Indigenous people at risk as rainforests stripped
bare, conference told
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Chile's Mapuche people are losing their land and
way of life as corporations log temperate rainforests to create tree farms,
says an advocate from the South American country.
"The Mapuche people believe that we are the
guardians of our magical forests," Maria Theresa Panchillo told the
first day of a three-day World Temperate Rainforest Conference at the University
of Victoria on Monday.
In the area where Panchillo lives, "there
is hardly any native forest left ...They have been cut down, clear cut,
by the biggest timber companies in Chile."
Panchillo, speaking through an interpreter, said
the loss of trees in the Valdivian rainforest has meant water systems have
been disrupted and many communities have lost access to water at their
homes during the summer.
Pollution from industrial logging means water has
to be imported to many towns, she said. "If they take away the forest,
there is no water, because inside the forests are the forces and energy
that create water."
The Mapuche are campaigning to get timber companies
out of what they maintain is their land. An international campaign is urging
the Chilean government to bring in forest and plantation policies to protect
the forest and native people.
"When we fight to save these forests, we are
also fighting for our way of life that depends upon these forests,"
The U.S.-based American Lands Alliance is the lead
sponsor of the conference, with several Canadian environmental groups supporting
it as well. Up to 70 participants are expected, said Aaron Sanger of ForestEthics.
Issues that will be tackled include communications,
how to use existing laws and sponsor new legislation, international trade,
markets and product certification, and new ideas.
Cutting down rainforests jeopardizes the people
who live there, Sanger said. From Chile to coastal B.C. to Alaska, "fragile
threads bind some of the world's most endangered people and some of the
world's most endangered forests."
Elmer Makua, a spokesman for the Tl'ingit people
in Alaska, said, "The attack is happening. It has been happening for
Logging, fishing, mining and tourism all help diversify
the economy but have impacts on the forests, he said. He is also worried
about the proposed use of pesticides in the Tongass and Chugach national
forests in Alaska.
For the Tl'ingit, the connection to the forest
and the animals that live there is spiritual, Makua said.
"The forest is an intricate part of our culture.
Without it we are nothing."
Brian McNitt, conservation director with the Alaska
Rainforest Campaign, is fighting to prevent the U.S.Forest Service from
building new roads and clearcutting thousands of hectares of trees in Alaska's
temperate rainforests. His group is backed a national roadless rule which
bans roads and logging in the undeveloped areas of Tongass and Chugach
and other U.S.
© Copyright 2003 Times Colonist (Victoria)
MAPUEXPRESS - INFORMATIVO MAPUCHE
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