12-08-11

West Papua Freedom protesters challenge ‘blind eye’ of the West

Last week marked the 48th anniversary of the West Papuan struggle for independence from Indonesia. To mark the occasion, thousands of Papuans took to the streets, raising their voice for freedom--and recognition from the International community.

West Papua: the road to freedom

This week marked the 48th anniversary of the West Papuan struggle for independence from Indonesia. Thousands took to the streets and international lawyers are making a strong case for West Papuan self-rule.

It is a grief-stricken path that has been followed for generations. It stretches from when the Dutch colonised the region in the 19th century and cruelly continued when control was handed to Indonesia by a United Nations Temporary Executive Authority in 1963.

And last week the journey towards independence has led thousands of West Papuans onto the streets to demand the international community acknowledge their right to be free.

“West Papuans will never recognise their homeland as being part of Indonesia and we have a fundamental right to self-determination under international law,” said Benny Wenda, a West Papua independence leader living in exile in Britain.

“West Papuans have marched peacefully this week and have shown again that they can meet violence with peace to achieve this [aim], no matter how much [Indonesia] tries to intimidate us.

“A blind eye has been most cynically turned by the international community towards the situation of the people in West Papua.”

Regularly harassed
Protesters and human rights campaigners are regularly harassed and arrested in West Papua and, according to Amnesty International, reports of torture while in detention and other human rights violations are commonplace.

But with momentum building for the cause, the police have been reluctant to intervene in the recent protests.

“The demonstrations were so big this time they know if they act violently towards the protesters it would be noticed internationally,” says Wenda.

“We have been trying for 48 years now and, just like the Middle East, we need people power to change the world – but we also need people from around the world to notice.”

One of the biggest obstacles that the Free West Papua campaign faces is a lack of interest, let alone support, from the outside world.

Forgotten conflict
“West Papua is a forgotten conflict,” says Charles Foster, spokesperson for International Lawyers for West Papua.

“A blind eye has been most cynically turned by the international community towards the situation of the people there.”

As part of efforts to raise the profile of the region, a conference was held in Oxford this week by the Free West Papua campaign. International lawyers and activists spoke at the event to highlight the case for an independent West Papua under international law.

“In legal terms, the region has a clear right to self-determination,” said Foster.

“If you look at the New York Agreement [a treaty signed in 1962 by the Netherlands and Indonesia regarding the political status of West Papua, then known as West New Guinea] the United Nations was given trustee status over the region which was supposed to lead to self-determination in 1969. Indonesia has never disputed the fact it put its name to this agreement; therefore it implicitly acknowledges that it was bound by it.”

But the New York Agreement was followed in 1969 by the ironically titled Act of Free Choice, a vote by a tiny section of the population of West Papua, hand-picked by the Indonesian military, on whether the region should become independent or remain part of Indonesia.

Although it has since been widely recognised that the process was a sham, calls for a revote have consistently been ignored.

“There is no serious legal scholar anywhere in the world who thinks the Act of Free Choice was a genuine expression of the free will of the West Papuan people,” said Foster.

Embarrassing reality
“When Indonesians talk about this they try to steer clear of what actually happened on the ground in 1969. They’re not stupid, they realise how embarrassing it is.”

As long as the international inertia continues, the situation for West Papuans continues to worsen.

Yet even if the New York Agreement is somehow forgotten and the circumstances surrounding the Act of Free Choice somehow ignored, international law still falls heavily on the side of the West Papuans.

In 1960 the UN General Assembly passed a crucial agreement, the Declaration of Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which states: “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

This firm legal ground has yet to translate into any meaningful concessions to the West Papuan people. And as long as the international inertia continues, the situation for West Papuans continues to worsen.

Clemens Runawery is an exiled independence activist who has been unable to return to his country for more than 40 years.

“The longer we stay part of Indonesia the more our status will suffer, both physically and demographically,” he said.

“Back in 1961 the vast majority of the people in West Papua were West Papuan, with only a minority from other places. Today this situation has been completely reversed. How much time do we really have left?”
Source : Intercontinental Cry

 

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Mapuche Students Fight for an Indigenous University in Chile

Mapuche students in Chile have brought the issue of a Mapuche University with a focus on indigenous knowledge and history to the attention of the entire nation, and garnered support from certain Chilean leaders and government officials.

