NEWSLETTER No. 32
"Not our business?" -- Experiences in engineering ethics
Depleted Uranium Metal of dishonour
The Baltic University Program
Missile defense and the Maginot Line
The US NMD deployment will destroy the 1972 ABM Treaty
Statement on nuclear disarmament, NATO policy and the churches
Initiative for a peaceful and sustainable development in Africa
Prospects for household appliances
Threatening the existence of Khasia punjees in Bangladesh
Announcement INES Council meeting
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"NOT OUR BUSINESS?"
EXPERIENCES IN ENGINEERING ETHICS
Claus Montonen works as a professor of physics at the University of Helsinki. He represents Technology for Life in the INES Council, and is a member of the Executive Committee of INES.
In the following I shall try to convey some observations connected with working on engineering ethics in Finland, as a member of both Technology For Life (TFL) and the ethics committee of the Association of Swedish-speaking Engineers in Finland (TFiF). Apart from attempting to raise the general level of awareness of ethical questions among engineers and engineering students, our activities have been concerned with writing codes of ethics, arranging courses, lecturing and providing courseware on engineering ethics.
Is there any special ethics of engineering are not engineers subject to the same codes of decent conduct governing all citizens? Several professions, starting with the medical one with their Hippocratic Oath, have realized that there are specific questions connected with their professional activities, which warrant special attention. To start with, these were usually what could be called "professional microethics" rules that ensured the quality of work. Society must be able to count on that scientists provide correct results and that engineers build reliable bridges, houses and computers. The first ethical codes for engineers, roughly hundred years old by now, were indeed concerned with quality control, ensuring the upkeep of knowledge and competence, but also with eliminating unfair modes of competition.
The rapid development of technology and the enormous growth in economic activity related to technology brought new questions. The nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century saw an unfettered technology optimism, according to which the newly acquired knowledge of science and technology would allow mankind to rebuild nature to suit his needs. However, it soon became clear that technology yields power and that the one who possesses this power should also bear the responsibility for its use. When the ecological consequences of a technology based on unlimited use of limited resources became clear, when the development of weapons of mass destruction showed that mankind could annihilate itself, it became apparent that consequences of technology potentially determine the future of our planet. I want to quote here the philosopher Hans Jonas, whose The Imperative of Responsibility remains one of the most penetrating analyses of the dilemma: "Modern technology, informed by an ever deeper penetration of nature and propelled by the forces of market and politics, has enhanced human power beyond anything known or even dreamt of before. It is a power over matter, over life on earth, and over man himself; and it keeps growing at an accelerated pace.... Care for the future of mankind is the overruling duty of collective human action in the age of a technical civilization that has become almighty, if not in its productive then at least in its destructive potential. This care must obviously include care for the future of all nature on this planet as a necessary condition of mans own.... We live in an apocalyptic situation, that is, under the threat of a universal catastrophe if we let things take their present course.... The danger of disaster through scientific technology arises not so much from any shortcomings of its performance as from the magnitude of its success."
The ethics of technology is thus faced with new challenges. There should be new components emphasizing the responsibility towards the future, the solidarity towards humankind as a whole and nature rather than the solidarity within the profession and taking into account far-reaching, both in space and time, consequences of technological decisions. These new components form a "professional macroethics," and the trend has been to include more and more of them into codes and into the discussion. It is indeed the task of present day engineering ethics to first change the exclamation mark in the spontaneous response "Not our business!" into a question mark, and then into an acknowledgement of the relevancy and urgency of the problems raised. The engineer should be made to protest against the distorted picture of him or her as a "hired gun," performing any task the client is asking for. (Some philosophers have, in fact, introduced the term "engineerization" to denote the decay of moral standards in other professions, e.g. lawyers or doctors; a retreat from strict rules of conduct to a willingness to perform what the client demands and can afford. Needless to say, professional engineering bodies are less than pleased with such a terminology.) It has to be emphasized that the responsibility is personal, it cannot be transferred to some anonymous bodies call them "market forces" or whatever you like in the final analysis decisions are made by individuals.
