Madagascar’s mangrove forests are amongst the largest in the Indian Ocean, harbouring exceptional marine biodiversity that is critical to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of coastal people. From wood harvested from mangrove trees to shrimps and mud crabs fished from mangrove lagoons, these unique marine forests are fundamental to the survival of some the country’s most vulnerable and marginalised coastal communities. Yet, for the very reason that mangroves provide so many valuable services to people, they are being lost at unprecedented rates, faster than any other forest type on the island.
Madagascar’s coastal populations hold the key to tackling mangrove deforestation, and Blue Ventures has been working with fishing communities throughout the country for over a decade to empower local people to protect this unique island’s threatened marine environments.
Bimini’s economic and ecological future depends upon keeping our waters clean, our reefs healthy, and our fisheries thriving. In order to preserve the tourism industry that has sustained these islands for decades, we insist that all current and future development proposals respect and protect the ecological integrity of Bimini and all of our surrounding ecosystems.– and that’s where we come in.
Why Is Jamaica Selling Out Its Environment to a Blacklisted International Conglomerate?
A $1.5 billion investment and the promise of 10,000 jobs were enough incentive to convince Jamaican officials to turn their backs on conservation.
April 22, 2014 By Richard Conniff
Richard Conniff is the author of ‘The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth’ and other books.
Tourism has long been the leading economic sector in Jamaica, bringing in half of all foreign revenue to support a quarter of all jobs. Yet government officials now risk jeopardizing that lucrative business, and Jamaica’s reputation in the international community, with a secretive deal to let a Chinese company build a mega-freighter seaport smack-dab in the nation’s largest natural protected area.
The planned port would occupy the Goat Islands, in the heart of the Portland Bight Protected Area, which only last year the same government officials were petitioning UNESCO to designate a Global Biosphere Reserve. Instead, the lure of a $1.5 billion investment and a rumored 10,000 jobs has resulted in the deal with China Harbour Engineering Company, part of a conglomerate blacklisted by the World Bank under its Fraud and Corruption Sanctioning Policy.
Many details of the proposed project remain unknown, and the government has rebuffed repeated requests for information under Jamaica’s equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act. But the plan is believed to involve clear-cutting the mangrove forests on both Goat Islands, building up a level work area using dredge spoils from the surrounding waters, and constructing a coal-fired power plant to support the new infrastructure. The port, including areas currently designated as marine sanctuaries, would accommodate “post-Panamax”-size ships—up to 1,200 feet long and with a 50-foot draft—arriving via the newly expanded Panama Canal.
The new port would compromise an area known for extensive sea‐grass beds, coral reefs, wetlands, and Jamaica’s largest mangrove forests (mangroves sequester more per-acre carbon than rainforests do). The protected area is also home to the Jamaican iguana, a species believed extinct until its dramatic rediscovery in 1990. Since then, the international conservation community has spent millions of dollars rebuilding the iguana population in a protected forest in the Hellshire Hills, part of the reserve adjacent to the proposed port. Much of that investment hinged on the government’s promise, now apparently discarded, that the Goat Islands would become a permanent home for the iguanas, which are Jamaica’s largest vertebrate species.
“It sends a really poor message to the international conservation community—that an investment in Jamaica is not a good investment, that it can be wiped out in the blink of an eye,” said Byron Wilson, a herpetologist at the University of the West Indies. Wilson warned that a proposed causeway from the Goat Islands to the mainland, and the likely development of a community of workers, would consign the mainland iguana population to re-extinction. “Any place you put a lot of Chinese workers around the world, the wildlife suffers—it’s pretty clear.”
“Everything is for sale in Jamaica,” and not just the Goat Islands, added Rick Hudson, a herpetologist at the Fort Worth Zoo who has long collaborated on the iguana project. “They’re committed to developing every inch of the coastline for high-end hotels and resorts. There’s going to be no natural environment left.” Thus not much reason to visit Jamaica in the first place.
Jamaica’s existing port in Kingston Harbor could be expanded to handle the new traffic, Alfred Sangster, past president of Jamaica’s University of Technology, wrote earlier this week in the Jamaica Observer. The Chinese decision to reject that option “reflects a clear desire to have an enclave on the islands” where it can operate with fewer restrictions. He characterized the Chinese as the “new colonialists…in a country which has long memories of the legacies of colonialism.”
Diana McCaulay, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust, noted that the government has already relaxed work permit rules and created new categories of economic citizenship to accommodate the proposed project. On previous projects with Chinese contractors, she said, the majority of employees have been Chinese people. “And where they do employ Jamaican people, they don’t obey our work rules,” she said. She also worried that the secret terms of the deal may include tax or other incentives. “What is the benefit to Jamaica? That’s not clear.”
She added that China Harbour had insisted on building a coal-fired power plant, despite the inevitable contribution to climate change, because Jamaica’s electricity rates are too high. “Imagine that. We have to pay [the high rates], and they don’t.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP SAVE GOAT ISLANDS
* 1) Sign the Petition addressed to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, et al.
Share the Petition with your friends using this link: http://chn.ge/1ecZdCO
* 4) Write expressing your objections to the following people. A paper letter counts for more than an e-mail, but we have provided both addresses in each case. You can word your letter any way you like, but we suggest you ask for full public disclosure of the details of the planned transshipment port in the Portland Bight Protected Area, with comprehensive public consultation. You could also mention that you believe that an Environmental Impact Assessment should be conducted before any decision is taken.
The Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller M.P.,
Prime Minister of Jamaica
The Office of the Prime Minister
1 Devon Road
Jamaica [email protected] the Hon. Omar Davies,
Minister of Transport, Works and Housing
Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing
138A Maxfield Avenue
Jamaica [email protected]
Prof. Gordon Shirley,
President and CEO
Port Authority of Jamaica
15 -17 Duke Street
Jamaica [email protected] Robert Pickersgill,
Minister of Land Water Environment & Climate Change
Ministry of Land Water Environment and Climate Change
25 Dominica Drive
Jamaica [email protected]
Your support is needed: Cameroon activists on trial for peaceful protest against Wall Street land grabber
Nasako Besingi is a land grabber’s nightmare. The community organiser and director of Struggle to Economise Future Environment (SEFE) has made a mess of a US company’s plans to grab a huge chunk of land in Cameroon’s southwest to produce palm oil.
“I first heard about the plans for a plantation in our area from a government agent back in 2009,” he says. “I was shocked. I told him, ‘But there are no available lands in our area.'”
Later that year, at a local meeting of the ruling political party, chiefs from the area were asked to sign a blank piece of paper in exchange for 10,000 FCFA. “None of them knew what they were signing,” says Nasako. “We only found out later that the paper was used as proof of local consent for the proposed oil palm project.”
We have the right to know if our food contains GMOs. We urge you to support your customers’ right to know what’s in their food by labeling GMO ingredients found in Safeway store-brand products.
We learned how much it takes to buy an election in Washington: $25 per vote. That’s how much money the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other outside spending groups spent to mislead voters in thinking I-522’s GMO-labeling initiative would be overly complicated.
Consumers should have a right to make healthy, responsible, and informed choices about the food we eat. Yet it’s usually impossible to know whether our food contains GMOs.
Let’s be clear. GMOs aren’t without risk— some are designed for increased pesticides, which have been linked to serious health and environmental effects. And they usually don’t undergo safety testing before being brought to market.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch: Retract the “Best Choice” Rating for ASC Selva Shrimp
Retract the “Best Choice” Rating for ASC Selva Shrimp SIGN THE PETITION
Mixed shrimp farming-mangrove forestry systems have been gaining the attention of seafood certification organizations and scientific research alike in recent years. One such scheme has come into use called Selva Shrimp®, developed by Blueyou Consulting Ltd. for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and recently awarded a “Best Choice” rating by Seafood Watch. While this system may sound viable and sustainable on paper, there is a strong potential for the practice to stray far from what is prescribed. We at the Mangrove Action Project and others are particularly concerned that this production system will further continue the process of degradation and deforestation of mangroves.
Seafood Watch itself raises many concerns about whether what the ASC says is happening is really playing out on the ground. What is alarming is that, despite many criteria of the Seafood Watch assessment being stated as hard to measure for Selva Shrimp®, especially in critical areas of habitat and environmental impact, the report sweeps aside these concerns. After a review of the Seafood Watch assessment report, we have found potentially serious issues with both Selva Shrimp® and the “Best Choice” rating granted by Seafood Watch.
Consumers in the global North have been calling for seafood certifications so that they might be able to make conscious decisions about the food they eat, where it comes from, how it is produced, and the impact of production on people and the environment. Although seafood at the supermarket may proudly display labels from the Monterey Bay Aquarium or the Marine Stewardship Council, certifying something, most consumers do not know what that certification really means. Worse still, that certification scheme, that label, may not reflect what consumers are after: seafood that is produced with minimal impact on the environment; that supports workers and their livelihoods; and that is safe and wholesome to eat. Mixed shrimp farming-mangrove forestry systems have been gaining the attention of seafood certification organizations and scientific research alike in recent years. This system ideally integrates shrimp farming into the landscape of coastal ecosystems in order to maintain the ecological function of mangrove forests and the surrounding areas while minimizing shrimp disease and providing shrimp farmers with a sustainable livelihood. While this system may sound viable and sustainable, there is a potential for the practice to stray far from what is preached. We at the Mangrove Action Project are particularly concerned that this production system will continue the process of degradation and deforestation of mangroves.
A recent certification scheme has come into use called Selva Shrimp®, developed by Blueyou Consulting Ltd. for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and awarded a “Best Choice” rating by Seafood Watch (Brisdon, 2013). Selva Shrimp® look good on paper; brochures and leaflets available from Blueyou Consulting are slick, colorful, and attractive. Aimed at businesses, this particular brand of shrimp is touted as a sustainable choice that directly connects consumers to the small-holder farmers producing these shrimp. Clients are assured that shrimp are raised without any addition of feed, fertilizer or antibiotics in a “natural” way that enhances mangrove conservation and benefits the local communities. These assurances arise from independent certification through an Internal Control System (ICS), and later subjection to independent certification by the ASC (Blueyou Consulting Ltd., 2012).
All of these assertions sound good, as if we have finally found a way to farm shrimp without causing severe environmental destruction in the clearing of mangrove forests and other coastal areas, thus allowing us to continually supply hungry nations with warm-water shrimp guilt-free. On closer inspection, however, the picture looks less rosy. Even Seafood Watch, a branch of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which granted Selva Shrimp® a “Best Choice” rating raises many concerns about whether what the ASC says is happening is really playing out on the ground. What is astounding is that, despite many criteria of the Seafood Watch assessment being hard to measure, especially in critical areas of habitat and environmental impact, the report sweeps aside these concerns, citing a handful of scientific research articles. While we hope that the standards developed for Selva Shrimp® are indeed maintained and even enhanced, the same set of articles that Seafood Watch cites in support of this certification may also be used and interpreted in opposition to the scheme.
