Thursday, October 27, 2005

IRC News

Environmental News from IRC
Forging local-global links for policy alternatives, strategic dialogue,and citizen action since 1979.
October 25, 2005

New from the IRC:
Cellulose and Forestation: Two Sides of a Predatory Model
By Raúl Zibechi

The construction of two huge cellulose factories on the Uruguay River that threaten to pollute the binational stream illustrates how a model of forestry imposed by neoliberalism in the 1990’s is gaining ground in the Southern Cone.

Standing on a makeshift stage in the center of Montevideo, writer Eduardo Galeano addressed the crowd in a calm tone: “There are decisions that are made in 15 minutes but have consequences for centuries.”

It was May 27, 2005 during a demonstration against theconstruction of two huge cellulose factories on the shores of the Uruguay River between Uruguay and Argentina. Until now, as Greenpeace points out, “the governments of both countries have bet that the polemic will peter out and lower its intensity. That seems to be the more popular environmental policy: wager that the people will not find out or mobilize.”

But in late April some 40,000 Uruguayans and Argentineans carried out the largest demonstration yet against the paper companies--an “embrace” that joined the two shores of the Uruguay River along the bridge between Gualeguaychú and Fray Bentos, a short distance away from the plants’ location. Apparently this is the only language that governments--whether right wing or progressive--understand.

Raúl Zibechi is a member of the council of the weekly newspaper Brecha in Montevideo, teacher and researcher on social movements in theFranciscan Multiversity of Latin America, and adviser to various social groups. He is a monthly collaborator of the IRC Americas Program

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Brazil's São Francisco River Diversion Project: Residents Protest Lula’s Northeast Water Plan
By Bill Hinchberger
When candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited the São Francisco River during the 994 presidential campaign, Roberto Malvezzi sidled up to him during a break. Better known by his nickname “Gogo,” Malvezzi worked then as now with both the lands and fisheries commissions of the Catholic Church. Gogo asked the candidate about his position on the diversion of water from the São Francisco to other parts of the semi-arid Brazilian northeast. Lula promised environmental activists in the region that if elected he would appoint a high-level commission tostudy alternatives. Imagine their surprise when Lula turned around and began trying to push the same old plumbing down their throats.

Indeed Lula’s proposal is more ambitious and five times more expensive--budgeted at US$5 billion. Largedams, deforestation at its headwaters and along its banks, pumping for irrigation, and pollution have long plagued the São Francisco River. Of the 504 municipalities along its 2,700-kilometercourse, only 78 have adequate sewage facilities. Erosion drives 18 tons of silt into the riverbed each year. Once plentiful freshwater fish are disappearing.

A former correspondent in Brazil for The Financial Times and BusinessWeek, Bill Hinchberger is the founder and editor of BrazilMax:, “the hip guide to Brazil.”
Based in SaõPaulo, he is a contributor to the IRC Americas Program

CASA and GAF provided support for this article.
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