The reaction of many when faced with these global problems is a feeling of powerlessness and anguish, leading to a retreat into privatization caring only about oneself. However, these challenges can also be an impetus towards more acute ethical considerations and choices. The globalization process, which seems out of control, and the decay of the old ideologies increase the importance of the responsibility of individuals. The ethical choices emerge as questions of lifestyle, and although some of them are private indeed, they will have an impact on the choices made by larger collectives. Another positive reaction has been to create national and international networks of activists.
A goal of the ethics activity of TFL and of my work in TFiF has been to channel the frustration felt in front of seemingly overwhelmingly strong counter forces into an awareness of the ethical questions involved and an acceptance of a personal professional responsibility. In this kind of work you naturally come into contact with a large variety of opinions, and it is my experience that one has to be ready to make compromises. Taking a too radical attitude, however, convinced one is of its righteousness, inevitably leads to marginalization. You may have the satisfaction of several times being able to say "I told you so," but nobody will be there to listen.
Among the first forays of TFL into engineering ethics, was trying to establish regular ethics courses for engineering students. At the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT), TFL first arranged and later helped with the organization of one-term ethics courses. This activity has now been completely taken over by the HUT and grown into a full one-year course, although it is not (yet?) compulsory. A course was also held at the Lappeenranta University of Technology. Course material in form of a set of transparencies was also prepared by TFL for use primarily in technical colleges. This material has been sold for a very moderate price, or even lent, to teachers willing to include ethics into their courses. At TFiF, we have arranged courses at the Swedish-speaking Abo Akademi University and at HUT, which is bilingual.
A one-term course typically consists of 8 to 10 two-hour lectures. It starts with an overview of morals and ethics, and of the specific problems of engineering ethics. To the following lectures representatives of various branches of industry are invited to present their way of tackling ethical problems most large-scale companies nowadays give at least lip-service to ethics, and the students are encouraged to find out what is the reality behind the words. Experts from other fields, like biologists and sociologists, explain the effects of technology on their respective field. The final lecture is often staged as a debate, to which "heavyweights" are invited (and most often come!). The work done by the students to pass the course (usually only pass / fail grades are given) consists of essays written on the themes of the lectures, having a group of students acting as opponents to a lecturer (in which case they have received the contents of the lecture in advance), a final examination testing the main points of the course, etc.
Much emphasis is placed on the study of practical cases. In Finland we have the fortune of having no nuclear weapons, an insignificant armaments industry and few (and recent) multinational companies of our own. (It has to be added that the penetration of foreign multinationals has been rapidly increasing, which soon might lead to problems.) Thus, a class of really serious ethical problems, those connected with military industry, are practically absent. However, environmental problems are abundant, and they form, together with problems of staff management, the majority of ethical dilemmas an average Finnish engineer is expected to meet. Correspondingly, a large part of the cases studied are of this mundane form. However, cases of a more serious nature, where the stakes have been considerably higher, like whistle-blowing, exports of dangerous waste to third world countries, the actions of Finnish forestry multinationals in the South, etc. are also dealt with. At TFiF, we regularly publish cases in the newsletter of the association, asking the members to comment.
Some ten years ago, TFiF decided to draw up a code of ethics for its members. This code was not to be implemented by sanctions, but rather to serve as a frame of reference. One might well ask what is the effectiveness of such a toothless document. I wish to think that it at least makes members pause and reflect. The code is a clear opening towards macroethical thinking. It consists of a preamble and of short statements under six headings, which are: Responsibility towards the future, The meaning of work, Technological knowledge, The consequences of technology, Responsibility of informing, Honesty and justice. It is accompanied by a document called
"The Responsibility Towards the Environment," which lists a number of principles that should be followed. Altogether, the code has been well received by the membership.