 

Activists from the Mapuche Federation of Students (FEMAE) occupied an abandoned school building in the city of Temuco on two occasions in mid-July and were removed by soldiers within a day of each occupation, but their publicized action led them to meetings with some of the top officials of the Chilean government.

 

The approximately 70 indigenous student activists were holding their protests for a nationally funded university while thousands of Chilean university students held strikes throughout the country against the

privatization of higher education. The leaders of the larger strike, the national Federation of Students of Chile (CONFECH), have stated their support for the Mapuche University.

 

So far, however, the most concrete result is a mention of “promoting interculturalism in higher education” in the Chilean Governments Plan for Education, published on August 1st. By August 9, the FEMAE students had rejoined the larger national protest, after CONFECH leaders and their allies rejected the plan presented by the Chilean government.

 

The struggle for the Mapuche University however, did make headlines along with the national strike.

 

“We are maintaining our position for a Mapuche University,” said FEMAE leader Yonatan Cayulao on July 25th, a week after the second occupation, “and the recuperation of spaces for our Mapuche people.”

 

Cayulao was with both groups in mid-July, the first bunch of more than a dozen students on July 13th and then close to 50 students on July 16th that occupied the former Anibal Pinto Lyceum in the city of Temuco, located in the heart of Mapuche territory in southern Chile.

 

The FEMAE leader, during the two occupations, explained the history of the Mapuche University idea in various press statements.

 

“This will be developed in the context of a Mapuche curricula,” Cayulao said. “This is a very old project of Mapuche society, a demand that was born in 1910, with the Caupolican Society and was renewed in the 1940s with the Araucana Corporation, in the ’70s with the Federation of Indigenous Students, in the ’90s with Indigenous Homes and now with the Federation of Mapuche Students.”

 

“During 100 years,” he continued, “we have been ignored by the curriculum of Chilean education, we did not exist within it…this education, over 100 years, at least within the Mapuche community, has

served as a homogenizing force, negating the possibility of a heterogeneous society. Here there is an intercultural post-war society, and that is the Arawakan society. Chilean education has ignored that and

obliged us to forget that we are Mapuche, that we are a different people.”

 

While the FEMAE activists have yet not received the cooperation they were seeking from the Chilean government, there were national and local leaders who did support the Mapuche students in public forums.

 

One of these sympathetic officials is Representative Gonzalo Arena, the federal congressperson from that region who met with the FEMAE activists during their occupation of the Pinto Lyceum. Rep. Arena wrote an op-ed piece on his meeting with the student activists which was published in various newspapers.

 

“These Mapuche students have a very interesting proposal about the necessity of a truly intercultural education and the idea of forming an institutional dialogue between the Mapuche world and the State,” wrote Arena. “These Mapuche youth have “discovered,” at its roots, one of the major problems with public policies that emanate from the State towards the Mapuche, this is, the absence of institutional channels of dialogue that may be recognized by the majority of Mapuche communities and also

the leaders that serve as technical counterparts in public policy.”

 

“…they are showing that their demands are not for land or subsidies, but intellectual discussion, cultural recognition, recuperation of their language, which will help on top of everything else to have the topic of

Mapuches to go beyond the topic of poverty (which is a big mistake in public policy) and involves the complexity of Mapuche issues in all their dimensions,” Arena asserted.

 

In the last week of July Cayalao and Pablo Millalen (another FEMAE activist) wrote that they were going to meet with Chile’s Minister of Education, Felipe Bulnes, along with student leaders involved in the

national strike. After the meeting FEMAE announced their support of the continued national strike but did not comment on any further developments involving a Mapuche University.

 

source : Mapuche mailinglist in English/Dutch

Indiancountrytodaymedianetwork

 

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09-08-11

Violence between Mapuche Indigenous and foreign land owners in Chile

The south of Chile has always been prone to outbreaks of violence between the indigenous community and local land owners and police; the violence continues, and community figures call for reform.

 

Concepción Archbishop Fernando Chomalí called the violence between the Mapuche community and the Urban family in the Araucanía region “the tip of the iceberg of a larger conflict” during an interview with Radio Bío-Bío on Sunday, where he called for the reform of laws regarding Mapuche rights, specifically the anti-terrorist law.

 

The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group. They have long been involved in ancestral land claims in southern Chile, and radical activists have for years vandalized property they feel was swindled from

their ancestors.

