Water, nature and protective voices

The loss of ancestral rights, lands and natural resources continues apace in places where the affected communities lack credible and effective representation. In Guatemala, as Honduras and other countries, the indigenous and campesinos refuse to be silenced, often at the cost of their lives. A recent example is the eleven day march of 15,000 to Guatemala City to protest the ruthless onslaught of corporations on their water resources. As TeleSUR reports,  March for Water: Thousands Protest Corporate Greed in Guatemala

An excerpt,

The March for Water, Mother Earth, Territory, and Life brought together Indigenous groups from across Guatemala, unified around demands for a guarantee to the right to water and dignified livelihoods in the face industrial agriculture and exploitive [sic] mining projects that threaten to contaminate and siphon off water resources from remote and vulnerable communities.

That march would end peacefully, with one casualty, an elder for whom the journey proved too much, as TeleSUR reports,  Guatemalan Indigenous Leader Dies Fighting for Water Rights.

The active participation of multilateral development banks (MDBs) in projects considered inimical to the interests of the legally entitled residents represents another significant but not insurmountable hurdle for such besieged groups. And, yes, that obsession with dam construction. And, as we see,  with the invasion come the murders and massacres and displacement, Guatemala: The World Bank, a Hydroelectric Dam, and Massacres

 During the very worst years of this U.S. Cold War repression, the World Bank and IDB chose to partner with the genocidal regimes of Generals Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia and Efrain Rios Montt (1978-1983) and invested close to US$1 billion in the construction of the Chixoy Dam with the intent of “bringing development” to Guatemala.

And for a quick related aside on Honduras, but with the financing schemes of such institutions, from cepr.net in 2013 we have,  New Report Details Multilateral Development Bank, U.S. Role in Human Rights Abuses in Río Blanco, Honduras. Yes, featuring prominently is the recently assassinated Berta Cáceres – and as expected the usual specious evidence fabricated to implicate on some trumped up charge by the authorities. One point,

A new report [PDF] from Rights Action examines the conflict in Río Blanco, Honduras, where the indigenous Lenca community has been involved in a stand-off against security forces and a major development company (Desarollos Energéticos, SA, or DESA) in order to prevent the construction of hydroelectric dams on the Gualcarque River. The report’s release comes just a few weeks after a court ordered the arrest of one of the most prominent figures opposing the dams, Berta Cáceres, coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH), on weapons and other charges that are widely seen as bogus. Two of Berta’s colleagues, Tomás Gómez and Aureliano Molina also face charges under accusations that they “had instigated the protests” that have blocked access to the project site for over 185 days, and Amnesty International has declared that “If they are imprisoned,” the organization “will consider them prisoners of conscience.”

It was in mid-April this year that two investors in the Agua Zarca, Honduras, project would decide to suspend, not withdraw, their support. Still important is that the message of those protesting voices reach, and promptly, a wider and more influential audience.

Yet, the long, often multi-generational, ‘life’ of the corporation and its surrogates is a strong advantage compared with that of any indigenous (or campesino) leader which can be easily, suddenly and brutally ended, with the aim of discouraging  and disbanding further opposition to planned forced displacement, resource capture and resulting environmental degradation. And again that necessary perseverance to keep the issue alive in all media, especially alternative media, where special interests do not distort or ignore the message.

While such communities were somewhat neglected at the recent COP21 in Paris, there would still come the observation,  Indigenous Communities Sit at Heart of Protecting Biodiversity.

Here a lesson,

“There are countless examples of customary practices through which communities conserve biodiversity,” said Mrinalini Rai, advisor on Indigenous Peoples and Gender for GFC [Global Forest Coalition], pointing to traditional agricultural and fishing techniques as key examples. “Their rights over their territories need to be ensured so they can strengthen their resilience.”

Not only does the COP21 deal scarcely mention Indigenous peoples, giving no substantial attention to their rights as some of the most vulnerable to climate change, but it also fails to mention intergenerational equity and biodiversity in the core of the text. By doing so, the world’s cornerstone agreement on climate change throws by the wayside any global commitment to protecting future generations and complex ecosystems from climate crisis.

While on the topic of that vital resource, water, in the far more advanced USA comes another inspiring example of one individual who opts for exercising initiative and for stirring community activism, where the original ambition was rather more mundane. Alexis Bonogofsky of truth-out blog narrates the saga of the plain versus the powerful. “Nestlé Is Trying to Break Us”: A Pennsylvania Town Fights Predatory Water Extraction. A sample,

 Donna Diehl, a 55-year-old school bus driver from Kunkeltown, Pennsylvania, a small historic town located on the edge of the Poconos, wanted to do three things this year: drive the bus, paint her bathroom and learn to crochet. Instead, Diehl, along with dozens of her neighbors, is spending her time trying to stop the largest food and beverage corporation in the world from taking her community’s water, putting it in bottles and selling it for a massive profit.

Yes, a bus driver, an important but ‘humble’ role.

How seemingly modest can be an aim, an ambition until the sudden, stark realisation of a great wrong or threat sets in. Yes, the likelihood of loss of traditional access to a vital necessity, water, is increasing more steadily than many realise. Community participation or activism can be a major step to protecting such critical access, deterring corporate domination of an essential of life, and to achieving and ensuring an, at least satisfactory, quality of life.

That exhortation, ‘The unexamined life…’ Water? A vital issue that matters – as far away as the jungles of Central and South America.


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