For INES members interested in engineering ethics, there is a wealth of material: codes, cases, court decisions, curricula, links etc. on the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science website:
For those versed in Swedish, the TFiF code and a selection of cases are available on http://www.tfif.fi/etik.html
And, to give credit where credit is due, the first half of my heading I borrowed from the title of a splendid booklet published by Swedish engineers in the 1980s.
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Depleted Uranium Metal of Dishonor
Siegwart-Horst Günther is Professor in Medicine in Berlin, former member of the German Academy of Sciences. Günther is founder and president of Yellow Cross International, which organizes support for ill children, and he received several scientific awards. In April 2000 he got the "Special Award 2000 for Peace and Humanity" from the International Association of Education for World Peace, founded by the former UN general secretary Boutros Boutros-Gali. He writes about himself:
"In March 1991, I detected on Iraqi battlefields small but very heavy projectiles and described, for the first time, very strange, severe symptoms of known and unknown diseases, renal and hepatic dysfunctions, aplastic anaemias caused by disturbances of the bone marrow, leukemia and other cancer developments, as well as malformations of babies, which I suspected to be side-effects of the new projectiles. Uranium projectiles are a German technology, so the German producer is at least co-responsible for compensation of the suffering children."
Related to their toxicity and radioactivity, wastes from the uranium industry are in Europe deposited in salt galleries. Uranium ore, as found in nature, consists for the most part of the isotope 238 and for about 0,7% of the isotope 235. Now, as the isotope 235 alone is fissionable and hence of use for the reactors, the uranium ore, poor in that element, must be enriched. Such process involves masses of material and, consequently, creates huge quantities of Depleted Uranium (D.U.) composed mostly of the isotope 238.
Depleted Uranium possesses some characteristics that makes it very attractive for the weapon technology:
Uranium projectiles, a German technology developed during World War II, were used in the form of D.U.ammunition for the first time by the allied troops during the Gulf War in 1991, with devastating effects and consequences.
At the beginning of March 1991, I detected projectiles in an Iraqi combat area that had the form and size of a cigar and were extraordinarily heavy.
At a later time, I saw children play with projectiles of this kind; one of them died from leukemia.
As early as the end of 1991, I diagnosed a hitherto unknown disease among the Iraqi population which is caused by renal and hepatic dysfunctions.
My efforts to have one of these hitherto unknown projectiles examined brought me into serious trouble in Germany: the material was highly toxic and radioactive. The projectile was confiscated by a large police detachment, carried away under enormous safety precautions and stored in a specially shielded deposit.
During the last five years I have been able to carry out extensive studies in Iraq. Their results produced ample evidence to show that contact with D.U. ammunition has the following consequences, especially for children:
The results of my studies show similarities to a clinical picture described recently by the term "Gulf War Syndrome" in allied soldiers and their children. The congenital deformities caused by genetic defects in American and Iraqi children are identical.
According to US statements, vaccinations and other prophylaxes as well as D.U. ammunition used, are held responsible for the development of the "Gulf War Syndrome." The allied troops were not informed about the danger to health caused by the D.U. projectiles until nine days after the end of the war.
Like all heavy metals, such as lead or cadmium, uranium is highly toxic. The human body must not get into contact with it. In the opinion of the American nuclear scientist Leonard Dietz, the Gulf War in 1991 was the most toxic war in history.
The president of the US Gulf War Veterans busies himself especially with the "Gulf War Syndrome," from damages of organs to genetic manifestations. Following his estimations, 50.000 to 80.000 soldiers are concerned, and 39.000 have been dismissed from active service, 2.400 to 5.000 have died up to now. In Great Britain 3.500 soldiers suffer today from the "Gulf War Syndrome," as well as a number of Australians, Canadians and French.
In March 1994, reports on some 251 families of veterans of the Gulf War living in the state of Mississippi were published in the United States. Sixty-seven percent of the children of these families were born with congenital deformities: their eyes, ears of fingers are missing or they are suffering from severe blood diseases and respiratory problems.