 

These activists have constantly been in the news in recent years, from violent attacks to hunger strikes to Supreme Court cases.

 

The five farms owned by René Urban in the Araucanía region stand on land that the Mapuche feel are theirs by right. This past May, the 100th case of vandalism and violent attacks on an Urban property was documented. Héctor Urban, René’s son, was the most outspoken about the milestone.

 

“We’re in shock, because no one is giving us a solution, not even the government,” Héctor Urban told El Mercurio in May. “There is no way that these people should be able to come on to our property and attack us right under the noses of the police who are supposed to be protecting us. Something is failing here and it’s extremely serious. The investigations of the district attorney’s office are going nowhere, and

despite the police protection, we feel abandoned.”

 

The situation has not improved since then. There was a violent clash Friday afternoon between Mapuche protesters and police in the town of Ercilla, in the Araucanía region. When all was said and done, a Mapuche minor was hospitalized for a gunshot wound to the thigh and a policeman was also injured.

 

According to Temucuicui community spokesperson Mijael Carbone, the Mapuche victim identified Héctor Urban as his shooter. The victim says Urban shot him from a moving truck, where he was accompanied by a policeman, and then fled.

 

Sen. Jaime Quintana has told local media that he believes there is enough to bring a charge of attempted murder against Urban.

 

Héctor Urban denied the accusations.

 

“Yesterday I was also blamed for a death threat against a woman,” he told the daily Cambio 21, adding that he gets blamed for many anti-Mapuche crimes, typically without proof.

 

By Zach Simon (editor@santiagotimes.cl)

Copyright 2011 – The Santiago Times

 

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Vedanta: time to give up on Niyamgiri mine

FTSE100 company Vedanta Resources faced vocal protests today from Survival International and other groups telling the company to give up on their notorious Niyamgiri mine in Orissa, India.

Vedanta was
denied permission to mine in the Niyamgiri Hills, home of the Dongria Kondh tribe who have been vigorously protesting against the mine. Now the issue has returned to India’s Supreme Court. At today’s AGM the company was told by protesters inside and outside the meeting to respect the stance of both the government and the Dongria Kondh and to give up on the Niyamgiri mine.

Actor and Survival supporter Michael Palin, who has visited the Dongria Kondh, said today, ‘I am very disappointed that the decision to stop Vedanta's mine by India's Environment Minister is now being challenged in the Courts. Vedanta needs, once and for all, to abandon this ill-conceived project and respect the rights of the Dongria Kondh people.’

 

Several shareholders have disinvested a total of over US$40m from Vedanta in protest over the Niyamgiri mine project and other concerns over the company’s human rights and environmental record. Asset manager Aviva Investors declared in advance of today’s meeting that it would not support key AGM resolutions due to concerns over the company’s behaviour.

Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, said today, ‘When shareholders are disinvesting, and expressing serious concerns about company conduct, it's time to reconsider policy. Vedanta should respect the resounding ‘no’ from the Indian government and abandon the Niyamgiri mine: it might go some way to righting its appalling human rights record.’

source : Survival International




 


 

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Mapuche: Peaceful Occupation to Save Traditional Lands in Rio Bueno

Mapuche communities organized a peaceful protest to block the destruction of sacred lands.  Despite acknowledgement of the damage to an indigenous site, the government orders the area vacated.

On Tuesday, July 12th, Mapuche-Huilliche communities occupied traditional lands near the town of Rio Bueno (Los Lagos Region) to stop the destruction of a major sacred site and to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Pilmaiquén River. In total, members from more than 20 communities peacefully occupied the lands. The community action prompted conflicting responses from the Chilean Government, with the local director of CONADI (Chile’s Indigenous development corporation) supporting the communities’ demands to have the land returned, while the local Chilean prosecutor ordered that the occupation be broken up.

According to Millaray Huechulaf, a spokesperson for the communities, the land in question is approximately 32 acres, and is home to a significant sacred site for the communities as well as a traditional burial ground.  Huechulaf, on behalf of the communities, asserts that illegal logging has already taken place on the land and that far worse will happen if the land is not returned to the Mapuche people. The regional director of CONADI, Juan Andrés Melinao, confirmed the communities’ claims, stating that there had been a “deplorable and vile violation” of the communities’ Indigenous site. The director also pledged his support for helping the communities get control of their land again.

