control of water

Mexico creates justice commission for Yaqui

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has signed a decree that sets up a Justice Commission for the Yaqui People, seeking to resolve problems of land, water, health, education and infrastructure faced by the indigenous group. The decree was signed Aug. 6 during a visit by López Obrador to the Yaqui community of Vícam, in Guaymas municipaliy, Sonora state. The decree seeks to redress a long history of oppression, massacres, slavery and land theft faced by the Yaqui. López Obrador said that the Yaqui have been Mexico's most persecuted indigenous group, stating, "All the original inhabitants suffered robbery, but no people suffered as much as the Yaqui." The president also said that he had agreed to modify the route of the planned Guaymas-El Oro gas pipeline that was supposed to run through Yaqui territory.

Troops to Darfur as war re-escalates

The Sudanese government is sending more forces to the restive Darfur region, following a new escalation in violence there. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said the troops are to protect people during the farming season. Dozens of people have been killed and several villages destroyed in Darfur over the past weeks. The most recent outburst came on July 25, when some 500 armed men attacked Masteri village, West Darfur, killing at least 60 people from the Masalit ethnic group. In a separate incident that same day, another armed group attacked the Um Doss area in South Darfur, killing at least 20 people.

Mining opponent assassinated in Veracruz, Mexico

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has condemned the assassination of Mexican environmental activist Adán Vez Lira, who was shot April 8 while riding his motorcycle in the municipality of Actopan, Veracruz. Vez Lira worked with the Veracruz Assembly for Environmental Defense Initiatives (LAVIDA) to oppose mining operations that threaten local water sources. Gold and silver exploitation by the Canadian-based Almaden Minerals and Candelaria Mining are encroaching on the borders of La Mancha Ecological Reserve and contaminating springs and wells in the villages of Actopan and Alto Lucero. 

Rio Tinto accused of rights violations in Bougainville

Mining giant Rio Tinto is responsible for multiple human rights violations caused by pollution from its former mine on the Pacific island of Bougainville, the Human Rights Law Centre concludes in a new investigative report. For 45 years, the Panguna copper and gold mine on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, was majority-owned by the British-Australian mining company, but in 2016 Rio Tinto divested from the mine, leaving behind more than a billion metric tons of mine waste. The report, After the Mine: Living with Rio Tinto’s Deadly Legacy, documents the devastating consequences of that action for the thousands of people living around the mine site. Based on visits to 38 villages, the report reveals communities living with contaminated water sources, land and crops flooded by toxic mud, and health problems ranging from skin diseases and respiratory ailments to pregnancy complications.

Ukraine to lift 'water blockade' of Crimea?

Ukrainian lawmakers from the ruling party this week proposed resuming the water supply to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, leading to public outrage. After Russia's 2014 seizure and unilateral annexation of Crimea, Ukraine ceased supplying water to the arid peninsula. Before the occupation, water was supplied from the Ukrainian mainland through the North Crimean Canal. Today, a dam blocks the canal on the de facto border with Ukraine's Kherson Oblast. The shortage of water has hurt Crimean agriculture and industry, although most households rely on local wells. MPs from the ruling Servant of the People party proposed either selling the water to Crimea or using it to leverage a withdrawal of Russian military forces from the conflicted Donbas region in Ukraine's east. But Refat Chubarov, the Crimean Tatar leader who was exiled from the peninsula by Russia after the take-over, responded that any agreement to supply water to Crimea, regardless of the conditions, would be a betrayal of the 500,000 Tatars living in the peninsula. (EuroMaidan Press)

Mexican farmers protest water diversion to US

More than 3,000 farmers and residents of four rural municipalities in Mexico's northern state of Chihuahua clashed with Mexican National Guard troops on Feb. 4 in a protest over the federal government's plan to divert water from a dam into the Rio Grande for the use in the United States. Protesters from the municipalities of Camargo, La Cruz, Delicias and San Francisco de Conchos confronted troops guarding La Boquilla Dam on the Rio Conchos with the aim of occupying the facility and preventing the water diversion. The National Water Commission (Conagua) intends to open the sluices of the dam to divert hundreds of millions of cubic meters of water to the Rio Grande, in order to comply with a 1944 Water Treaty between Mexico and the US. Mexico has a 220-million-cubic-meter "water debt" to the US, but farmers say that the massive diversion will leave them with insufficient water.

Peru: campesino ecological defenders acquitted

Following a trial lasting years, a criminal court in Peru's Cuzco region on Jan. 30 finally absolved 10 campesinos from Chumbivilcas province of charges related to a 2011 protest against the ANABI mineral project, which they say threatens the headwaters of the Rio Yahuarmayo (also known as the Molino). The defendants—nine men and one woman—are followers of the Tupac Amaru Agrarian Federation of Cuzco (FARTAC). They had been charged with "disturbance," "deprivation of liberty," "aggravated property damage," and other offenses typically used against protesters in Peru. If convicted, they could have faced up to 30 years in prison. The ANABI gold and copper mine is in neighboring Apurímac region, but the minerals are transported through Chumbivilcas on unimproved roads, raising dust that contaminates local lands and waters. (Diario Uno, Jan. 30; Wayka, Jan. 20)

Chile: indigenous win a round in lithium struggle

The First Environmental Tribunal in the Chile's northern city of Antofagasta on Dec. 26 ruled in favor of indigenous communities that had brought suit against Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), the world's second-largest miner of lithium. The court found SQM's compliance plan for water preservation submitted to Chile's Environment Superintendency (SMA) was "insufficient," citing the "particular fragility" of the lithium-rich but extremely arid salt-flats where the company hopes to expand operations, the Salar de Atacama.  Under the ruling, SQM must submit a new compliance plan, pay multi-million fines to the SMA for being out of compliance, or suspend operations. "We must protect sensitive ecosystems even more when they constitute the ancestral habitat of our native peoples whom the State of Chile is obliged to protect," the court's chief justice, Mauricio Oviedo, said in a statement. The case was brought by the local Council of Atacameño Pueblos, representing the impacted indigenous communities of Peine and Camar. (Jurist, Al Jazeera)

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