May 31, 2021

Protecting the Rights of Children in Peru

Children from La Oroya
Children from La Oroya

In 2017, in view of the serious national public health situation of people exposed to toxic metals, the National Platform of People Affected by Metals, Metalloids and other Toxic Chemicals was created. The platform is conformed by indigenous, peasant and native organizations and communities. The Platform also has a Technical Roundtable on Environmental and Human Health, which is made up of Non-governmental civil society institutions that defend human rights in Peru and other countries.

AIDA, as an active participant of the Technical Roundtable, worked with other members of the platform on a letter sent in April to the Rapporteurs on the Rights of the Child, the Rights of Women, and the Peruvian Relator of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In this letter we requested a general situation hearing, asking for the IACHR to grant us a space to expose the problems associated with toxic metals in Peru, which include several serious situations, including the case of La Oroya.

In the document we focused on reporting the current situation of the right to health of children affected by toxic metals due to environmental contamination caused by mining and oil extraction, highlighting that the situation requires urgent attention from the Commission.

We shared detail information and data on emblematic cases that demonstrate the serious human rights situation of children affected by toxic metals in Peru, which require the urgent need to address this problem due to the absence of an adequate response from the State. Studies conducted in different areas showed, for example, communities where 100% of the children had high concentrations of lead, and that the most affected population was children between 0 and 5 years of age, in their full growth phase; and water sources with high levels of aluminum and total petroleum hydrocarbons. And the present reality that, despite the evidence on this serious health situation of the indigenous population affected by hydrocarbon activities, the State has not made significant efforts to address this serious crisis with an approach that respects and guarantees the rights of children of indigenous peoples.

With these arguments we requested a work session with the commissioners and a thematic hearing for their 180 session to expose the situation of children. And asked the Rapporteur to:

  • Request the Peruvian government to provide a report on the protocols and medical care guidelines establishing the limits of heavy metals in the bodies of children exposed to these substances.
  • Recommend that the Peruvian State updates medical care instruments (guidelines and protocols) for children in accordance with international parameters and recommendations.
  • Urge the Peruvian State to issue a norm and/or intersectional policy of protection and special health care for children affected by heavy metals, metalloids and other toxic substances, guaranteeing the protection of the right to food, water, housing and education.

We are awaiting the response of the IACHR, and working alongside our partners, the Platform and members of the communities to prepare for the requested hearing.

Links:

Mar 22, 2021

Defending the Right to Water

Credit: Maria Irigaray
Credit: Maria Irigaray

AIDA, using its media outreach, has been supporting communities affected by the Belo Monte dam development project during local demonstrations to amplify their voices and bring attention to the violations of the right to water and life during the pandemic crisis, which are forcing vulnerable communities to expose themselves even more to guarantee the minimal protection from the State.

As a way to maximize energy production, Norte Energia –the company responsible of the Belo Monte dam- proposed a "Consensus Hydrograph". An hydrograph is a graph that shows the rate of water flow in relation to time, given a specific point or cross section, and is often used to evaluate water runoff on a particular site considering a development project. The proposed hydrograph leaves the flow of the Xingu River under the total control of the company, its design wasn’t based on scientific studies and it doesn’t guarantee the access to the water by local communities.

The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, IBAMA, issued a series of technical opinions pointing to the total unfeasibility of the proposed Consensus Hydrograph. The agency has repeatedly stated that the flows proposed are insufficient to maintain life in the Xingu. And that its implementation would represent a true ecological suicide. Regardless of the above, after the dam started its operations and the adaptation period passed, Norte Energia started using the proposed hydrograph that had been approved by the licensing process.

AIDA and partners, such as ISA and Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre, denounced the true impacts of the proposed hydrograph based on the environmental impact assessment. AIDA also wrote a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, claiming the violation of the Provisional Measures that were given to those groups and that should guarantee their rights to life and integrity.

In addition, AIDA supported a national complaint before the public prosecutor officer, where we argued not only the irreversible environmental impacts, but also the violations to rights and the expossure of several vulnerable communities of the region.

After all the pressure from the local communities and supporting organizations like AIDA, IBAMA determined, at the end of 2020, the implementation of a Provisional Hydrograph. This provision demanded an increased water flow from the Xingu, for example, for March the demand was a flow rate of 14,200m³/s for the Xingu, while Belo Monte’s hydrograph predicted only 4,000 m³/s. 

However, after strong pressure from the government and the energy sector, IBAMA contradicted the evidence of its own technical staff and signed an agreement with Belo Monte to reestablish the use of the ‘Consensus Hydrograph’, with no scientific basis for such.

This agreement is a serious threat to biodiversity and the lives of local communities. The main national environmental protection agencies have failed to adopt a serious commitment to the protection of life on the Xingu River.

AIDA, alongside with partners, continues to support local communities in their defense for their territory, their right to water and their survival. We know this is not an easy fight, it is not a short fight either, but it is one worth fighting.

Mar 18, 2021

Advocating for Coral Reefs Protection

Protect Veracruz Reef System
Protect Veracruz Reef System

In Mexico, the threat of regressive action by ignoring a national decree to create protected areas would aggravate the situation of the region's coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove ecosystems in the face of the global climate crisis. In recent months AIDA has been working towards the protection of costal and marine ecosystems in Mexico through these main projects:

 After years of AIDA’s advocacy work to protect the Veracruz Reef System from a port expansion project, defending the right to the healthy environment and the application of the principles of precaution, non-regression, and progressiveness concerning coral reef ecosystems and their areas of influence, the National Court of Justice agreed to examine the existing claim over the authorized development of Veracruz New Port. The center argument in the legal claim has been that the construction is detrimental to the right to a healthy environment due to damage and risk to coral reef ecosystems. The Supreme Court indicated that this case can set a precedent for future cases where the right to a healthy environment can be compromised by development projects. AIDA is currently developing and updating the Amicus Curiae presented in 2018 to include the need to consider these violations, and this time it will be presented before the highest National Court of Justice.

To defend the National Protected Area of Yum Balam - Quintana Roo, AIDA filed a legal document (Amicus Curiae) before the National Supreme Court of Justice. We used international environmental law, human rights, and climate justice arguments to protect the National Park from the claims of the municipal government to open the area to unsustainable tourist developments. Yum Balam is a site of great biodiversity and a carbon sink, storing the equivalent to carbon emissions of 9.4 million people per year. It is a habitat for endangered species such as the red mangrove, sea turtles, about 90% of the endemic birds of the Yucatan Peninsula, and the whale shark. Yum Balam's importance is regional because 59% of the coverage of coastal wetlands in the Great Caribbean Sea Ecosystem has declined over the past 40 years.

Using the legal arguments we used to achieve the protection of 10 species of parrotfish in the Mexican Caribbean and other national legal experiences as part of the strategy to protect coral reefs, AIDA seeks to improve the regulation of herbivores fish species to protect the vulnerable coral reefs ecosystem in the Wider Caribbean Region. AIDA, as an observer and expert of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife, presented earlier this year, a recommendation to include 16 parrotfish species in the Annex III for the protection of vulnerable ecosystems. We will continue to advocate for this inclusion and for stronger protection measures for these key ecosystems in the region.

 
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