Although there are many areas of concern, chief among them for the Mangrove Action Project are the provisions of the scheme that relate to mangrove forests. Seafood Watch uses eight criteria for assessing certifications, and in each provide justification for the rating they hand down. Criteria 1-3 all pertain to mangrove and ecosystem health in some way, although Criteria 3 is the main focus of habitat. For Criteria 1: Data quality and availability, Selva Shrimp® earned a yellow score of 6.1, since data availability is somewhat minimal especially at the individual farm level, citing Tho, Ut, & Merckz, 2011. However, due to a few recent studies made into the Ca Mau province where Selva Shrimp® are currently available and where other organic shrimp certification operations exist such as Naturland, the production system defined by Selva Shrimp® is deemed typical of the region. Seafood Watch seems to argue that because the production practices laid out by the Selva Shrimp® standards are largely already in place even before certification, the lack of data is of less concern. There is an implied assumption of responsible practice without any direct verification beyond the bare minimum. In our opinion, this is simply not enough. Without adequate data, consumers cannot be assured that the label actually reflects their hopes and intentions when they choose to purchase Selva Shrimp® or some other certified seafood.
The Seafood Watch report also determines that this scheme is applicable to other regions outside of Ca Mau, where it was originally piloted, based on the independent verification required to earn and maintain the certification. According to Blueyou Consulting, “The Selva Shrimp® program uses specific criteria and measurable parameters as guidance for all relevant processes of aquaculture improvement… These criteria are subject to regular monitoring and independent verification by a third-party auditing body. The Selva Shrimp® criteria will be implemented through the establishment of an Internal Control System (ICS). In a later phase of the program, the small-scale farm clusters and the implemented ICS shall be subject to an independent assessment and certification against the standard of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)”. The use of an ICS may make implementation of the criteria easier, since it is performed by individuals within farm clusters in pre-existing social networks, but this method is also subject to concern. Ha, Bush, Mol, & van Dijk, 2012, described an ICS used in Ca Mau for the Naturland certification where the collectors of shrimp, who also performed the internal audits, often mixed organic and non-organic shrimp to increase their own income. Additionally, “those directly involved in the ICS recognize they should not only rely on farmers for auditing information, but are restricted by costs” (Ha, Bush, Mol, & van Dijk, 2012). Combined with the findings from Tho, Ut, & Merckz, 2011, that “farmers do not keep records of pond inputs or other production aspects such as potential escape event” and “data collection and record keeping at the farms are minimal to non-existent” reported in the Seafood Watch assessment, the objectivity and accuracy of ICS auditing is put into question (Brisdon, 2013).
The Seafood Watch assessment highlights that a minimum of data must be collected and maintained on “mangrove coverage and harvesting records” for external oversight (Brisdon, 2013). Although data may be collected and recorded through the ICS, the third-party auditing of these records, and even the internal auditing itself, may not catch instances of non-compliance. Hatanaka, 2010a, found that farmers in Thailand under organic certification projects sometimes chose to ignore certain aspects of standards they disagreed with, but in a manner that allowed them to maintain certification; many farmers supplied inaccurate information to the ICS inspectors. Comments collected by Hatanaka, 2010b, revealed that farmers would simply lie to the inspectors, who would believe them without making an independent verification or observation themselves. When a third-party certifier comes annually to audit member farms, Hatanaka, 2010b, describes that certifiers audit a few random samples of ICS documentation as well as sample random farms, processing centers, warehouses, and question farmers. However, rather than actually auditing most of the farms directly, it is the records that are audited; any non-compliance would go unnoticed in this situation (Hatanaka, 2010b). Therefore, although the standards may be in place and a minimum of data is supplied, that data may be inaccurate and farmers may be non-compliant but still granted certification. This is of great concern for the protection of mangrove forests on these farms, which must make up a minimum area as defined by the Selva Shrimp® standards; farmers may be able to lie about the area of mangroves on their plots, allowing them to expand shrimp ponds to the detriment of the environment while still maintaining certified status.
Additionally Gebhardt, Nguyen, & Kuenzer, 2012, found that manual assessments of mangrove areas have proven highly variable and have a significant potential for inaccuracy. Different methodologies and definitions for measuring mangrove area and density make it hard to determine the actual coverage of mangrove forests without remote sensing. Under the current standards for certification, farms must maintain at least 50% mangrove cover. Farm leases are usually issued for twenty years in Vietnam; mangrove forests are allowed to be thinned at 5, 10, and 15 years, with a final harvest of all remaining mangroves at 20 years (Clough, et al., 2002). Farmers rarely own the land they farm in the Ca Mau province of Vietnam, where Selva Shrimp® are currently being certified, and unless farmers plant mangroves in the first year of their twenty-year leases they cannot benefit from the final harvest at 20 years (Clough, et al., 2002). As a result, farmers do not have an incentive to manage the mangrove forests well. Ha, Bush, Mol, & van Dijk, 2012, found that there were differences in the perception of what “constituted ‘forested’ area,” resulting in instances of non-compliance. Although calculation of mangrove area may be easier at the farm or farm cluster level, if compliance to mangrove area requirements is based largely on information provided by farmers with little or no motivation to actually conserve mangrove forests, there can be no assurance that area requirements are met without true third-party assessment. With all of these confounding factors, we are concerned with Seafood Watch giving Selva Shrimp® the benefit of the doubt. Greater transparency should be required to ensure effective enforcement of the certification standards.
For Criteria 2: Effluents, the same issues of data quality and reliability apply. The Seafood Watch assessment acknowledges this conundrum, but because the Selva Shrimp® standards prohibit “the use of synthetic fertilizers or any natural materials that do not come from the farm area itself” and several scientific studies that define common practices in Ca Mau as low-input the certification is granted a score of 10 out of 10 (Ha, Bush, Mol, & van Dijk, 2012). Again, without accurate and thorough data, there are no assurances that these practices are actually upheld. Mangroves are also vital as biofilters in mixed shrimp-mangrove systems (Bush, et al., 2010). However, if mangroves are not well managed and ecosystem services are lost, the ability of mangrove forests to actually perform this function may be limited (Cardinale, et al., 2012).
