June 20, 2007

Natural Resources Spur Pollution, Indigenous Rights Disputes

From fossil fuels to “blue gold,” from uranium to offshore biodiversity, natural resources around the world promise riches but often deepen social and economic disputes.

In Turkey, the massive new Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is expected to bring $1 billion into the national economy.

But residents of the fishing vilage of Golovasi, near the pipeline terminal on the Mediterranean Sea, say the pipeline has scared away the fish, and that the local economy is shutting down even as promises of financial aid fall through.

In the United States, a spike in the value of uranium has renewed interest in abandoned uranium mines throughout the West.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that a leap in prices, from $10 to almost $140 per pound, has inspired a surge in mining land claims — 32,000 of them in 2006 alone.

With that surge comes renewed fears of mining pollution, often near waterways such as the Colorado River — the lifeline of the West — as well as concerns for preserving scenic landscapes that drive the ever-burgeoning tourism industry.

In Montana, Indian Country Today reports on a move by Indians to secure $250 million and 55,000 acres of land as part of a water- rights settlement.

Their plan is to build a new reservoir, improve irrigation, and construct an ethanol plant. Local gold miners are trying to block the settlement, however.

And in Australia, a senator decried a move to remove or block representatives of indigenous groups from national park governance committees, particularly that of the Great Barrier Reef.

Andrew Bartlett of Queensland said that indigenous Australians have become cynical with promises of greater involvement that are not fulfilled, and said their cultural heritage in the Great Barrier Reef makes them an essential voice in its management.

Sources:

“Turkish fishing villages blame pipeline for dwindling catches”
Eurasianet.org, June 7, 2007

“Mining revival: a uranium boom for a wary West”
Christian Science Monitor, June 19, 2007

“Tribes seek land, money in water rights settlement”
Associated Press, June 11, 2007

“Indigenous people to be shut out of marine park management, senator says”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, June 19, 2007

“Speech: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Bill 2007”
Andrewbartlett.com, June 18, 2007

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