Despite this acknowledgement by a government official, the local prosecutor sought to have the Mapuche-Huilliche community members removed from the lands. The court in Rio Bueno granted the prosecutor’s request to have the lands vacated.

Despite the decision by the court, the communities indicated that they intend to keep fighting to regain complete control of their traditional lands and sacred sites, and called on other communities to join in the efforts.
source : Indigenous News

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Exposed: Ethiopia gives farmland to foreigners while thousands starve

A Survival International investigation has uncovered alarming evidence that some of Ethiopia’s most productive farmland is being stolen from local tribes and leased to foreign companies to grow and export food – while thousands of its citizens starve during the devastating drought.

Vast blocks of fertile land in the Omo River area in south west Ethiopia
are being leased out to Malaysian, Italian and Korean companies, as well as being cleared for vast state-run plantations producing export crops, even though 90,000 tribal people in the area depend on the land to survive.

The government is planning to increase the amount of land to be cleared to at least 245,000 hectares, much of it for vast sugar cane plantations.


The region’s worst drought in 60 years has left millions starving. The Omo Valley tribes, are for now, relatively secure. But the government views them as “backward” and is determined to “modernize” them: it wants to turn them from self-sufficient farmers, herders and hunters into workers in vast plantations. However, they may be simply evicted from their land.

 

 

Part of its scheme involves the construction of a series of dams along the Omo River, including Gibe III, which will be the biggest dam in Africa. Hundreds of kilometers of irrigation canals will follow the dam construction, diverting the life giving waters. This will leave the tribal people without annual floodwaters to grow their crops.

Local people are being intimidated to stop them talking to outsiders or journalists, and there have been
no meaningful consultations. A visitor recently in the region told Survival that the government and police are cracking down, jailing and torturing indigenous people and raping women, so they do not oppose the land grabs. One tribesman told the visitor, ‘Now the people live in fear  - they are afraid of the government. Please help the pastoralists in southern Ethiopia, they are under big threat.’

Survival’s Director, Stephen Corry, said today, ‘The Omo Valley tribespeople are neither ‘backward’ nor need ‘modernizing’ - they are as much a part of the 21st century as the multinationals that seek to appropriate their land. The tragedy is, forcing them to become manual laborers will almost certainly lead to a drastic reduction in their quality of life and condemn them to starvation and destitution like so many of their fellow countrymen.’

source : Survival International




 

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CANADA: Tax ruling affirms Indian status rights

In a decision aboriginal leaders are hailing as the most crucial affirmation of Indian status rights in a quarter century, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a Huron moccasin maker who took out term deposits at a credit union on his Quebec reserve does not have to pay tax on the interest he earned on his investment.

The court on Friday upheld an appeal by the estate of Roland Bastien, a status Indian who belonged to the Huron-Wendat nation. Mr. Bastien did not live to see the outcome of the case as he died six years ago.

For 27 years, Mr. Bastien ran a small business that makes Hiawatha-brand handbeaded moccasins on the Wendake Reserve near Quebec City. He invested some of the income from the operation and sale of his business in term deposits with the Caisse populaire Desjardins du Village Huron, a credit union on the reserve.

Term deposits are money certificates made at banks that pay a fixed interest rate until a specific maturity date, at which point the investor gets his money back. Generally, the returns are higher than regular savings accounts but lower than riskier stocks or bonds.

Mr. Bastien’s term deposit earned interest that was placed in a savings account he held at the credit union. He believed the income was property-exempt from taxation under section 87 of the Indian Act.

The Canada Revenue Agency believed otherwise, adding the investment income to Mr. Bastien’s income for the 2001 taxation year. The people in charge of Mr. Bastien’s estate appealed the decision in court but lost at both the Tax Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Appeal.

Both courts ruled that the Village Huron Caisse generated its revenues outside the reserve, not on it, and therefore the interest paid to Mr. Bastien was not exempt from taxation.

But the Supreme Court rejected that opinion. It found the lower courts gave too much weight to the fact that the Caisse produced its revenues in the “commercial mainstream” off the reserve.

“The question is the location of [Mr. Bastien’s] interest income and not where the financial institution earns the profits to pay its contractual obligation” to him, the court said in its unanimous decision. “The exemption from taxation protects an Indian’s personal property situated on a reserve. Therefore, where the investment vehicle is … a contractual debt obligation, the focus should be on the investment activity of the Indian investor and not on that of the debtor financial institution.”

