Central America, Spring ^10

March 17, 2010

The Lungs of El Salvador, Desert

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 2:42 am

One of my final projects here is to conduct interviews with four organizations working to better the environmental situation in El Salvador. I’m working with Chris and went to three interviews today, I have one more tomorrow.

This morning we met with Dr. Jose Enrique Barraza from the Ministry of the Environment, a government branch doing environmental work. He explained how El Salvador is dealing with problems of deforestation, erosion, crop failures, lack of drinking water, and is also fighting a US/Canadian mining company. The ministry was established in 1998 to address some of these issues, but has little impact because it receives very little funding.

We also met with Alfredo Carias from Unidad Ecologica Salvadorena (UNES). This is a coalition organization that does research and activist work. They lobby the government and work to educate the public about environmental issues. By 2015 El Salvador will have serious problems with drinking water, and already 75% of the rural population and 25% of the urban population lack access to clean water. He told us that El Salvador is the first country in the hemisphere seriously at risk of becoming a giant desert. Also, the air is as contaminated in El Salvador as it is in Mexico City. The most exclusive shopping mall in San Salvador is built on top of what was once called the ‘lungs of El Salvador.’

He also spoke more about the controversy around the US/Canadian mining company Pacific Rim. The company wants to mine for gold in the Cabanas region, in the rural northern area of the country. Pacific Rim applied for Exploitation permits but were denied because of the permanent and deadly impact mining would have on the country. The company is proposing to use cyanide to extract small quantities of gold from tons of rock, which would flow into the water supply of the entire region. Last year Pacific Rim filed a lawsuit through CAFTA and is suing the Salvadoran government for $77 million, arguing that they lost investment money and potential profits.

If the FMLN government of El Salvador wins the case, they will be one of the first countries to outlaw mining. If they lose, their land will be open for exploitation by many more transnational corporations. The resistance movement is very strong, but communities directly in the mining region are torn because the mining would create a few jobs, and the company is bribing local politicians and police officers. Five activists involved in the Cabanas Environment Committee have been killed, and many more activists have received death threats.

In the afternoon we met with Jose Roberto Calles from Caritas El Salvador. They are an international organization and do environmental work in various countries. They also work closely with CISPIS, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.

Guess that’s a lot of links and information for one blog post. I’m finishing up with my final projects this week and am pretty busy. Twelve hour bus ride in the near future to Nicaragua!

Here’s some more articles about the mining:

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/29/anti_mining_activists_killed_in_el

http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1700/68/

http://www.pacrim-mining.com/s/Eldorado.asp

http://www.cispes.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=671&Itemid=1

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