Tag Archives: nature reserves

Only One Protester was Killed by a Bullet: Kenya

Flag of Masai peoples

One person was killed and several injured on Monday [January 26, 2015] when Kenyan police clashed with Maasais protesting against a local governor they accuse of misappropriating tourism funds from the Maasai Mara game reserve, an official said.  Police fired shots and teargas as thousands of people from the Maasai ethnic group, clad in traditional red cloaks, marched to the governor’s office in Narok town, the administrative centre of the sprawling Maasai Mara park, witnesses said.

Narok County Commissioner Kassim Farah, an official appointed by the president, said: “Only one protestor was killed by a bullet.  “We regret it but the organisers of the demonstration should be held responsible, not the police.” Kenya Red Cross said seven people injured in the clashes were taken to a nearby hospital.

Demonstrators marched to the gates of Governor Samuel Tunai’s office, shouting: “Tunai must go.” Some hurled rocks. The dispute began when Tunai’s administration contracted a company to collect Maasai Mara park entry fees, a deal the locals say was suspect.

Visitors to the Maasai Mara, one of Africa’s biggest tourist draws, pay $80 per day to roam an area full of wildlife such as lions, rhinos and giraffes. Upmarket lodges and luxury tented camps can charge hundreds of dollars per person per day for the experience, although a spate of militant attacks in Kenya as well as the Ebola epidemic on the other side of Africa have scared off many tourists….

Local government finance has come under increased scrutiny from Kenyans since a newly devolved system was introduced in 2013 under which local governments receive about 43 percent of the national budget directly and are responsible for raising their own additional revenues.  Devolution was designed to spread wealth and help local communities benefit from revenue earned in their areas but analysts say corruption and other issues that have blighted national politics have now also spread to local bodies

Corruption protest in Kenya’s Maasai Mara region turns deadly, Reuters, Jan. 27, 2015

Ecuador Oil Drilling in the Amazon: the Yasuni National Park

Yasuni National Park.  Image from wikipedia

Ecuador’s parliament on Thursday (Oct. 3, 2012) authorized drilling of the nation’s largest oil fields in part of the Amazon rainforest after the failure of President Rafael Correa’s plan to have rich nations pay to avoid its exploitation.  The socialist leader launched the initiative in 2007 to protect the Yasuni jungle area, which boasts some of the planet’s most diverse wildlife, but scrapped it after attracting only a small fraction of the $3.6 billion sought.

The government-dominated National Assembly authorized drilling in blocks 43 and 31, but attached conditions to minimize the impact on both the environment and local tribes. Though Correa says the estimated $22 billion earnings potential will be used to combat poverty in the South American nation, there have been protests from indigenous groups and green campaigners.  About 680,000 people have signed a petition calling for a referendum.  “We want them to respect our territory,” Alicia Cauilla, a representative of the Waorani people who live around the Yasuni area, said in an appeal to the assembly. “Let us live how we want.”  Correa has played down the potential impact of oil drilling in the area, saying it would affect only 0.01 percent of the entire Yasuni basin…

Oil output in OPEC’s smallest member has stagnated since 2010 when the government asked oil investors to sign less-profitable service contracts or leave the country. Since then, oil companies have not invested in exploration.  State oil company Petroamazonas will be in charge of extraction in blocks 43 and 31, which are estimated to hold 800 million barrels of crude and projected to yield 225,000 barrels per day eventually. Ecuador currently produces 540,000 bpd

Excerpt, By Alexandra Valencia, Ecuador congress approves Yasuni basin oil drilling in Amazon, Reuters, Oct. 4, 2013

 

Eviction of Indigenous Peoples from National Parks

On the second anniversary of a landmark ruling by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Minority Rights Group International (MRG) condemns the Kenyan government’s lack of commitment to ensuring justice for the Endorois people and urges the authorities to immediately restore ownership to the community of their ancestral lands around the Lake Bogoria National Reserve.

Although the Commission recognised, for the first time in the continent, indigenous peoples’ rights over traditionally occupied land and their right to be involved in, and benefit from, any development affecting their land, the Endorois still have no land title, have received no compensation for the loss they suffered during almost 40 years, nor a significant share in tourism revenue from their land.  Kenya adopted a new Constitution in August 2010, which, together with a new National Land Policy, supported the Commission’s decision in recognising indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands.

‘Two years on from the African Commission’s ruling the Endorois are still waiting for justice to be brought home. The government’s lack of engagement with the community is of extreme concern and, inevitably, it raises questions about their commitment to the high ideals to be found in Kenya’s new Constitution,’ says Carla Clarke, MRG’s Head of Law….  ‘In view of Kenya’s new Constitution, which provides for the establishment of a National Land Commission to review past abuses and recommend appropriate redress, it is particularly important that the government implements the Commission’s decision without further delay,’ added Carla Clarke.

Endorois land was originally appropriated by the Kenyan government in the 1970s to create the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. On 2 February 2010, the African Union adopted a decision of the ACHPR which declared firstly that the expulsion of Endorois from their lands was illegal, and secondly that the Kenyan government had violated certain fundamental rights of the community protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international instruments.

The Endorois are a semi-nomadic indigenous community of approximately 60,000 people, who for centuries have earned their livelihoods from herding cattle and goats in the Lake Bogoria area of Kenya’s Rift Valley.  When tourists flock to Lake Bogoria, famous for its flamingos and geysers, they have little idea of the high cost the Endorois paid for their eviction. The vast majority of the community still live in severe poverty, have little or no electricity, walk miles to collect water in an area stricken by drought, and are often dependent on relief food.

Since the creation of the wildlife reserve, the Endorois have been unable to gather the plants they once relied on for medicinal purposes, conduct religious ceremonies at their sacred sites or visit the graves of their ancestors.