Konrad Sioui, grand chief of the Wendake reserve, cheered the decision, calling it the most important ruling on aboriginal taxation since the Indian Act was created and the first time aboriginals have really won something from their Indian status since the Nowegijick Supreme Court decision in 1983. In that case, the court ruled that an aboriginal could also work off-reserve tax-free, as long as the employer was based on a reserve.

“We’re not asking for too much because we’ve lost so much ground for the last 20 years,” Mr. Sioui said in an interview. “This was the last possibility for us” to make sure that we could restore some balance to living on an Indian reserve, which has some negative aspects.

“We need an edge. We need something. We don’t want to be wards of the government,” Mr. Sioui said. “[This decision ensures that] our goods, our services, our assets, our infrastructure will be tax exempted.”

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the decision will foster economic development for all Indian communities that will help alleviate the poor conditions and low employment plaguing them.

“The onus is now on the Canada Revenue Agency to work with First Nations to change its approach and policies in a way that promotes reconciliation and respects the nation-to-nation relationship between First Nations and the Crown,” he said in a statement.

A number of people will have the right to tax refunds as a result of the judgment, although it was unknown Friday how many people or what sums are involved.

In a related appeal heard at the same time as that of Mr. Bastien, the Supreme Court upheld Friday that another aboriginal, an Attikamek Indian named Alexandre Dubé, is also exempt from tax on interest he earned on term deposits with an on-reserve credit union.

According to the federal government’s Indian Registry System, there were 704,851 Status Indians as of December 31, 2002. Of these, 13,184 were living outside of Canada.

Source: first perspective

 

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Bolivian President Denounces Water Privatisation

"Water is life. Water is humanity. How could it be part of the private business?" asked Bolivian President Evo Morales Wednesday, stressing the social and economic consequences of the growing trend of private ownership over water supply and delivery systems in many parts of the world.

Morales, the first-ever indigenous president of Bolivia and an outspoken advocate of the rights of "Mother Earth", also criticised capitalist countries of the North for failing to adopt a rights-based approach towards the problems of global warming and the rapid loss of plant and animal species.

"If we don't respect the rights of Mother Earth, we cannot respect human rights," he told a news conference at U.N. headquarters before heading to the U.N. General Assembly where he addressed a meeting on water and sanitation.

More than two billion people across the world have no access to sanitation facilities and clean water. Numerous U.N. studies have shown a strong link between deadly diseases and the lack of access to clean water in many countries of the South.

Research shows that inadequate access to clean and safe drinking water remains a major obstacle for the success of international initiatives on sustainable economic and social development in financially impoverished regions of the world.

The international community has pledged to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015, a target that is unlikely to be met on time.

"Progress is on track," said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, but warned diplomats at the General Assembly gathering that the world "will miss the water and sanitation target".

"It is not acceptable that poor slum-dwellers pay five or even 10 times as much for their water as wealthy residents of the same areas of the same cities," he said. However, in the same breath, Ban added: "Let us be clear: a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free."

Morales's stance on this issue reflected a completely different worldview.

"Without water, there can be no food, no life," he said, challenging the notion that water management by private corporations will accelerate the process of development. "Competition of any sort cannot resolve the issue of poverty."

The first-ever indigenous president of Bolivia, who is well-known for his outspokenness and socialist views, said his government had already expelled some multinational companies that were seeking privatisation of water in his country.

"Water is a basic public need that must not be managed by private interests, and that it should be available to all the people," he said, a view endorsed by a number of diplomats from the developing countries who spoke at the General Assembly meeting.

"Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a pre-condition to eradicate poverty," said Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the Brazilian envoy to the U.N. "The right to safe water and sanitation [is] intrinsically connected to the right to life, to physical integrity, to health, to food, and adequate housing."

The U.S. delegate also supported the view that access to water is a universal human right, but shied away from discussing the role of the private sector in the supply and distribution of drinking water. "The U.S. is committed to solving the world's water problems," he said.

According to Food and water Watch, a non-governmental organisation- based in Washington, many women and children in rural areas in developing countries spend hours each day walking kilometres to collect water from unprotected sources such as open wells, muddy dugouts or streams.

In urban areas, they collect it from polluted waterways or pay high prices to buy it from vendors who obtain it from dubious sources. The water is often dirty and unsafe, but they have no alternative.

