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By Carol Schachet
May 29th, 2013
Grassroots International nominated one of their Brazilian partners, the Movement of People Affected by Dams, to receive the annual award of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. The award honors courageous and innovative individuals for their activism. If selected, this award would not only reinforce MAB’s historic struggle to protect human rights and support those defending communities impacted by massive water projects; it would also provide monetary compensation and international recognition.
In fact, the nomination itself has already provided a boost to MAB’s reputation and a platform from which to raise the voices of those impacted by dams and hydro-electric projects.
By Sara Mersha
April 23rd, 2013
On this Earth Day, I’m inspired to share a story of the Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC). One of Grassroots International’s US allies, BMWC organizes in indigenous communities, going up against powerful corporate interests in the fossil fuel industry, and engaging in movement building toward a vision for a transition to an economically and ecologically just society.
Grassroots International celebrates World Water Day and the efforts of small farmers, indigenous peoples and water rights activists worldwide.
In light of global water grabs, this year’s theme is quite ironic: water cooperation. Water is essential to life yet we are seeing communities being stripped of their water rights every day. From Brazil to Palestine to India to the US, water resources are being privatized and sold off to the highest bidder while communities are left thirsty and unable to maintain their crops. And governments, fueled by greed (or desperation), are failing to protect these vital resources.
January 28, 2013 was marked around the world as an International Day of Solidarity with Idle No More, a movement sparked in November 2012 by First Nations women in Canada, in resistance to legislative threats to indigenous sovereignty. One particular piece of legislation which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is promoting, Bill C-45, would nullify provisions of provisions of the Navigable Waters Protection Act which since 1882 has mandated consultation and approval by First Nations for projects that could affect waterways on indigenous territories.
“The contractor even determines who our daughters will get married to!” said Zainab bibi. “That is how much we are in bondage to these contractors. Are we not human? Do our children not have dreams of education? Don’t we have hopes for them?
Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories (oPt) has not only physically dominated the land that supports the Palestinian people but also the vital water resources that feed the land. The natural cycles and recharging of these important water resources have been altered by the systematic confiscation and control policies imposed by Israel that deny Palestinians’ right to the water resources in the oPt. Drought-induced water scarcity, poor sanitation conditions and low economic development further add to the hardship of water-starved Palestinians.
A massive, very active social movement against the loss of land and ecosystems caused by hydro-electric dams is making headway in Brazil. The movement is little known in North America so far, but that’s changing. And it’s on the brink of spreading across the world wherever large dams are being built and waterways threatened.
But what’s all the fuss, some may ask. Doesn’t it usually only affect isolated communities, and isn’t hydropower a much more environmentally friendly source of cheap energy, especially compared with nuclear, coal, or oil? Are these anti-dam activists clinging to a kind of prosaic, but impractical pastoral way of life, or just trying to push the dams into somebody else’s backyard?
Leaders of the Guarani Kaiowá boldly announced that the entire community would rather die in their land defending from businesses and corporations. Their assertion is more than a war declaration. For us, the buyers of “clean energy,” their pronouncement is a jarring wake-up call that the “Green Economy” actually promotes genocide of indigenous people and Afro-descendent communities –whether in the form of a slow die off of disposed peoples or a quicker resistance.
I recently had a chance to interview Grassroots International friend and ally Niaz Dorry, Executive Director of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA). The organization brings together fishing communities in Grassroots’ own backyard (from southern New England up to Atlantic Canada). As a self-organizing and self-governing organization, NAMA seeks to restore and enhance an enduring marine system supporting a healthy diversity and an abundance of marine life and human uses. NAMA is a member of Grassroots’ the National Family Farm Coalition (a Grassroots’ grantee), which in turn a member and anchor group of the Via Campesina (a Grassroots’ partner). I’m happy to share highlights of this interview during the month of World Fisheries Day (November 21).
Before becoming Brazil’s first female president, Dilma Roussef helped to engineer an ambitious development plan that would change the country. Known as the Accelerated Growth Plan and the Ten-year Energy Plan, it would build 134 dams by the year of 2020 in the Amazon alone. Among the losers in the plan: thousands of acres of forest; habitat for endangered species; and thousands of families unfortunate enough to have ancestors who chose to settle these lands. According to Grassroots International’s partner, the Brazilian Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), the ambitious development plan failed to include any funding to offset hunger and unemployment, or to revamp public services for those displaced populations whose livelihoods will be wiped.