The area of greatest concern for the Mangrove Action Project is Criteria 3: Habitat. In the justification of scoring for this criteria, the Seafood Watch report describes the history of deforestation of 80% of mangroves in Vietnam. These mangroves were primarily composed of “mature Rhizophora forest,” but reforestation efforts (both natural and planned) were largely with a monoculture of Rhizophora apiculata (Brisdon, 2013). Vietnam is home to at least 35 species of true mangroves; three of those belong to the Rhizophora genus and 30 species can live in the southern coastal region where the Ca Mau province is located (Marchand, 2008). It is clear that the biodiversity potential for mangrove forests is high, yet reforestation has largely produced a monoculture forest for economic reasons alone.
In a review of twenty years of biodiversity and ecosystem function (BEF) studies as well as biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES) studies, Cardinale, et al., 2012, found a consensus in the field that there is “unequivocal evidence that biodiversity loss reduces the efficiency by which ecological communities capture biologically essential resources, produce biomass, decompose and recycle biologically essential nutrients.” The Seafood Watch assessment even highlights the important ecosystem services that mangrove forests provide, but in a monoculture those services are likely to be minimal or lost entirely. This is and was exacerbated by shrimp aquaculture, and Seafood Watch also recognizes that extensive aquaculture is largely to blame for this loss (Brisdon, 2013). Indeed, the report acknowledges “it is likely that, due to the heavily modified hydrodynamics, the ecosystem services of the farm areas have, to some extent, been lost. Therefore, for the purposes of this assessment, the heavily managed habitat is considered to have lost functionality” (Brisdon, 2013).
It is stunning that despite this loss of habitat functioning, the Seafood Watch report still allows Selva Shrimp® to carry a “Best Choice” rating. The report justifies this scoring because the Selva Shrimp® production system protects further land conversion to the intensification of shrimp aquaculture, but given the cycle of forest thinning and harvesting, it seems unlikely that even some semblance of the former health of mangrove forests could be regained. The current forestry management practice mandates an initial planting density of 20,000 ha-1, with 20-30% manual thinning at designated intervals (5, 10, and 15 years) with a final harvest at 20 years (Clough, et al., 2002). The mangrove forests begin to self-thin around 5 years, so the first thinning is appropriately timed; however, subsequent manual thinning are ill-timed as the forests begin to self-thin at 8-9 years and 18-19 years, representing loss of wood production for farmers (Clough, et al., 2002). Given the limited incentive for farmers to manage the mangroves well, any loss of potential income may exacerbate this ambivalence. The self-thinning is also evidence of a policy that clearly mismanages the forests; the initial stand densities are too high, so the forests self-thin as time goes on (Clough, et al., 2002). The harvest at 20 years also prevents the eventual establishment of a mature mangrove forest. A cycle of twenty-year harvesting with required manual thinnings does not “protect” the forest. The land area may not be converted to intensified shrimp aquaculture, but neither is it restored to health.
Under the Selva Shrimp® standards, the mangrove:pond ratio must be greater than 50%, although many farmers have complained that this is an arbitrary number and that the mangrove area should be based on farm clusters, rather than individual farms, in order to capture the cumulative impact of organic aquaculture (Ha & Bush, 2010; Ha, Bush, Mol, & van Dijk, 2012). This conflict demonstrates the tension between the epistemology of farmers and the regulatory standards, and highlights the lack of inclusion of producers as key stakeholders in the entire system. A greater concern, however, is that a 50% ratio of mangrove forest to shrimp ponds does not reflect a healthy, functioning ecosystem. Several studies have shown that the ratio is important to the ability of mangrove stands to process nutrients, with varying results. A study by Saenger, Hegerl, & Davi, 1983, found that a minimum mangrove:pond ratio of 4:1 was necessary to establish and maintain a healthy mangrove ecosystem. Shimoda, Fujioka, Srithong, & Aryuthaka, 2007, estimated that “between 2.1 and 5.2 units areas of mangroves is required to remove the nitrogen remaining in the aquaculture pond” and Shimoda T. , Fujioka, Srithong, & Aryuthaka, 2005, estimated “6.2 or 8.9 ha of mangrove area was … required by 1 ha shrimp ponds to fully process the phosphorus” in mixed shrimp-mangrove systems.
Whether or not there is a settled agreement of the best ratio of mangrove to shrimp ponds to maintain the provisioning of ecosystem services such as nutrient recycling, it appears that the 50% value is an arbitrary number and not based on any scientific conclusion. The Selva Shrimp® standards do not justify the reasoning behind the required ratio. Additionally, the standards do not specify the mandatory area of the buffer zone of mangroves in the published brochure, where no human activity is allowed, nor whether the buffer zone is included in the calculation of a 50% mangrove:shrimp pond ratio. Lack of clarity and transparency on these issues can allow non-compliance for the farmers, and confusion for inspectors, auditors, and consumers alike. These glaring omissions highlight the fact that Selva Shrimp® certification does not in fact uphold the assertion that this production scheme “[enhances] the effectiveness of mangrove conservation” (Brisdon, 2013). As mangrove conservation is one of the key thrusts of the Selva Shrimp® certification system, it seems to warrant greater scrutiny than the Seafood Watch assessment undertakes. We find it unreasonable that the actual health of the mangroves is ignored in this manner. If the ASC is asserting that Selva Shrimp® is good for mangrove ecosystems and conservation, they should be prescribe and uphold standards that actually protect the mangroves.
