Archive for 2011

Oct 14 2011
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Kandhamal 2008 – New Documentary by Samarendra Das about Mining-Driven Hindu Supremacist Violence


During 2007 and 2008, Kandhamal, a district of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, witnessed organised attacks on Christians in some of the worst communal violence in India’s history.

Through survivors’ testimonies, Kandhamal 2008 examines how Hindu supremacist groups turned two communities – Adivasi (indigenous) Konds and Pano Dalit Christians – against each other, with the tacit support of the State Government and local administration. More than 50,000 people became refugees, 5,000 houses were burnt and destroyed, at least 400 churches, prayer halls and institutions were desecrated, demolished or burnt down. This region is extremely poor, but rich in mineral resources which have attracted multinational mining companies including British firm Vedanta. The Odisha Government has ruthlessly pursued neo-liberal land acquisition policies formulated by the UK’s (Department for International Development (DfID) and the World Bank. The Konds have consistently fought this corporate land grab and the film highlights how Hindu supremacist groups and the State Government have sought to undermine that struggle.

Kandhamal 2008 will be premiered on Tuesday, 1 November, in Rm CLM.6.02 Clement House, London School of Economics at 7.15 pm. Director and researcher Samarendra Das, who was born in Odisha and has lived most of his life in Kandhamal, will discuss the background to and making of the film. Samarendra’s book, Out of this Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel (Orient Black Swan, 2010), which was co-written by anthropologist Felix Padel, is a thorough study of the aluminium industry and its global impacts. For more information about the documentary screening contact:  sasg at southasiasolidarity.org.

Oct 07 2011

Inspired By Iceland… No, really!


fabricated-history Árni Daníel Júlíusson, Originally published in the Reykjavík Grapevine.

It is funny how things can turn around. For decades, Iceland languished in neoliberal hell, with signs of opposition few and far between. Meanwhile the opposition to the neoliberal order of things grew all over the world—with massive protests in Seattle, Genoa and elsewhere—and the beginnings of a world-wide anti-globalisation movement represented by the World Social Forum, first held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001. Almost nobody in Iceland did or said anything to support these powerful movements against the neoliberal order, with the exception of the brave Saving Iceland organisation. Read More

Sep 11 2011

Iceland’s Energy Master Plan Allows for Three More Kárahnjúkar Dams – Þjórsárver Protected, Þjórsá and Krýsuvík Destroyed


Lake Arnarvatn, by Sveifluháls in Krýsuvík, where electricity lines will be located. Photo: Ellert Grétarsson The equivalent of three Kárahnjúkar dams will be built in Iceland in the near future if the parliament will pass a proposition for a parliamentary resolution on Iceland’s Energy Master Plan, which the Ministers of Environment and of Industry presented three weeks ago. Despite this, Iceland’s energy companies and parliament members in favour of heavy industry have already started complaining – arguing that way too big proportion of Iceland’s nature will be declared protected, will the proposition pass. Among the power plants allowed for in the proposition are three dams in lower Þjórsá, which for years have been a topic of heavy debate and in fact completely split the local community and are more than likely to become the bone of contention between the two governmental parties as the Left Greens (VG) have, along with other environmentalists, voiced their opposition to the damming of Þjórsá.

The Energy Master Plan is a framework programme, meant to result in a long term agreement upon the exploitation and protection of Iceland’s glacial rivers and geothermal areas. Its making, which since 1999 has been in the hands of special steering committiees, established by the two above-mentioned ministries, reached a critical status in July this year when its second phase was finished and presented to the ministers who in mid August presented their proposition for a parliamentary resolution. Before it will be discussed in parliament the proposition will be open to comments and criticism from the public, as well as interested parties, energy and aluminium companies on the one hand, environmentalists on the other. Read More

Sep 09 2011
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Time Stands Still — Activists Stuck in a Seemingly Endless Legal Limbo


Authority: Behind the glass is one Björn Bjarnason, Minister of Justice untill January 2009 By Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson

On Friday September 2, two men appeared in court in downtown Reykjavík. It wasn’t their first time—and it probably won’t be their last. If found guilty, the defendants, Haukur Hilmarsson and Jason Thomas Slade, face up to six years in prison, due to a peculiar action on their behalves that marks a turning point in Icelandic asylum-seeker affairs.

On the morning of July 3, 2008, Haukur and Jason darted onto the runway of Leifur Eiríksson International Airport in Keflavík, hoping to prevent a flight from departing, and deporting. Inside the plane, which was headed to Italy, sat one Paul Ramses, a Kenyan refugee. The two activists ran alongside the plane, and placed themselves in front of it—halting its takeoff.