In the meantime, others studying the facts, have adapted my view that a parallel can be drawn to the situation that developed after the accident in 1986 in the nuclear reactor in Chernobyl. Since then there has been a sharp increase in cancer, especially among children. Their mortality rate is very high, as is the rate malformations at birth.
One cannot fail to point out the disturbing situation that developed in Germany in 1988 after a US Army A-10 aircraft crashed in Remscheid. A similar situation developed in the Netherlands in 1992 after an Israeli El Al transport plane crashed in Amsterdam. It is suspected that both planes were carrying radioactive material on board. In both cases in the regions around the crash, there has been an increase of skin diseases, dysfunction of the kidneys, leukemia among children and malformations at birth.
In November 1996 it was reported that in ex-Yugoslavia about one thousand children are suffering from an unknown disease: headaches, aching muscles, abdominal pain, dizziness, respiratory problems and others. Similar symptoms were described in the so-called "Gulf War Syndrome." In the meantime about six hundred of these children are getting hospital treatment.
In December 1997 and January 1998 the Balkan-Media reported a dramatic increase of leukemia and other cancer development within the population of Srpska as well as an increased number of malformations in babies. The cows in this region show reduced and bloody milk production, while in others the milk production stopped completely. In several cases malformations in calves were registered: without skin on extremities, missing claws or tongue. This clinical picture was seen also in other mammals. In Bosnia unusual vegetation are growing and the few fruits show unusual forms. US combat aircraft carrying D.U. ammunition were also used in ex-Yugoslavia.
About ten years ago, while working in a German spa, where the water was characterized by its large spectrum of minerals doubled with radioactivity, I had been struck with the fact, that many of the treated patients were developing a number of side effects, especially infections, and zoster development. This pointed to the breakdown of their immune system.
In my position as a physician and scientist I call on those responsible as well as on the public to prohibit the use of D.U. ammunition, which is already at the disposal of several nations.
Address of the author:
Prof. Dr. Dr. Siegwart-Horst Günther
Achter de Dünen 14, D-25826 St. Peter Ording, Germany
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The Baltic University Programme
Paula Lindroos, PhD, is vice director of the Baltic University Programme, Uppsala University, Sweden and the Finnish BUP centre at Åbo Akademi University, Finland
The Baltic University Programme activities started in 1991, coordinated by Uppsala University, Sweden. A core group of 33 universities from eight countries in the Baltic Sea region, meeting in February that year, agreed to arrange a first course about the environmental situation of the Baltic Sea and its drainage basin. The environment and the development of the Baltic Sea region was a common concern in all involved countries.
In 1991 there was great curiosity to know more about each other on both sides of the fallen iron curtain and to get a glimpse of the research done in the other countries. The first attempts of contact included telex and part time working telephone and fax machines. Much effort was done in order to improve communication. Satellite TV was used both to show each other what it looked like in all the countries in the region as well as for live discussion using so called space bridges, live satellite TV with broadcasting from two or even three partners. In the first year 20 hours of TV time was used in this way and to this day more than 50 hours of TV have been filled. Since these early days the development of the communication technology has been very fast, which is reflected in many ways in the activities of the Programme.
Now some 160 universities and institutions of higher education participate in the activities of the network. These are found in 14 countries; the region of interest has been defined as the drainage area of the Baltic Sea. This means that parts of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Belarus are included in the region in addition to those countries which are bordering the Baltic Sea.