Carrying the heavy water containers back home is an exhausting task, which takes up valuable time and energy, according to the group. It often prevents women from doing vital domestic or income-generating work and stops children from going to school.

"Water is a human right. We believe that corporations cannot provide better service to consumers," said Kate Fried of the Water and Food Watch in support of Morales's views. "Water service can be provided more effectively by public-public partnership."

Water Aid, another non-profit organization, says the total global investments in water and sanitation would need to double for the Millennium Development Goals' target of halving the proportion of people living without water and sanitation by 2015 to be met.

Asked by IPS if his views on the right to water are getting support from the richest countries, Morales said that Spain was the only country from the European Union that was in alliance with Bolivia on this subject.

"There should be no one without access to water," he quoted Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, as saying.

(END)IPS

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Altai Gas Pipeline Threatens UNESCO World Heritage Site, Telengit Sacred Lands

The Indigenous Telengit Peoples in the Altai Republic are turning to the international community to help stop a new gas pipeline that would cut through their sacred lands and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Please visit Cultural Survival to take part in this campaign.

Located in the Altai Republic of southwestern Siberia, the Ukok Plateau is said to be
the place where the spirits come to listen to the songs of the Altai, Shor, Telengit and other Indigenous Peoples in the Altai region who practice a traditional form of throat singing known as "Kai".

The Ukok Plateau is especially important to the Telengit. For atleast 8,000 years, the Telengit have travelled to Ukok to bury their dead; and among the burial mounds, stone stellae, and petroglyphs of their ancestors, the Telengit pray for their people and make offerings to the spirits of the heavens, the mountains and the waters.

"Ukok is a sacred territory for us. Over many centuries, our ancestors have conducted rituals and buried our dead there. The San Salary takes place on Ukok, a ritual to honor the spirits of the heavens and our ancestors," say the Telengit, in a recent appeal to the international commnuity. "Each visitor to Ukok leaves a rock in offering at each obo (cairns located at mountain passes), ties a dyalama ribbon, and leaves 'white food,' while those who travel on horseback leave a hair from the horse's mane."

The Telengit say they also learned their way of life in the remote and pristine permafrost landscape.

But now, that living memory and the cultural legacy of the Plateau is under threat. Cultural Survival warns that "Russia and China are planning to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Siberia to China. The pipeline would bisect the sacred Ukok Plateau and the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site in Russia, and the Kanas National Park in China, one of China’s last undeveloped wilderness areas."

In 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the 2,700-kilometer  Altai gas pipeline would be constructed by the end of 2011. Forunately, a disagreement on the cost of the pipeline is stopping the project from moving ahead; but with China eager for a trade and transportation corridor through the region, an agreement may be reached any time.

In their public appeal, the Telengit express their greatest concerns about the project:

"A pipeline across the Ukok Plateau will destroy numerous monuments of scientific and historical importance, and, more importantly, vital to our people's sacred traditions. The planned pipeline will inflict serious environmental damage in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Ukok Nature Park where we have many animals and birds that are listed in the Red Book: snow leopard, argali mountain sheep, manul (Pallas) cat, black stork, bar-headed goose, steppe eagle, and others.

"Damage to permafrost on Ukok is particularly dangerous, as it will hasten the melting of glaciers in the Tabyn-Bogdo-Ola and Southern Altai ranges. This region is also prone to earthquakes that could cause devastating pipeline leaks and spills. Construction of the pipeline also threatens our local economy. In our Territory of Traditional Natural Resource Use we practice free-range animal husbandry, fishing, and hunting, and we are developing cultural and ecological tourism. Construction of a pipeline, contamination, and the melting of permafrost will affect all our economic activities, we will lose our sources of food and livelihood."

According to the The Altai Project, the pipeline would also provide even more access to poachers; increase threats to the  Katun River watershed (also considered sacred); and destroy or damage cultural and historical landmarks like the Kalbak Tash petroglyphs in Chui-Oozy.

In light of these risks, the Telengit are turning to the international community for help. They explain in the appeal, "We have appealed to Russian and Chinese government agencies and Gazprom, but our rights and demands are being ignored. Our only hope is for broad-based international support, and we turn to you with a request to send letters of protest in our names to the companies and governments of Russia and China."
Source : Survival International

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