It would be wrong to assume that anything has changed since 2008. Iceland may have seen an infamous economic collapse followed by a popular uprising and a new government, but for the two activists it must feel like time is standing still. Since their arrest at the airport, they have been stuck in a seemingly endless legal limbo, first charged for housebreaking and reckless endangerment and later thrown between all levels of the juridical system. Last Friday, the case’s principal proceedings took place for the second time in Reykjavík’s District Court, after the courts original sentences were ruled null and void by Iceland’s Supreme Court. Read More

Aug 31 2011
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Ge9n: Documentary About the Reykjavík Nine in Cinemas from September 9th


After a successful première in June this year – one critic describing the film as a “ticking timebomb” – Haukur Már Helgason’s documentary about The Reykjavík Nine is finally about to be shown in cinemas. From the 9th of September the film, named ‘Ge9n’  (‘A9ainst ’ in English, bearing the subhead ‘A motivational success story inspired by Iceland’), will be screened both with and without English subtitles in Bíó Paradís, an independently run cinema in Hverfisgata, Reykjavík. Information about international screening will be announced later but in the meantime, if not in Iceland, enjoy the film’s recently premièred trailer here below.

Ge9n trailer (EN) from SeND film tank on Vimeo.

If not familiar with The Reykjavík Nine – nine people who were charged and later acquitted of attacking Iceland’s parliament after wanting to enter the building’s public gallery on December 8th 2008, a few months after Iceland’s economic collapse – then you can read through the whole case on the nine’s official support website. Check out a short, sharp and informative video from the 2011 London Anarchist Bookfair or download a brochure that was published and distributed shortly before the case’s main procedure, which took place in January 2011.

Also take a look at Ge9n’s official website where you can find a very nice poster, a press kit and the film’s title song: Stóriðjuverkefnið mig, composed and performed by Linus Orri and Þórir Bogason. Finally, read a review of the film’s première (the one mentioning the “ticking timebomb”) and an exclusive interview with the film’s director, Haukur Már Helgason (p. 30-32).

Aug 30 2011
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More Industry in Hvalfjörður Brings More Abuse of Power


Hjálmar Sveinsson A broad general reconciliation on environmental and industrial affairs in Hvalfjörður has been completely ignored and stepped on by the Associated Icelandic Ports under the administration of a member of the social-democratic party Samfylkingin. This says Sigurbjörn Hjaltason, farmer in Hvalfjörður, who recently called for an investigation into the possible connection between bone deformities in his sheep’s skulls and an environmental accident at the Norðurál aluminium smelter in Grundartangi in 2006. Sigurbjörn has now raised awareness to yet another potential ecological disaster in Hvalfjörður – a fjord which already hosts two highly polluting factories: an aluminium smelter owned by Norðurál/Century Aluminium and an Elkem ferro silicon plant – as well as the abuse of power entailed in the process.

In a recent article, originally published on news-website Pressan, Sigurbjörn says that before the municipal elections in spring 2009, the community in Hvalfjörður settled upon an agreement about environmental and industrial affairs. But under the administration of Hjálmar Sveinsson (on photo), who is a vice-councilman of Reykjavík for Samfylkingin, a joint venture of several port authorities in the Faxaflói area, titled the Associated Icelandic Ports, is enabling the way for the construction of yet another two factories at the Grundatangi industrial site in Hvalfjörður, where the two aforementioned factories are located. Sigurbjörn describes the whole process as a very dubious one: Read More

Aug 27 2011

Salmon Endangered By Dams In Þjórsá River


Urriðafoss Waterfall in Þjórsá Originally published by Reykjavík Grapevine

A plan to build three dams in the river Þjórsá could wipe out salmon in the river. National power company Landsvirkjun insist they have measures on the table to keep the salmon alive. Vísir reports that an environmental assessment has already confirmed that should the three proposed dams be built, the salmon that use the river will disappear.

Plans to dam Þjórsá have not been without their controversy, as the project has been heatedly debated for years now. In fact, the notion that damming up the river would wipe out salmon from the river was known as far back as 2002. While Landsvirkjun says they would construct what effectively amounts to a sperm bank for salmon to fertilise eggs, the Ministry for the Environment has looked at the plan and concluded that nothing in the plan indicates that it would even work.

The three dams have been green-lit, though, so the options now on the table are to either find some other way to save the river’s salmon while construction goes underway, or to pull the plug on construction, either temporarily or permanently. Neither option will be inexpensive for the parties involved.

Report by Dr. Ranghildur Sigurðardóttir on the effects of a dam at Urriðafoss in Þjórsá. (in Icelandic)

Aug 27 2011

Disciples of Milton Friedman


Einar Már Guðmundsson - Photo by Cristopher Lund The following chapter is from ‘Bankastræti Núll’, the latest book by poet and author Einar Már Guðmundsson, translated and originally published in The Reykjavík Grapevine, parallel to an introduction to Einar by Alda Kravec. The introduction says that the book “opens with the narrator’s lament: the current political situation has stifled his ability to write poems to his lover. Although he foresees a future where “reality wakes up” and poets can once again sing the praises of love and nature, the resounding sound of social injustice presently overwhelms him and beckons him to first engage in the struggle against the free reign of the stock exchange, privatisation and greed.”