A sustainable development of the Baltic Sea region has become the overarching concern (common theme) for all courses within the Baltic University Programme, even if they deal with subjects as different as environmental science, resource management, democracy and minority rights. The theme is not unproblematic in the university world, and one may say that the Baltic University Programme challenges the traditional university curriculum in several ways. This includes the very interdisciplinary nature of the courses, the use of technology in education and the international element in all courses
Discovering a new horizon
Curiosity is often a leading principle in science, and curiosity lead many universities to take part in the Baltic University Programme (BUP) in the beginning of the 1990s. At that time there were big political changes in our region resulting in quite new possibilities for universities to reach each other. During the first years BUP built many bridges between universities and between students, not the least between east and west. It became possible to learn from each other and about each other with the help of new technology. But the academic community had to make some adjustments so that this new way of delivering education would fit into the normally rather strict educational framework.
The Baltic University courses and activities are produced in cooperation between teachers and researchers in the whole network, representing different disciplines and traditions. At the same time a new approach to the content of education was presented for the universities also content-wise this new project challenged the academic community. At the very first meeting in Kalmar, Sweden, in February 1991, it was decided that the first BUP-course would deal with the environmental situation of the Baltic Sea and its drainage basin, as presented from different sectors in society and university. This was something all participants of the meeting easily could agree upon, and the results were astonishing: Much information and knowledge that never previously had passed the borders by any kind of media, was presented for others for the first time.
The adopted holistic approach to environmental issues, however, did not easily fit into traditional academic patterns. The cross-disciplinary and often problem-based courses required cooperation between teachers and departments, even faculties, which is not normally part of university routines. Sometimes even cooperation between universities is necessary. This trend continued in the next courses, the themes being Peoples of the Baltic, A Sustainable Baltic Region, and Sustainable Water Management.
In addition the Baltic Sea Drainage Basin has been introduced as a new concept and framework for the problems and their solutions. Thus, one may say that the BUP has challenged the universities in many ways.
Mobility and mobility
Totally new opportunities for meetings were made possible with the help of new technology, not the least between students in different countries. Hundreds of students got the possibility to meet over the satellite bridges already in the first year. But the satellite that had been used in the first years is now inactive and left behind by more modern and cheaper technology, which has made it possible for students to meet more often and in different situations. After the first years the technological development has been fast, and at present many meetings are arranged using the Internet, or video- and audio-conferencing systems using the ISDN telephone network.
We may summarize that the students, through these common arrangements, all have access to mobility, but virtual mobility, not physical mobility which in practice may be available for at most 5-10% of the student body. Each participating university offers the BUP courses, while the networking is arranged in common. It is not distance education, we call it network education.
In addition to these virtual meetings, students have had the chance to meet regularly at special students conferences as well. The BUP students summer courses and regular conferences arranged in many countries have allowed students all over the region to find new long term friends. In the last few years, novel students activities have been introduced: summer camps, field courses, and sailing. Some summer camps have even been arranged at the students own initiatives. The sailing tours around the Baltic Sea are worth special mentioning. Here the BUP students get good training for real situations later in life, as during these trips, in parallel with seminars and lectures, they become real crew members working in international teams with the responsibility to sail a three-masted ship.
The BUP now has some 160 participating universities and some 35.000 students have already successfully studied the courses. Some 6000 students study the BUP courses every year and the network has become so large that the mobility is changing character. Meetings and mobility develop between course groups in smaller parts of the network, where matching partners are found. The earlier feeling at the virtual meetings that we all are doing this together is now taken over by parts of the network.
The Baltic University has also created a platform for other kinds of meetings and mobility as well. One can easily point out cooperation as one important feature of the programme, which has appeared to be very successful if not the key factor for the success of the programme. The fact that the participating universities as well as individual teachers and researchers have been actively involved in the core activities planning and production of courses has turned out to be an invaluable source of strength. Cooperation has from the beginning also included experts on educational technology, and later also experts from other parts of society. The BUP has encouraged the universities to cooperate with authorities and companies, as part of university engagement in local and regional development. This is in fact not new. Since its beginning the Baltic University is in many countries working together with national and local TV companies.
Think globally act regionally!
