The pandemic threatens some of the world’s most endangered indigenous peoples, such as the Great Andamanese of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India.
Mercury poisoning of indigenous people plagues the Amazon. Illegal mining is the cause
Not only does illegal mining ravish the environment, it leads to mercury poisoning of indigenous people. Survival International has brought the issue to the UN.
Survival International, a global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has denounced mercury poisoning in Latin America in a letter to the UN Special Rapporteur for Health. The organisation highlights Venezuela, Peru and Brazil as countries that don’t comply with procedures to monitor the effects of mining on the environment. Mercury contamination, which commonly follows illegal natural resource extraction, can be dangerous to human health, leading to kidney malfunction, acute anaemia and respiratory diseases.
Mercury poisoning of indigenous people
Tribal people are especially vulnerable to mercury poisoning as most mining activities are concentrated in areas they inhabit: the Amazon rainforest in particular. The alarm over mercury poisoning of Nahua People in the Peruvian Amazon has already been raised by Survival. States have obligations towards indigenous people, not only under domestic but also under international law, according to the tribal rights group. Failing to prevent poisoning and assist contaminated ethnic groups is a violation of several international treaties, including the International Bill of Human Rights and ILO Convention 169.
Mercury gets into the digestive system mainly through the consumption of fish. Up to 60 percent of fish sold in a local market in Puerto Maldonado (the Peruvian gold mining capital, located in the region of Madre de Dios) is contaminated with mercury, according to estimates. This exceeds safety levels such as those defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. 78% of the city’s adult population shows signs of mercury poisoning.
— Survival (@Survival) April 27, 2016
“It’s relatively easy to get a permit to explore for gold”, Enrique Ortiz, a renowned Peruvian environmental activist, says. The bureaucratic complications start once a good spot for mining is identified. “Then you have to get the actual permits. These require engineering specifications, statements of environmental protection programmes, plans for the protection of indigenous people and environmental remediation”. Miners evade those obstacles by claiming to be in the process of getting permissions. This means that “they have a claim to the land but not much responsibility to it,” according to Ortiz. In fact, over 90% of gold mines in Madre de Dios are illegal.
The Upopoy National Ainu Museum has finally opened. With it the indigenous people of Hokkaido are gaining recognition but not access to fundamental rights.
A video shows the violent arrest of indigenous Chief Allan Adam, who was beaten by two Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers.
A historic win for the Ashaninka of Brazil as they receive compensation for deforestation on their land
On top of a 2.4 million dollar compensation, the indigenous Ashaninka people will receive an official apology from the companies who deforested their lands in the 1980s.
Covid-19 could have dramatic consequences in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Abandoned by the government, the indigenous Waorani people are organising to combat the pandemic on their own.
A federal court in Washington, D.C. has struck down the Dakota Access Pipeline, following years of campaigning by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The tribes of the Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia live in close contact with nature and the river they depend on. We explore how their ancestral ways of life are being threatened by the impacts of a mega-dam, climate change and a booming tourism industry, in this exclusive reportage.
Kivalina is located on a small island once guarded by sea ice, which is now melting due to global warming. While the sea threatens to wipe the village off the face of the Earth, its inhabitants refuse to give up their lives and traditions.