It is written somewhere that all cats are grey in the dark, but here in Iceland, official reports are all black, no matter how bright it is outside. Alþingi’s Investigative Commission’s Report is black. The Central Bank’s Report on the status of household debt is black. And the government and International Monetary Fund’s Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies is also black, dark as a coal mine, and sure enough, it was drafted in April, the cruellest month. It is a reminder of the misery that the IMF has presided over in countries all over the world, and directly refutes the notion that the IMF plans to apply different methods than those it has adhered to until now.

In Greece, the public has risen up against the Fund’s plans, but here the labour movement and employers get into bed with it and are almost more devout than the Pope in getting investors to come here with their baggage of offshore profits and dummy corporations. In one district, where neo-liberals have sold everything and there is nothing left to mortgage except the harbour, efforts are being made to set a precedent by selling natural resources through a shelf company just so politicians can save face after having handed over the entire district to their associates and relatives on a silver platter. Read More

Aug 18 2011

Protest at the Cairn Energy Headquarters in Edinburgh: “No Oil for Vedanta!”


At 2.30pm today 10 people arrived unannounced at the offices of Cairn Energy at the Clydesdale Plaza in central Edinburgh. They installed themselves at the grand entrance to the building, blowing whistles and shouting: “No oil for Vedanta! Stop, stop, stop the deal!” and “Vedanta out of Sri Lanka”, attracting the attention of the floods of passers-by attending the Edinburgh theatre festival. Three of the demonstrators gave out leaflets in the street from the campaign group Foil Vedanta and explained that the demonstration was timed with Cairn India’s AGM in Mumbai, where the Vedanta-Cairn deal would be discussed. The leaflets describe the protest as in solidarity with Indian people’s movements in communities affected by Vedanta’s atrocities including Niyamgiri and Puri in Orissa, Advalpal in Goa, and Thoothkudi in Tamil Nadu. They stress Vedanta’s poor environmental track record and demand that the company should not be allowed to take over Cairn India, an oil company drilling in pristine ocean off Sri Lanka.

Protesters claim this is a British issue as both Cairn and Vedanta are British companies, and have been aided by David Cameron and the British Ambassador to India in pushing the deal through. The leaflets highlight Vedanta CEO Anil Agarwal’s position as the 17th richest man in Britain and claim the British government has allowed him to evade millions of pounds worth of tax using Jersey and Bahamas based tax havens. One of the placards showed Cairn CEO Bill Gammell and Vedanta CEO Anil Agarwal in bed with David Cameron and read ‘Bill Gammell, Anil Agarwal, David Cameron in bed for oil’ while another slogan accused all three of having ‘blood on their hands’. A stack of leaflets was handed in to the building to distribute to Cairn Energy staff and a security guard warned those gathered that the police would be called if they remained at the building. This warning was taken seriously in the light of Cairn Energy’s zero tolerance policy on protests at the same offices by Greenpeace a month earlier, at which the company took out injunctions against Greenpeace preventing them from publishing any pictures of the event. The protesters left after an hour.

Below is a press release that followed the protest. Download the leaflet that was distributed at the protest here: Cairn India AGM leaflet. Read More

Aug 15 2011
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Believes Aluminium Plant Is Poisoning Sheep


dv1108119266-004_jpg_800x1200_q95 Grapevine.is

A sheep farmer, noticing bone deformities in the skulls of some sheep, believes they may be connected to an environmental accident at an aluminium smelter in 2006, and is calling for an investigation.

Sigurbjörn Hjaltason, a sheep farmer from Kiðafell, told DV that he had noticed quite a number of sheep in his area having difficulty eating, with some dying of starvation as a result. On examining the skulls of the animals, he discovered unusually large swelling of the jaw bones.

This, he believes, is the result of pollution from an aluminium smelter at nearby Grundartangi. In 2006, an accident at the plant caused fluorine to be released into the environment.

Fluorine, which is also present in volcanic ash, when ingested by animals can cause freakish growths in the bones. Sheep that would eat grass that had been covered in volcanic ash would often times grow unnaturally large teeth that prevented them from being able to eat any food at all, resulting in starvation.

dv1108119266-003_jpg_620x1200_q95 The conclusion of the Environmental Office at the time of the accident was the fluorine levels in the surrounding area had doubled.

Sigurbjörn has called for a full investigation, and wants an independent team of scientists to examine the teeth and bones of the sheep that have died.

See also:

More Flouride in Animals Around Aluminium Factories than Elsewhere – Environmental Agency Refuses to Investigate

Pollution from Smelters Damages Teeth in Sheep