Internationalization has been high up on the university agenda during the last years. Also here the BUP has played an important role, especially for universities in countries in transition. The BUP has defined the Baltic Sea region as the drainage area of the Baltic Sea. With this definition, 14 countries, some of them within the EU, some in Central and Eastern Europe, are found (at least partly) within the borders. One may say that BUP has been an exception among programmes as it has shown that internationalization not only consists of those activities that are defined and financed by existing large international programmes, such as Socrates. The reason why the BUP so far has not quite fitted into the norms of international funding, is perhaps that it has grown from inside, without compromises. The first ten years have shown its potential, with the financial support from SIDA (Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency) and Swedish Institute, together with local funding by the universities which are running the courses.
The Baltic University has been looked upon as a good model for regional university cooperation and distance education in Europe, Africa, and Latin-America. Hopefully this unique network will be able to be a forerunner for similar activities in other parts of the world.
The Baltic University is coordinated by a secretariat at Uppsala University in Sweden assisted by 14 national centres. The common language is English, although some course material has been translated to national languages (Polish, Russian and Latvian). The first produced BUP courses are undergraduate, directed to students who wish to get a generalists view on environmental and sustainability issues in the Baltic Sea region. These courses are since some time followed by the master level courses, Sustainable Water Management and Sustainable Community Planning (pilot course 2000-01), and are directed to future experts in these areas of society.
These courses will be adapted for professional competence development, or continued education. It seems obvious that the change of our societies to sustainability will require a considerable development of competence within all those professions that are working in areas of concern for social change. This is a major challenge for universities in general and one where communications technology may be very useful.
In addition it is an area where international cooperation may be even required to develop good course materials. This is today a major concern for the Baltic University Programme as well as for international cooperation in the Baltic Sea region.
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MISSILE DEFENSE AND THE MAGINOT LINE
Following World War I, the French decided to build a line of defense that would make them invulnerable to future attack by Germany. They created a 400-mile stretch of defensive installations known as the Maginot Line. It was considered quite high-tech for the time, and the French took great pride in it. When the Germans invaded and quickly defeated France in World War II, they simply went around the Maginot Line. One wonders if there is a lesson here that might apply to the current US plans to develop and deploy a missile defense system to protect against ballistic missiles launched by small hostile nations.
Imagine this scenario. The United States proceeds with its plans to create a National Missile Defense system. The system employs the latest technology considered capable of shooting and destroying a ballistic missile launched at the United States. The system costs some $100 to $200 billion that might have been used to provide health care and education for Americas youth. Nonetheless, proponents of the system are proud of their accomplishment. They have built a defensive system that will protect the United States against missile attacks by countries such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq should these countries ever acquire nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Lets further imagine that a decade into the future Saddam Hussein succeeds in obtaining a few nuclear weapons and a ballistic missile delivery system capable of reaching the US. The proponents of the National Missile Defense system feel justified in their vision because their system will protect the US from a nuclear-armed missile attack by Saddam Hussein. Now, Hussein may be belligerent, aggressive and hostile to the United States, but he is not suicidal. He decides against attacking an American city by means of a missile attack, which could be traced back to him. Instead he arranges for a nuclear weapon to be smuggled into the US by ship, truck or plane. Of course, only a few trusted accomplices know that it is him who has made these arrangements. In this modern-day Maginot Line-type scenario, a determined enemy would simply go around the defense or, in this case, under it.
In a different scenario, incoming missiles from a potential enemy might go right through the missile shield. Many experts believe that it will not be difficult to develop offensive measures to overcome the defensive shield. MIT scientists Theodore Postol and George Lewis write: "The Pentagon claims that the warhead and the ineffective large balloon decoy it is testing against are representative of the missile threat from an idealized imagined adversary an adversary presumed to be capable of building intercontinental range ballistic missiles, and nuclear warheads that are sufficiently light and compact to be mounted on such missiles, but at the same time so bungling as to be unable to hide the warhead inside a Mylar balloon decoy released along with empty balloons or to build warhead-shaped cone decoys." In other words, it is quite possible that after spending upwards of $100 billion to create a missile defense, the shield will prove to be ineffective against an adversary sophisticated enough to develop decoys along with ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads.
