extraction of minerals, promotes solidarity actions, and monitors current legislation.
In 2008, the Training and Intervention Group for Sustainable Development (GRUFIDES) developed the project Analysis of the mining expansion in the Northern Peru region and its relation to the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure in South-America (IIRSA). This project carried out a cartographic survey of mining concessions, gathered information, and informed the communities about the impacts caused by that activity on Peruvian territory.
In Chile, the Committee to Defend the Chuchiñi Fecha Valley and the Organization Environmental Citizenship of Salamanca (OCAS) were also supported by the CASA Fund to address this issue. In Brazil, these discussions are led by the Mining and Metalworking Articulation Working Group (AMS).
The Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant on the Xingu River is part of the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) of the Brazilian federal government. However, it has been discussed for almost three decades under different names. In the last few years, Indigenous leaders and social movements, such as the Altamira Rural and Urban Women Workers’ Movement (MMTACC), have organized seminars and demonstrations in defense of the Xingu River.
In 2009, this organization in Pará state promoted activities to analyze Belo Monte’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), an important instrument in the licensing process of these projects.
In October of the same year, a panel of specialists concluded that the EIA had ignored the dimension of environmental impacts. Despite this, four months later the license was granted, and the Belo Monte auction was held on April 21, 2010.
During the licensing process, the Xingu Forever Alive Movement was created to convey the position of organized civil society and give voice to Indigenous populations. Thus, this movement began to discuss Belo Monte with communities and Indigenous peoples, as well as to represent them and to help promote greater reflection on the project.
The Xingu Forever Alive network organized awareness raising workshops and promoted caravans to Brasília; this enabled the participation of local communities and Indigenous peoples in public hearings called by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Senate. Hence, this network strengthened the movement to defend human rights, and has become a national and international reference in the defense of the Xingu River and traditional populations.
In such cases, the CASA Fund seeks to support projects that ensure participation of the most affected populations in decisions directly related to their territories and way of life. Although this participation is enshrined in the Brazilian Constitution, it is seldom respected by the relevant government organs. By supporting citizens’ participation within the law, the Fund ensures these grassroots groups will have a voice and exercise their democratic rights.
Visit the website at http://www.xinguvivo.org.br/
In 2008, the Amazon Sustainable Development Alliance – Amazon Pact developed the Forest Council project, supported by the CASA Fund. Based on planned actions, the project carried out diagnoses of the communities in the Humaitá National Forest and its surrounding areas. Ten sensitizing workshops were organized to set up the Advisory Council of the environmental protection area (EPA).
Created in 1998 in Amazonas state, the Humaitá National Forest has over 460,000 hectares with rich biodiversity and traditional and riverbank communities. The Madeira River, an important waterway for shipping products, especially wood, is within that EPA. The BR-319 road, connecting Porto Velho to Manaus, is also nearby and both transport ways put pressure on the region’s forest. Hence, we note the importance of environmental protection areas for ensuring the quality of life and rights of traditional populations.
Building an ecological corridor and raising awareness
In the northwest of Paraná state, the Paraná Guará organization developed a project to recover the Permanent Preservation Area (PPA) in two properties on the Juriti River by creating the Juriti-Paraná Ecological Micro-Corridor. Supported by the CASA Fund, compacted soil was loosened, 10,000 seedlings were planted, invading exotic species were eradicated, and farmers, students, teachers, and community received environmental education.
The Juriti River, a tributary of the Paraná River which forms the second largest drainage basin in South America, flows in an eco-region characterized by transition between the Pantanal (wetlands), the seasonal semideciduous forest, and the cerrado (scrubland).
Strengthening the Bella Unión EPA, Uruguay
The Bella Unión region is in the triple border of Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. It has great biological diversity, including Chaco-Misiones fauna and endemic timber species.
Despite scientific studies, these areas are not yet legally protected; the creation of an environmental protection area could make this possible. The local movement works to find sustainable alternatives to protect their biodiversity, as well as improve the population’s quality of life.
The CASA Fund supports the Ativa Group for Environmental Protection (GRUPAMA), an organization which works in the region. In 2009, the group executed a project to enhance the physical structure and provide personnel training for the Rincón de Franquia Visitor Center. In addition, GRUPAMA carried out capacity building to inform the community on local biodiversity data. It also organized ecotourism and rural tourism workshops for young people.
Whoever loves life disseminates knowledge on preservation
The last green area left in the city of São Luís in Maranhão state was the Bacanga State Park, established in 1980. The Maranhão Nature Conservation Association (AMAVIDA) played a key role in the creation and conservation of this park. Most drinking water in São Luís comes from the park’s reservoirs.
AMAVIDA also set up a beekeeping center to rear and breed native honeybees in small communities of Maranhão’s semiarid region. Sponsored by a local company, AMAVIDA provides guidance to beekeepers on native bee species, as well as technical and marketing assistance. This project received awards from the German Brazilian Chamber of Commerce and the Ford Foundation.
Today, AMAVIDA activists continue working in several official commissions, and the NGO operates as an informal incubator for incipient environmental groups both in the capital city and statewide. The CASA Fund supported AMAVIDA’s efforts to strengthen environmental networks in Maranhão state, to represent state interests at the national level, and to help an important network member organization in Urbano Santos.
Read more at http://www.amavida.org.br/
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