The hydrological characteristics of forests are also damaged by shrimp farming; the mixed shrimp-mangrove production system of Selva Shrimp® is no exception. Again, the Seafood Watch report acknowledges this fact, citing Clough, et al., 2002: “aquaculture development in Ca Mau Province has had a significant impact on the hydrology of mangrove areas. Many of the remaining mangroves are surrounded by levee banks, or situated in areas where tidal access is hindered. In mixed farms, where mangroves are enclosed within a levee surrounding the farm, normal tidal flooding and flushing is prevented by the more or less constant water level in the pond. Flooding and flushing of mangroves in these farms is further hindered by the usual practice of placing soil excavated during pond construction, along the edge of the adjacent mangrove areas. Reliable estimates of the frequency and duration of flooding for mangrove areas [in the areas studied] are not available. However, based on general field observations it is probable that mangrove areas within the ponds of mixed farms are rarely flooded. The situation for mangrove areas located outside the pond on farms using the separate farming system is less clear, but field observations again suggest that many areas are flooded for not more than about 2-3 days per month.” Flooding is critical to the health of mangrove forests, both in duration and frequency, as well as to the provisioning services that mangroves provide (Bosire, et al., 2008). The Selva Shrimp® certification cites that mangrove conservation is “enhanced” in part through the existence of “ponds and channels [that] are connected to the estuaries by gates that can control the in- and outflow of water during the tidal flow” (Blueyou Consulting Ltd., 2012). The findings of Clough, et al., 2002, essentially disprove this assertion, raising doubt that this production system can in any way enhance mangrove conservation. It is possible that the Clough, et al., 2002, study is dated, which Seafood Watch also addresses, but they accept the conclusions found therein. Therefore, the scientific studies that the report cites and relies on as part of the basis of the analysis of Selva Shrimp® are in disagreement with the assertions of the certification scheme itself.
The Selva Shrimp® brochure states outright that shrimp are raised naturally “by maintaining a functional ecosystem of mangrove forests and aquatic species” (Blueyou Consulting Ltd., 2012). The Seafood Watch also outright states, as mentioned above, that “the heavily managed habitat is considered to have lost functionality.” These two statements are in direct contradiction. The certification standards do not make any mention of efforts to restore ecosystem functions in these mangrove forests, such as planting multiple species of trees. This production system, while a step in the right direction, is simply not good enough. Consumers across the world use the Seafood Watch guides when purchasing seafood to make ethical, environmentally responsible and healthy decisions. We do not consider that Seafood Watch has made an accurate assessment of this certification system, and in doing so deceive the public that depends on the authority of Seafood Watch and the Monterey bay Aquarium. As such, we urge Seafood Watch to retract the “Best Choice” rating for Selva Shrimp® until on-the-ground evidence of this particular certification and production scheme can be studied and scrutinized, rather than relying on evidence based on different systems of production and certification. Seafood Watch is viewed as a paragon of information about sustainability; it should not be swayed by smart wording and benefit of the doubt. Shrimp aquaculture has serious environmental, social, and economic impacts, and all of these should and must be considered in the assessment of any kind of certification. Not only must the seafood be a good choice, but the production of that seafood must nurture the environment if it is to be truly sustainable.
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Rampal power plant: A project of deception and mass destruction
Original article HERESee end of article for sample letter and take actionAnu Muhammad Painting by Dhiman Sarkar Thousands of people, young and old, women and men, are now preparing for more than 400 km 5 days long march from Dhaka, the capital city, to Digraj a place in Rampal, the extended Sundarbans area, in South west Bangladesh begins from 24 September 2013. Organised by the ‘National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Port and Power’, the main demand for this long march is to cancel ‘Rampal coal fired power plant’ and stop all activities that would destroy the Sundarban. Why people around the country have become so sensitive, and why they are coming forward to resist this? How the Sundarbans is vital for our existence? The name Sundarbans ???????? is a combination of two Bangla words, Sundar and Bans. Sundar means beautiful and Bans means forests. So, in English, Sundarbans means the beautiful forests. Yes, it is. Not only beautiful in all senses, it is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, single largest mangrove forest in the world. UNESCO declared it as world heritage site. This has also been a huge natural safeguard against frequent cyclone, storm and other natural disasters in the country. Sidr, Aila, Mohasen were recent ones. Our living memory shows that in every natural disaster, the Sundarban saves lives of hundreds of thousands human beings, their properties, and other non-human lives. About 200 years ago, the Sundarban was much larger; it was then measured and found to be about 16,700 km². The present Sundarban is one third of that. The total land area today is 4,143 km² and the water area of 1,874 km² consisted of rivers, small streams and canals. ‘Rivers in the Sundarban are meeting places of saltwater and freshwater. Thus, it is a region of transition between the freshwater of the rivers originating from the Ganges and the saline water of the Bay of Bengal.’ The Sundarban is spread into two countries, Bangladesh and India, but ‘…. freshwater reaching the mangroves has been considerably reduced since the 1970s due to diversion of freshwater in the upstream area by India through the use of the Farakka Barrage bordering Rajshahi, Bangladesh’. (Wahid, S.M., Alam, M.J. and Rahman, A. “Mathematical river modelling to support ecological monitoring of the largest mangrove forest of the world – the Sundarbans”, 2002). Despite many activities of grabbing, looting and forest unfriendly activities, about 60 per cent of the bans is still surviving in Bangladesh. This mangrove forest is unique because of its history, size, productivity and significance in balancing the local ecosystem. ‘It is the largest mangrove patch in the world; the second largest is only one-tenth of its size in Malaysia. The Sundarbans is unprecedented in biological diversity and wildlife resources too. The renowned Bengal Tiger (Panthera Tigris) is synonymous with the Sundarbans which is the largest remaining natural habitat of the man-eating wild cat. Despite official land reclamation programmes and continued exploitation of produces