Unfortunately, the fact that the planned National Missile Defense is likely to be wasteful and ineffective is not the worst of it. The truly dangerous aspect of moving forward with deployment of missile defenses is what it will do to our relations with Russia and China. Both countries are strongly opposed to a US defensive shield because of their fear that it will create a US first-strike potential. From the Russian and Chinese point of view, the shield would allow the US to attack them in a surprise first-strike, and then use the shield to destroy any of their remaining missiles that might be launched at the US in response. Their planners, like ours, must think in terms of worst-case scenarios.
In 1972 the US and the former Soviet Union entered into a treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, prohibiting the development of a national missile defense. Both countries understood that the development of defensive systems would further spur offensive arms races, and that limitations on defense would create the conditions necessary to reduce offensive nuclear arsenals. The ABM Treaty has provided the basis for progress on nuclear disarmament through the START I and II treaties.
The new US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has been dismissive of the ABM Treaty referring to it as "ancient history," and publicly suggesting that the treaty is no longer relevant because the Soviet Union no longer exists. At a recent meeting on European security policy in Munich, Rumsfeld, referring to the ABM Treaty, stated: "It was a long time ago that that treaty was fashioned. Technologies were noticeably different. The Soviet Union, our partner in that agreement, doesnt exist any more."
The Russians, however, continue to view this treaty as the foundation of all current and future arms control agreements. The Russian security chief, Sergei Ivanov, responded at the same meeting, "Destruction of the ABM treaty, we are quite confident, will result in the annihilation of the whole structure of strategic stability and create prerequisites for a new arms race including one in space." Jacques Chirac, the President of France, agrees, having stated that a US missile defense "cannot fail to re-launch an arms race in the world." This eventuality stands in dramatic contrast to the Russian proposal by President Putin to reduce nuclear arsenals to 1,500 strategic nuclear weapons or below in START III negotiations.
Sha Zukang, the Director of the Chinese Foreign Ministrys Department of Arms Control and Disarmament, has described the Chinese position on US missile defenses in this way: "To defeat your defenses well have to spend a lot of money, and we dont want to do this. But otherwise, the United States will feel it can attack anyone at any time, and that isnt tolerable. We hope [America] will give this up. If not, well be ready."
Thus, US plans for missile defenses are a high-stakes game. While they aim at providing security against an improbable future attack by a small nation, they antagonize the other major nuclear powers in the world and are likely to lead to new arms races. While this may be beneficial for weapons producers, it is likely to undermine rather than enhance the security of people everywhere, including Americans.
The United States agreed with more than 185 other nations at the 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that it was necessary to preserve and strengthen the ABM Treaty "as a cornerstone of strategic stability and as a basis for further reductions of strategic offensive weapons." We also agreed, along with the other declared nuclear weapons states to an "unequivocal undertaking" to achieve the total elimination of nuclear weapons. By proceeding with plans to deploy a National Missile Defense system, the US is turning these promises made in the context of preventing nuclear proliferation into empty rhetoric.
If the US is serious about keeping these promises and achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons from the world, it should take the following steps:
Reaffirm its commitment to the 1972 ABM Treaty;
Provide leadership in developing an effective ballistic missile control regime to prevent the spread of this technology;
Continue negotiations with states of concern such as North Korea in an effort to find solutions to outstanding problems;
Take steps to diminish the political importance of nuclear weapons such as de-alerting nuclear weapons, separating warheads from delivery vehicles, adopting clear policies of No First Use of nuclear weapons, and ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;
Commence good faith negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention requiring the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons, with provisions for effective verification and enforcement.