 

Two years on from African Commission’s ruling, Kenya continues to drag its feet in recognising indigenous peoples’ ownership of wildlife park, MRG urges government to act, Reuters, Feb. 3, 2012

Biodiversity versus Human Rights


Tucked away in a dense and ecologically diverse tiger reserve in Southern India, tribes-people and wildlife defenders are locked in a battle of indigenous peoples’ rights versus wildlife rights.  Earlier this year the Soligas – a tribe hailing from the Billigiri Ranga Temple Hills tiger reserve (BRT) – won the rights to their ancestral land, following a thorny legal encounter with the state forest department, which had earlier threatened to displace 1,500 indigenous families in order to protect 30 endangered tigers.  Tribal representatives insist that the Soligas’ presence on the reserve is not detrimental to the tigers, claiming back in December, “We have been the ones who looked out for the tigers. Give us poison rather than move us from our home.”  Last month the tribe secured access to 60 percent of the forest that they claim is their ‘birthright’ and rejected a relocation package outside the tiger reserve, which is situated at the confluence of the Eastern and Western Ghats in Chamrajnagar district in India’s southern state of Karnataka.

A press release by the UK-based tribal advocacy group Survival International said last year, “This unprecedented move brings an end to (the tribe’s) fears of eviction and the ban on their right to hunt and cultivate.”  But wildlife conservationists across India are deeply alarmed by the tribe’s decision to stay in the BRT, since it does not appear to take into account the irreversible impact of human settlement on wildlife populations and complex ecologies.  Many experts believe that continued human presence in the small, bio-diverse forest could be detrimental to the wildlife, particularly pyramid species like tigers.  The BRT was officially declared a protected reserve last year, when scientists discovered it was home to a huge variety of wildlife including endangered tigers, leopards, elephants, wild dogs, bears, 270 species of endemic birds, scores of snake varieties and other reptiles, as well as turtles and monitor lizards, all in a 541 square kilometre forest….

The Soligas’ transition from a subsistence community into increased participation in the formal market economy through trade in forest products has increased their environmental impact on the reserve.  [However] Still, experts point out that the Soligas are only marginally responsible for deforestation when compared to the scale of deforestation perpetuated by the state forest department itself. Industrial farming in the BRT, including huge coffee estates owned by the biggest industrial houses in India, has seriously impinged on the protected land, pushing wildlife further into a concentrated space with tribes.

Excerpts, Malini Shankar, Indigenous Rights Versus Wildlife Rights?, IPS, Jan. 13, 2012

See also Biodiversity and Human Rights

Protected Conservation Areas, from words to deeds?

In Namibia, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has earmarked an additional 15 550 square kilometres of land for conservation. The land will be brought under protected landscapes management arrangements under a new project which is designed to conserve biodiversity.  The recently launched Namibia Protected Landscape Conservations Areas Initiative  (NAM-PLACE) is a five-year project,which aims to establish protected landscape conservation areas. It also aims to ensure that land uses in areas adjacent to existing protected areas is compatible with biodiversity conservation objectives and that corridors are established to sustain the viability of wildlife populations.  The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to the tune of US$4.5 million.  NAM-PLACE will be implemented jointly by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“The NAMPLACE project is designed to lift conservation barriers and advocates for the establishment of a large scale network of protected landscapes in order to address eminent threats to habitat and species loss at a landscape level, thereby ensuring greater responsiveness to variability and seasonality aspects that are inevitable due to climate change,” says Environment Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah.  However, setting land aside for conservation without implementing appropriate measures to manage it effectively will not safeguard biodiversity, says Nandi-Ndaitwah.  The ministry therefore continuously explores ways to improve management effectiveness through new initiatives, she said.

Namibia has gained worldwide recognition for its conservation initiatives. The country currently has 20 state-run protected areas which account for 17% of the total land area, while communal conservancies cover over 17% of the land. Private land used for conservation represents slightly over 6% of the country’s land surface.  “A growing demand to create more conservancies across the country is an indication of the Community-Based Natural Resource Management programme’s success. The success on both communal and freehold land can be attributed to incentives derived from the use of natural resources for economic, social and environmental benefits,” Nandi-Ndaitwah says.

The minister adds that despite these achievements, some vegetation types that are not represented in the national parks and the demand for other land uses are on the increase, making opportunities to proclaim more land as protected areas few.  “Furthermore, predictions indicate that some parks are likely to get drier and others wetter due to the effects of climate change. More space would therefore be needed for some species particularly the species that require vast areas to survive. Some species are likely to seek new home ranges due to climate change. In order for the country to prepare itself to these changes, new proactive initiatives to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change are needed,” says Nandi-Ndaitwah.

The NAM-PLACE project is one such initiative. The project has five demonstration sites including the Mudumu Landscape, the Waterberg Plateau, the Windhoek Green Belt landscapes, the Sossusvlei-Namib; and the Fish River Canyon landscapes in the south of the country.

Clemencia Jacobs, Namibia: More Land for Conservation, AllAfrica.com, Nov. 25, 2011

Dams in Chile: what’s the altnernative?

The protests in Chine in June 2011 have gone beyond predictable leftist agitation. The government seems surprised by the breadth of opposition to the proposed HidroAysén electricity scheme. The plan involves building five dams on two Patagonian rivers, flooding 5,900 hectares (14,600 acres) of nature reserves. Chile, with little oil and gas, faces an energy shortage, especially if the economy continues to grow by 6% a year. Officials point out that opponents of the dams have failed to propose a feasible alternative. But many Chileans worry at the threat to part of their country’s raw beauty. Some say Mr Piñera gives more weight to the concerns of business than of the environment, and that he should have organised a national debate on energy policy before pushing ahead with HidroAysén.

Protests in Chile: Marching on, Economist, June 25, 2011, at 48