control of water

Podcast: the struggle for James Bay

"Who is James Bay?" That's the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a "who" but a "where," and a large portion of New York City's electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio's so-called "Green New Deal," and how maybe it isn't so green after all. The mayor's plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as "zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity." But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec's far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region's ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn't even really "zero-emission." Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.

NYC 'Green New Deal' to fund mega-hydro?

New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio is aggressively touting his "Green New Deal," boasting an aim of cutting the city's greenhouse-gas emissions 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. Centerpiece of the plan is so-called "zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity." Politico reported Oct. 25 that the city had finalized a contract with international law firm White & Case, to explore purchasing Canadian hydro-power via the Champlain-Hudson Power Express, a proposed conduit that would run under the Hudson River from Quebec. The city is also exploring the possibility of financing the $3 billion transmission line. Power purchased from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec would meet 100% of the city government's own energy needs. Canada's National Observer reported in April that negotiations between New York City and H-Q would start "right away," with the aim of signing a deal by the end of 2020.

Peru next for regional protest wave?

Weeks after a nationwide uprising in Chile was sparked by protests over transit fare hikes in the capital, politicians in neighboring Peru are issuing nervous warnings in the wake of days of street demonstrations in Lima. On Nov. 29, students occupied Central Station on Lima's Metro to demand subsidized transit fares, "adjusted to the real incomes of Peruvians." The riot police were mobilized to clear the station, and a tense stand-off with protesters ensued. (EuroNews, Peru21, Nov. 29) Nov. 28 saw an angry march throughout downtown Lima by municipal water-workers and their trade-union allies, to oppose the privatization of the city's water system. The march was called by the water-workers union SUTESAL after President Martín Vizcarra signed Supreme Decree 214, calling for the sale of shares in the Lima Potable Water & Sewage Service (SEDAPAL), initiating longstanding plans to privatize the state company.  (Diario Uno, Nov. 29; Gestión, Nov. 15)

Chile: lithium interests under pressure by uprising

Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), under pressure from the government amid falling prices and rising protests, committed Nov. 28 to define by year's end the destination for lithium from its lease area at the Salar de Maricunga. SQM, one of the world's top producers, already has a larger lithium mine in production at another area of salt-flats, the Salar de Atacama—but operations there were suspended for several days late last month, as local campesinos blocked roads to the site as part of the general popular uprising in Chile. Leaders of the Consejo de Pueblos Atacameños, representing 18 indigenous communities, pledged to resist any expansion of lithium operations in the area, citing threats to local water sources. SQM has options to collaborate in development of the Maricunga lease with state mineral company Codelco, but announcement of a deal has been delayed amid depressed global lithium prices. This is partly attributed to a cut in government subsidies for purchasers of electric vehicles in China, a main destination for Chilean lithium. (Mundo Maritimo, Nov. 29; Reuters, Nov. 28; FT, Nov. 21; El Ciudadano, Chile, Oct. 27)

Bolivia: lithium interests at play in Evo's ouster?

Bolivia's government issued a decree cancelling a massive joint lithium project with German multinational ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA)—just days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by local residents in the southern department of Potosí, where the lithium-rich salt-flats are located. Potosí governor Juan Carlos Cejas reacted to the cancellation by blaming the protests on "agitators"  seeking to undermine development in the region. (DW, Nov. 4)

Death of water activist sparks Bangladesh protests

Thousands of university students have held protests in Bangladesh, blocking roads in Dhaka and other cities, since the Oct. 6 killing of an undergraduate student, Abrar Fahad, who was beaten to death at the prestigious Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET). Several campus militants of the Chhatra League, youth wing of the ruling Awami League, have been arrested in the slaying. BUET administrators initially said Fahad died while being "interrogated" on suspicion of belonging to the Islami Chhatra Shibir, youth wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, an oficially banned opposition group. But protesters say what was really at issue was Fahad's recent Facebook post critical of a water-sharing agreement just signed between Bangladesh and India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi. Under the agreement, signed one day before the murder, India is granted the right to withdraw 1.82 cusec (185,532 liters per hour) of water from Feni River. 

Anti-mining protests in Sudan's Nuba Mountains

For the past several weeks, residents of Sudan's conflicted Nuba Mountains have waged a protest campaign demanding the closure of unregulated gold mines in the region. Villagers from the communities of Talodi and Kalog, South Kordofan state, have been holding a sit-in outside one of the facilities, where they charge cyanide is contaminating local water sources. The mining operation is said to be protected by fighters from the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary headed by warlord Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo AKA "Hemeti," who is owner of the facility. Twelve people were killed by security forces at another gold mine near Talodi in April. The sit-in has won the support of the Sudanese Professionals Association, the main force behind nationwide protests that toppled strongman Omar Bashir earlier this year. Sit-ins have also spread to other areas affected by cyanide gold mining, including in Sudan's Northern State, Radio Dabanga reports. (Middle East Eye, Sept. 26)

'Development' deal to 'protect' (=destroy) Amazon

The US and Brazil on Sept. 13 announced an agreement to promote private-sector development in the Amazon rainforest. US officials said a $100 million fund will be established to "protect biodiversity" by supporting businesses in hard-to-reach areas of the forest. At the meeting in Washington where the pact was struck, Brazil's foreign minister Ernesto Araujo said: "We want to be together in the endeavour to create development for the Amazon region which we are convinced is the only way to protect the forest. So we need new initiatives, new productive initiatives, that create jobs, that create revenue for people in the Amazon and that's where our partnership with the United States will be very important for us." (BBC News, Sept. 14; AFP, Sept. 13)

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