Since October of last year, EarthRights School Mekong Alumni from Laos and Thailand have been campaigning against the construction of a planned lignite mine and coal-fired power plant in Hongsa, Xayaburi, Laos. If built, the plant would have serious health, environmental and social ramifications for communities in both Laos and across the border in Thailand’s Nan province.

The first meeting alumni attended was held in Santisuk, Nan in October 2010. The alumni met with civil society groups to discuss monitoring the project’s progress and exchange information. A Lao alumna presented findings from his field research, entitled “Potential Impact of Lignite Mining on the Environment and Local Livelihoods in Hongsa District, Sayabouli Province, Lao PDR.”

The Hongsa lignite mine is being constructed with the help of both private Thai companies and at least nine Thai banks. Very little information has been released to the general public, and several concerns have been raised...

In January, three EarthRights School Mekong alumni visted Thailand’s Loei province to attend Children’s Day events on the Mekong River.

From the Had Kham Phi primary school’s soccer field, one can look out over the Mekong River to the densely forested hills of Laos. Behind the small town are endless orchards of bananas, papayas, pomelos and local fruits rarely seen outside of Thailand. There are very few shops in Hat Kham Phi and no tourism, so the townspeople make their living by fishing and selling produce. Like many towns along the Mekong River, the livelihoods of Had Kham Phi are seriously threatened by large development initiatives funded by both governments and international corporations. Here, the impacts of projects as far away as China can be felt – a hydropower dam in Yunnan Province has already caused 95% of the riverbank gardens to be washed away, leaving only bare, rocky ground.

The gravest of these threats, however, is a proposed dam only a few...

The 2010 Childrens' Day was held on the 9th of January at a village school in the Pak Chom district of Thailand's Loei province and I had the pleasure of being part of it. Among the participants were active youths from Khon Kaen University and Rajchapat Udonthani, as well as representatives from the Human Rights and Peace Information Center of Northeast Thailand and the Children and Social Development Center.  Moreover, the event was attended by a number of village groups that have been formed in response to development projects, like the potash mine in Udonthani province and the Lam Pa Niang water diversion project in Nongbualampu province, which have a destructive impact on life in the surrounding villages. 

The event included a range of artistic activities for the children, such as singing, dancing and drawing. One of the many activities was a writing and drawing contest based on the topic "My Mekong River". The contest was designed as a way for the children to express...

Bolivia is a resource-rich and energy self-sufficient country with a large indigenous population that accounts for more than half of the country´s nine million people. Bolivia has significant oil and natural gas reserves and in recent decades several controversial plans, including the Cuiabá, Yabog, Gasyrg and Pacific LNG pipelines, have been developed to increase the exportation of these resources to markets in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and the United States.

These pipelines bring significant environmental and social impacts as they traverse the ecologically and culturally rich rainforests, mountains and indigenous territories of Bolivia, threatening both the environment and the livelihoods of communities that depend on it. Widespread deforestation, mining, and the development of hydropower projects all pose similar dangers throughout the country. ERS-Amazon alumni in Bolivia work towards the defense of their communities and lands, the promotion of human rights, the...

The Amazonian oil boom began in the 1960s with the development of Ecuador´s Lago Agrio oilfield by a US-Ecuadorian consortium led by Texaco. Over the following decades some 1.7 billion barrels of crude were produced from the Lago Agrio oilfield, earning the government and oil companies over US$25 billion, and polluting the rivers and streams that 30,000 people depend upon for subsistence. In the face of such injustice, affected communities rose up to bring a historic legal case against Chevron, Texaco´s parent company, for helping cause the world´s largest oil-related environmental disaster. Ecuador continues to be economically dependent on the export of its natural resources, however ERS-Amazon alumni continue to defend their communities, environments and cultures against the influence and impacts of development defined by...

The Amazon is Peru's largest ecological region and sprawls over sixty percent of the country´s territory. The Peruvian Amazon is biologically and culturally diverse, and home to dozens of indigenous communities, some of which are uncontacted or living in voluntary isolation. It is also the scene for some of the country´s greatest environmental and human rights abuses, including decades of contamination by Occidental Petroleum on indigenous territories and the Camisea natural gas pipeline.

The Peruvian government continues to promote international investment in the Amazon, most recently by passing laws to facilitate a free trade agreement with the United States which sparked wide-spread protests by indigenous communities, and led to the violent clash between government forces and indigenous protesters near the city of Bagua in June 2009.

Public outcry and condemnation of this violence...

The Amazon stretches across Colombia for more than 400,000 km2, accounting for over a third of the country´s territory. Like other resource-rich countries in the region, Colombia faces challenges from widespread logging, mining, dams, and oil and gas exploitation, much of which occurs on indigenous territories. Following decades of armed conflict, investment in Colombia´s extractive industries by multinational corporations has led to the increased militarization of project sites, and exacerbates human rights abuses and violence in resource-rich conflict areas. These project sites, especially oil pipelines, are also frequent targets of violence by armed rebel groups which leads to massive environmental destruction and water contamination, thereby gravely impacting the livelihoods of local communities. ERS-Amazon alumni in Colombia challenge the model of...

The Amazon accounts for half of Venezuela´s total territory and is home to 24 of the country´s 31 indigenous groups. The national economy is overwhelmingly driven by the exploitation of natural resources which poses significant threats to the Venezuelan Amazon as pressure increases for the government to open the region to greater mining, logging and hydropower development. ERS-Amazon alumni in Venezuela are members of indigenous and regional federations who represent the interests of their communities and prevent environmental and human rights abuses.

Consejo Nacional Indio de Venezuela (CONIVE)

El Consejo Nacional Indio de Venezuela (CONIVE) es una organización no gubernamental, con autonomía...

In a press conference October 27, 2010, the Pa-Oh Youth Organization (PYO) launched their “Save our mountain, Save our future” campaign, an update from Burma’s largest iron mine near Taunggyi in Shan state. Khun Chan Khe, an EarthRights School Mekong alumni, gave a presentation on environment destruction and human rights violation from an investigative research monitoring the iron mine project. The campaign was launched in support of community efforts to oppose the damaging impacts of the Pinpet iron mine in Shan State.

The PYO has produced a video and leaflets showing the destruction already caused by the mining project, due to start next year, including loss of farmlands, pollution of waterways, and abuses by the Burmese regime’s troops providing security for the project. Hundreds of copies of the video have already been distributed in the affected areas.

Construction of the massive iron factory, jointly funded by Russian state-owned Tyazhpromexport company, is...

EarthRights International’s Burma Alumni Program is pleased to announce the successful conclusion of the Second Round of its 2010 Small Grants Program. Since 2004, the Small Grants Program has aimed to improve alumni’s fundraising and project development skills by providing them access to a small pool of funds for which to apply. The BAP team often works with the alumni to improve the quality of the proposals prior to submitting them to potential funders.

The Second Round of the 2010 BAP Small Grants Program opened for submissions in October 2010, receiving a total of twelve project proposals from ERSB Alumni. Of these proposals, we are pleased to announce that seven were successful.

Four projects were selected for funding by the Daniel.C.Clark Memorial Fund (DCMF) and an additional three were selected for funding by Refugees...

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