Headlines: E-LAW in the News, Autumn 2000

Russia’s Environmental Crisis The Nation reports: Russia’s first public interest environmental law firm, Ecojuris Institute, is asking the Supreme Court to reverse President Vladimir Putin’s order abolishing the Russian State Committee on Environmental Protection and the Russian Forest Service, and transferring their functions to the Ministry of Natural Resources. Vera Mischenko, the founder of Ecojuris Institute, believes the Putin government’s anti-environmental initiatives reflect a simple goal: sell off Russia’s remaining natural resources quickly to attract the foreign investment Putin sees as vital to rejuvenating the moribund economy. (September 18-25, 2000) Vera, a Goldman Environmental Prize winner, has worked with E-LAW since 1993. Eugene Globalist Takes Worldwide Outlook The Register-Guard reports: “While other countries have severe environmental problems, many nations actually have more protective environmental laws,” says Bern Johnson, E-LAW U.S. Executive Director. “A number of nations have given citizens a constitutional right to a clean environment, a right not extended to U.S. citizens.” (Eugene, September 6, 2000) Lake Victoria Vulnerable to Cyanide from New Mine The Environment News Service reports: Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has inaugurated the $165 million Geita Gold Mine, 12.4 miles upstream from the southern shore of Lake Victoria. E-LAW advocate Tundu Lissu of Tanzania’s Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) says the Tanzanian government should think about long term environmental damages from a cyanide spill rather than short-term financial gains. E-LAW advocate Godber Tumushabe of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) in Uganda is calling on Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania — the three countries bordering Lake Victoria — for a comprehensive system to monitor the gold mining activity. The Geita Gold Mine is jointly owned by Ashanti Goldfields of Ghana and South Africa’s AngloGold, the world’s largest gold producer. (Nairobi, August 23, 2000) Participants at E-LAW’s Annual Meeting in Arusha, Tanzania (July 26-28, 2000), offered legal and scientific support to advocates in East Africa challenging the Geita Gold Mine. Tobacco Lawsuits Worldwide National Public Radio reports from the 11th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health in Chicago: Other countries are following the example set in the U.S. and are suing tobacco companies to recover health care costs. Cases are already pending in South America, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. NPR quotes attorney Phillip Karugaba on anti-tobacco efforts in Uganda. (Washington, D.C., August 9, 2000) E-LAW U.S. is working with Phillip and other Ugandan advocates representing cigarette smokers on cases that claim British American Tobacco sells defective, harmful products with inadequate and misleading health warnings. Forest Project Puts Canada Treaty to Test The InterPress Third World News Agency reports: A lawsuit environmental groups filed against the Cascada lumber project slated for southern Chile has turned into a test of the environment protocol of the free trade agreement Chile signed with Canada in 1997. The Chile-Canada Commission for Environmental Cooperation took up the complaint initiated by Fiscalía del Medio Ambiente (FIMA), a public interest environmental law firm in Chile. If the binational commission, based in Canada, determines that the treaty’s environmental standards have been violated, the Chilean government risks charges of non-compliance with the 1997 free trade accord. (Santiago, August 4, 2000) For several years, E-LAW has been providing FIMA with legal and scientific information to challenge Boise Cascade`s plans in southern Chile. In July, FIMA became the host of E-LAW Chile. Lawyers Forge Unity to Combat Environmental Degradation A profile of E-LAW U.S. Executive Director Bern Johnson was featured in Tanzania’s The Guardian. Bern is interviewed at the E-LAW Annual Meeting in Arusha, Tanzania (July 26-28, 2000): “This is a critical time to show the growing awareness of environmental issues in Africa... A small but dedicated group of public interest environmental lawyers in Africa are reaching out to others in the region and around the world through the E-LAW network. Significant gains have been made.” (Arusha, August 4, 2000) Pygmies Wonder if Oil Pipeline Will Ease Their Poverty The New York Times reports: “There is not one example in Africa where oil has led to development,” says Samuel Nguiffo, Secretary General of the Center for Environment and Development in Cameroon. Samuel is leading the challenge against the World Bank funded Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline. “Look at Nigeria, Angola, the two Congos, Gabon. They all have an overabundance of oil, and what do they have to show for it? We can even say that the exploitation of oil has retarded their development. What are the chances that things will be any different in Chad or Cameroon?” (Foreign Desk, July 10, 2000) Samuel, a Goldman Environmental Prize winner, is leading E-LAW’s efforts to reach out to more African advocates working to protect the environment through law. Lawsuit Reveals Depth of Pollution in Israeli River The Los Angeles Times reports: For decades, chemical plants, oil refineries, an electrical power plant, the world’s largest producer of potassium nitrate fertilizer and Haifa’s entire sewage system have been dumping sludge into the Kishon River. Former navy combat divers who trained in the river now report cancers and strange illnesses. Three divers and the widow of a fourth have sued the government and the military in the Israeli Supreme Court, alleging that authorities refused to conduct a meaningful investigation of the Kishon pollution and whitewashed any attempts to probe the matter. Only in the last five years, forced by court orders and a landmark lawsuit filed by the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED), have some factories taken measures to reduce the level of heavy metals and other poisons flowing into the river. (Haifa, July 8, 2000) E-LAW U.S. Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik located an epidemiologist at the University of Southern California who agreed to help IUED and participate, if necessary, on the Supreme Court Commission appointed to investigate the case. E-LAW has worked with advocates at IUED since 1993. Brazilian Activists Fear Bio-Exploitation in Amazon Reuters reports: André Lima and other Brazilian environmentalists are sounding an alarm over a government decree that they say could give foreigners access and possibly exclusive rights to genetic material from plants and animals in the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. (Brasilia, July 1, 2000) André, a lawyer with Instituto Socioambiental, has been active in the E-LAW network since 1996.

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E-LAW advocates attract national and international press as they help communities protect local environments and build sustainable futures. “Headlines: E-LAW in the News” features some recent press clips.