from this swamp forests, they still survive with multiple threats originating from the modern world’. (Bangladesh Environment Facing the 21st Century, Sehd, 2007) The forest has been playing unparallel protective and productive functions. In addition to its role as natural safeguard, it is also the single largest source of forest produce in the country. The Sundarbans also plays an important role in creating economic value in the national economy and employment creating opportunities for the millions. It now covers more than 60% of the total reserved forest of Bangladesh, contributes about 50% of total forest revenue. Forest cover in Bangladesh is far less then adequate, and also the health of the surviving forests is extremely poor. An overview of forests in Bangladesh correctly observed that, this poor health of forests has not been caused by natural process; rather the human greed and corporate aggressive penetration destroyed the natural process of growth and expansion of the forests that also put human survival in danger. Wrong and grabber friendly policies, wrong headed investment and commercialisation, destructive investment made this happen. In fact ‘most of the forests were stolen’ by the process of profit making ventures’ (Stolen Forests by Phillip Gain, 2006). With the rise of extent of primitive accumulation, the Sundarbans also suffered like other forests, rivers and open space in Bangladesh. Rampal power plant: the final blow Now the mere existence of the Sundarbans has been threatened by an attempt to build 1320 MW coal fired power plant in Rampal, the larger Sundarban area. This proposed Rampal Coal Power Project is a joint venture project by the Indian state owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Bangladesh state owned Power Development Board (PDB). We have identified three serious problems with this project. The contract is non-transparent and unequal First, the whole process of conceiving the project, selection of the area and the terms and conditions of the project are non-transparent, irrational and biased against Bangladesh interest. Power generation will also not be economically feasible (For more on the contract see, Moshahida Sultana Ritu: “Rampal Coal-Fired Power Plant, Who gains, who loses?” Daily Star, June 11, 2013) Project of mass destruction Secondly, different independent studies suggest that this project would not allow the Sundarbans to survive and to reproduce. We have two reports from detail studies on Sundarban. These studies were directed by two independent experts of environment and engineering. Those are Dr. Abdullah Harun Chowdhury of Khulna University (“Environmental Impact of coal based power plant of Rampal on the Sundarbans and Surrounding Areas”, 2012) and Dr. M A Sattar of Bangladesh Agricultural University (“Impact of Coal-Fired Power Plant on Air Pollution Climate Changes and Environmental Degradation including Disaster on Sundarban”, 2011). They investigated the possible and inevitable impact of the power plant on the Sundarbans, in construction phase and in production phase. Conclusions of these two independent studies are similar. They found the proposed coal fired power plant as the destroyer of the largest forest in Bangladesh. In order to understand the extent of concerns by the independent experts of the country, let me quote from Dr Abdullah Harun’s study conclusion, “EIA of physical, biological, social and economic environment indicate that most of the impacts of coal fired power plant are negative and irreversible which cant be mitigated in any way. It is indicating that climate, topography, land use pattern, air and water (surface and ground both) quality, wetlands, floral and faunal diversity, capture fisheries and tourism will be affected permanently due to proposed coal fired power plant. Increasing of water logging conditions, river erosion, noise pollution and health hazards; decreasing of ground water table; loss of culture fisheries, social forestry and major destruction of agriculture will happen due to the coal fired power plant… The benefits/facilities of proposed coal fire power plant of Rampal are very poor compared to the negative irreversible impacts. So economically, socially, physically and environmentally the selected area is not suitable to establish any type of coal based power plant.” However, many of these concerns were echoed in the EIA authorised by the PDB, only to mention that, everything will be done to mitigate the damages. Engineer Kallol Mustafa pointed out some vital twists, lies, deception and unsubstantiated promises in that EIA document. These include dealing on the issue of Possur River, zero discharge policy, mentioning the Sundarban as residential area and village rather than ‘environmentally sensitive area’, millions of tons of fly ash and bottom ash issues, dangerous waste management policy, coal transportation, etc. After carefully analysing the EIA, Mustafa correctly concluded that, “although the EIA report has tried to justify the Rampal coal power plant near the Sundarbans by using wrong emission standards, underestimating various adverse impacts, not specifying impact in many cases, using words ‘unlikely’, ‘hardly’, ‘very little’, ‘may’, ‘may not’ etc, the impacts of construction & operation of the coal based power plants on the Sundarbans ecosystem documented in the EIA are enough to cancel the project immediately” (Kallol Mustafa: “How the Rampal Coal Power Plant will destroy Sundarbans”, http://ncbd.org/?p=794). Process of deception Thirdly, from their work map, the very intention of the governments of both countries can be questioned. Years before the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was done, 1834 acres of land, that was mostly agricultural and shrimp aquaculture pond (gher) had been acquired for the proposed 1320 MW power plant project. That was done by the government without the consent of the people, was done with force by police and local thugs. Moreover, if we look at the chronology of events it would be clear that the EIA process was merely an eyewash, used as an instrument to rationalise a predetermined project. The events took place as follows: (1) Land acquisition order for this power plant was issued on 27 December 2010 more than two years before the EIA was done. (2) Before the EIA was approved, the joint venture agreement to set up the power plant was signed between Indian company NTPC and Bangladeshi company PDB on 29 January 2012. (3) The EIA was published on January 2013 in the PDB website for public opinion. Experts and some concerned organisations submitted their opinion in due time, they rejected the EIA. (4) A public consultation was arranged by PDB on 12 April 2013. The experts, who were present there, identified serious problems with the EIA; they categorically rejected the EIA, and asked the government to stop all activities before another independent EIA is done. (5) A week later of that rejection, two government representatives signed final agreement (on April 20, 2013), the Implementation Agreement (IA) and Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Moreover, Bangladesh government made special decision to allow the Indian side to get