Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tentative Environmental Victories in Bolivia and Burma

In 2005, Evo Morales campaigned on a platform of justice for indigenous communities in Bolivia but after recent police crackdowns on indigenous groups who were protesting a 200-mile highway project through the northern Amazon, his image has soured. The crackdown has been bad PR for Morales and on Monday he apologized for police behavior and said the highway plan was to be suspended until a "national dialogue" could be held on the issue. It's a tentative victory for the protesters, but they aren't holding their breath.

 
In another surprising victory last week, Burma (of all places) decided to halt construction of the Chinese-funded Myitsone dam on the the country's largest river, the Irrawaddy (the Sydney Morning Herald quips "Burma gives a dam‎"). Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi cheered the decision after attending an art exhibit and book launch to save the river last month. China's leaders, naturally, are teed off. They signed a contract with Burma over the dam in 2009 and are asking them to recognize the "legal and legitimate rights of Chinese companies".

Why the apparent change of heart on the part of Burma's notoriously despotic leaders? Was it the instability of the region where construction was taking place? Burma's resentment of China's influence over the country? In any case, it's wild to hear President Thein Sein saying he acted "according to the desire of the people". Another video from Al Jazeera about why the dam was a bad idea:

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