tax waiver on its share of profit from the proposed plant. Bangladesh will purchase ‘NTPC’s stakes at a price evaluated by an independent Indian firm. Earlier, the PDB had relaxed the Liquidated Damage (LD) and Performance Guarantee (PG) clauses, along with Corporate Guarantee, for implementing the Rampal power project’. Therefore whatever happens to the Sundarbans, Indian company’s huge profit is ensured. India is violating Indian Law The spokespersons of the Governments of Bangladesh and India have been asserting on the point that, no damage will be done to the Sundarban since super critical technology will be used in this project. The question remains, why use of this technology could not justify the coal based power plants in India, e.g., in Tamilnadu, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa which were cancelled on environmental concern? This is very important to note that, ‘as coal based power plant creates serious environmental pollution, no country in the world usually gives permission to set up large coal based power plant within 20 to 25 km distance of forest, agricultural land and residential area’. According to the EIA, the distance of the proposed Rampal coal based power plant from the Sundarbans mangrove forest is 14 km, which they claim as a safe distance. But the EIA guideline manual for coal based thermal power plants prepared by the Indian Ministry of environment and forest in August 2010, clearly states that, the “locations of thermal power stations are avoided within 25 km of the outer periphery of the following: – metropolitan cities; – National park and wildlife sanctuaries; – Ecologically sensitive areas like tropical forest, biosphere reserve, important lake and coastal areas rich in coral formation…” That means Indian state owned NTPC is operating the Rampal project by violating its own principle and legal restrictions. Nevertheless, the Indian government is pushing for that. No company including the NTPC will be allowed to implement similar or much less disastrous project in India. (See, for more on this project, a booklet published by the National Committee in http://ncbd.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Rampal-booklet.pdf) The Government’s claim about the distance of the proposed plant, 14 km from the forest, has also been contested by the experts. Geographer Wahiduzzaman and Salam, for example, gathered their findings through Geographical Information System (GIS) software exhibited that this distance is between 9 and 13 kilometres. (A.K.M Wahiduzzaman and Mohammed Tawsif Salam: “Rampal Electricity Plant and our Environmental Consciousness”, http://alalodulal.org/2013/08/29/rampal/). More worrying fact is that, if we consider buffer zone, crucial for preservation of forest life, this distance comes down further to 4 km. (http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/sundarbans-risk) People against grabbing and mass destruction In larger Sundarbans area several corporate houses already erected billboards declaring their new profit making ventures. New projects on shipyard, ship breaking, 5-star hotel, and aggressive tourism are in the air. It is also heard that gas exploration and security installations are also in the planning process of relevant authorities. So, an all out attack on the Sundarban and the country has been in the making. While visiting Bangladesh few months back, the president of India urged that, both India and Bangladesh should work unitedly to protect the Sundarbans. In reality, the governments of both the countries are working unitedly to destroy the Sundarbans. This huge and vital forest is spread into both India and Bangladesh. Therefore, people of Bangladesh and India should be united to resist Rampal coal fired power plant to save the Sundarbans. In order to protect lives and livelihood of millions of people, the world’s largest mangrove forest, natural defence system against natural disaster, extremely important biodiversity and to protect human and non-human rights we have no other way but to resist any project from anywhere that is disastrous to the Sundarbans. Concerned people express the main argument of their opposition to the Rampal power plant in one sentence: ‘there are many alternatives for power generation, but there is no alternative for Sundarban.’ People of Bangladesh are gathering to save Sundarban. People of India and the world should join them to save this World Heritage Site. Anu Muhammad is a teacher, economist, researcher and member secretary of Oil Gas Protection Committee. SAMPLE LETTER The Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Old Sangsad Bhaban Tejgaon, Dhaka- 1215 Bangladesh [email protected] September 23, 2013 Cc: Dr. Hasan Mahmud, Honorable Minister of the Environment & Forests [email protected] Dr. Tawfiq-E-Elahi Chowdhury, Advisor to the PM [email protected]d Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Please cancel the construction of the Rampal power plant. This is truly “a project ofdeception and mass destruction” for the wonderful Sundarbans, which is a world heritage. Sundarbans means “the beautiful forests,” and it surely lives up to its name in both benefits and productivity. Not only beautiful in all senses, it is extraordinarily rich in biodiversity and productivity. The Sundarbans is also the single largest mangrove forest in the world. UNESCO has declared it a world heritage site. The Sundarbans has also been a huge natural safeguard against frequent cyclone, storm and other natural disasters in the country. In every natural disaster, the Sundarbans saves lives of hundreds of thousands of people, while nurturing a rich coastal ecosystem. Also, the Sundarbans is vital for all of us on this planet to help counter climate change. Yet, the Sundarbans is now threatened by the attempt to build the coal-fired power plant in Rampal, which is the larger Sundarban area. This proposed Rampal Coal Power Project is a highly contested joint venture project by the Indian state owned National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Bangladesh state owned Power Development Board (PDB). I have seen the news reports that thousands of concerned people, young and old, women and men, are now participating in a 400 km 5 days long march from Dhaka, your capital city, to Digraj a place in Rampal. Organised by the ‘National Committee to Protect Oil Gas Mineral Resources Port and Power’, the main demand for this long march is to cancel ‘Rampal coal fired power plant’ and stop all activities that would destroy the Sundarbans. I wish to state my strong support for the people of Bangladesh who have demanded cancellation of the government decision to set up the Rampal Power Plant close to the Sundarbans. Please take immediate action to halt this project and protect the Sundarbans! Respectfully, Name Address
Bimini’s economic and ecological future depends upon keeping our waters clean, our reefs healthy, and our fisheries thriving. In order to preserve the tourism industry that has sustained these islands for decades, we insist that all current and future development proposals respect and protect the ecological integrity of Bimini and all of our surrounding ecosystems.
The current proposal being put forth by Genting’s newly acquired Resorts World Bimini Bay calls for the creation of a massive cruise ship terminal off the western shore of North Bimini. These plans include a 1000 ft dock extending west off North Bimini’s beaches, the creation of a large man-made island offshore, and an enormous amount of related dredging. All of this is being proposed in an area of densely populated coral reef habitat.
The damage to the surrounding reefs will be catastrophic, and the landscape of Bimini will be forever transformed.
We are calling on Prime Minister Perry G. Christie to halt these proposals and demand that a new plan be developed. Any new proposals put forth must NOT adversely impact Bimini’s reefs or marine ecosystems, must NOT negatively affect the North Bimini Marine Reserve, must NOT negatively impact the quality of life or property value of North Bimini’s residents and homeowners, and should take into consideration the ideas and concerns of Bimini’s residents, stakeholders, and homeowners.
Over 1,000 people, mostly female garment workers, have been killed in the collapse of a building in Bangladesh which housed factories making clothes for Primark, Matalan, Mango and other major brands.
Take action now and demand these UK high street brands to take responsibility for this tragedy by paying full compensation to the workers and commit to action to ensure disasters like this become a thing of the past.
A global alliance of trade unions and workers’ rights campaigners have set a deadline of 15 May for multinational clothing brands to sign up to a strong agreement to ensure factories are safe.
Now we need to keep the pressure on to get these companies to act.
Benetton, Primark, Matalan, Mango and Bonmarche make huge profits off the backs of the workers in factories like these, and now they must take responsibility for their failure to ensure workplace safety and prevent disasters like this. These companies must pay full compensation, including their lost earnings, to the families who have lost relatives and the workers injured in this disaster.
Compensation alone is not enough – these companies must act to ensure that disasters like this never happen again. The Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement is a landmark project, bringing together brands, supplier factories, trade unions and NGOs to end the appallingly unsafe factory conditions and ensure decent working conditions. These brands must sign the agreement and commit to make real changes to ensure the factories that make their clothes are safe, and no workers’ lives are at risk.
India is a thriving democratic nation with tremendous potential to achieve just, equitable, and ecologically sustainable national development that could last forever. Yet India is heading towards social and ecological collapse unless it stops burning coal and clearing its natural ecosystems, especially important old-growth forest remnants. The momentum of unfettered economic and population growth sweeping India is so severely damaging to the environment that failure to stop burning and cutting threatens the nation’s reliable climate, food and water supplies, and its future potential for sustained national advancement. India is an amazing place in so many ways. There is still hope that they will come to understand the importance of a different development model based upon intact natural ecosystems.
Sadly, the great and ancient nation of India is following the failed development model of the Western overdeveloped nations. Its policies have come to equate liquidating natural ecosystems for temporary economic gain with true and lasting national advancement. Nowhere is this clearer than in India’s failure to establish national land use regulations and end its ever-growing dependence upon coal for energy. If India does not stop burning coal and destroying its natural ecosystems, it will soon face social and ecological collapse. The repercussions of the wholesale collapse of such a populous nation would be of such magnitude that it might well contribute significantly to collapse of Earth’s one shared biosphere.
Nowhere is lack of land-use planning regulation in India more evident than in southern Kerala state. The “Evergreen” state is known for its greenery and important remnant Western Ghats Forests which still hold viable populations of Asian elephants and tigers. Their monsoon-fed green water towers provide ~40% of India’s water. A highly credible scientific mapping plan – the Western Ghats Experts Ecology Panel Report (WGEEP), often referred to as the “Gadgil report” after its lead author – has been developed for the area to establish zoning of ecologically important areas to ensure sustainability, particularly of water for the Western Ghats region.
Yet this cutting-edge land-use planning effort has been put on hold after a barrage of unfair attacks by vested political and economic interests. Ecological Internet’s Dr. Glen Barry – while visiting Kerala – noted this appears to largely be due to the corrupting influences of the Goa mining industry, Syro-Malabar Church and Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, and petty scientific jealousies between rival researchers. These established elites are all protecting their economic interests over the environmental needs of the poor.
The Gadgil report would identify natural ecosystems crucial to Western Ghats’ and India’s long-term development (including all remaining old-growth forests, which have dwindled to less than 7% of their former extent) and establish a much needed data-driven methodology to map and restrict ecologically sensitive areas from development. The report by the Madhav Gadgil committee is based on cutting-edge environmental science and, if implemented, will definitely protect Kerala’s much-diminished forests and shrinking water resources and slow the process of climate change. Unless Kerala’s forests are protected and restored, the seasonal monsoons which deposit much of India’s water in these green water towers are threatened, as are large herds of Asian elephants and individual tigers which are signs of healthy and connected ecosystems.
Similarly the Indian political system appears incapable of weaning itself from a deepening coal addiction. India is planning 455 new coal plants (compared to 363 in China). Most of India’s coal is found under natural forests, and recently bans on mining in forested areas were lifted, to make coal production easier. Unlike China, which is a tyrannical ecocidal mess, India is a democracy, and there is greater potential for change through reform rather than a need to replace the entire system. The question is whether India will succumb to the greed of a small but powerful minority who want to usurp the larger community’s fundamental rights of access to clean air, water, and food. India’s political establishment should embrace long-term sustainable development programs as developed by one of their own greatest scientists in the WGEEP report. If India fails to embrace legal regulatory structures to protect ecosystems, its national material prosperity will be short-lived, and never equitably extended to the poor.