Security from nuclear threat does not reside in building a Maginot Line in the Sky. Rather, it lies in making the good faith efforts promised long ago to seek the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the world. There is only one way to assure that nuclear weapons will not be used again, and that is to abolish them.
David Krieger is the President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
. The Foundations web site is www.wagingpeace.org.
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The US NMD Deployment Will Destroy the 1972 ABM Treaty
Report from the Newsbulletin The Duma and Arms Control, January 2001
The "Republicans approach towards US NMD deployment is tougher than that of the Democratic Party. The Republican President having a majority in Congress will be able to push through the idea of NMD development," argues the Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee Andrei Nikolaev.
He believes that this became even more obvious after the statements that the US administration will not encourage the Senate to ratify START II. "If it is a threat, then what kind of policy is it if it begins with threats? If these statements will translate into concrete steps, what will the outcome be? START II and the 1972 ABM Treaty make the base of the strategic arms reduction. What will happen with this process if such cornerstones are removed? There is no doubt that the US NMD deployment will result in abrogation of the ABM Treaty," maintains Nikolaev.
Under these circumstances, he raises the question of the future role of radars in Norway and the Aleutian Islands in the would-be NMD. Andrei Nikolaev suggested that Russian, Norwegian and US parliamentarians visit the radars jointly for on-site assessment of the situation. He does not preclude that after modernization the radars may contribute to the implementation of the US NMD program.
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STATEMENT ON NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT, NATO POLICY AND THE CHURCHES
At its meeting in Potsdam, Germany, from 29 January to 6 February 2001, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches adopted the document PI 5:
"Last summer I was in the United States and met a group of senators, whom I asked about benefits of the NMD system for the USA? They answered that they did not want a single missile fall on their land. But the question is whose missile? If it is a matter of defense against a third party, then it makes no sense to develop a huge NMD system," he said. "Moreover, missile defense can not give a 100% guarantee against missile attack. If the NMD is deployed against Russia, then Moscow will find some adequate means to penetrate this defense shield. The United States has to keep its military-industrial complex busy and hence, to invest $60-80 billion to create new jobs. It is not a mere coincidence that the NMD plans resemble the SDI program which failed and could not be used."
Gen. Nikolaev does not rule out Russias violation of certain existing disarmament agreements in response to the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. For instance, Moscow may get back to commissioning heavy MIRVed missiles (Our own sources of information).
On January 23 Andrei Nikolaev met the US Ambassador in Russia James Collins. The latter maintained that radar in Varda "was passed over under full Norwegian jurisdiction to pursue the only goal of space surveillance. It is not a part of the NMD system or early-warning system and will never become their component." As far as radar in Shemya is concerned, Amb. Collins emphasized that "the small radar deployed in this region is obsolete and is not a part of the NMD; however, at present the possibility of building such radar is being discussed." Such construction would require amendments to the ABM Treaty and, according to Amb. Collins, "the USA is already negotiating this issue with the Russian Federation".
Andrei Nikolaev agreed that "nowadays the Shemya radar cannot fully perform duties of the early-warning site, but it can partly be used in such system even now." He pointed out that this issue became crucial for Russia, since the new US administration has "its own vision of the NMD and the Republicans have a tougher position than their predecessors." This is why "Russian deputies would like to visit both sites." (Andrei Nikolaev Discussed with the US Ambassador the Problem of Operating Radars in Norway and the Aleutian Islands. http://www.strana.ru/state/foreign/2001/01/23/980262751.htm with reference to ITAR-TASS. January 23, 2001)
The global threat posed by the existence of nuclear weapons did not disappear with the end of the Cold War. The May 2000 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference ended with an "unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals." Many other developments of recent years however - the defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in the US Senate, the nuclearization of South Asia, the retention of Cold War-era nuclear postures by the United States and Russia - have tended in the opposite direction: towards the indefinite retention and even the spread of nuclear capabilities. The looming prospect of missile defense deployment threatens further damage to nuclear arms control and disarmament efforts. The opportunity that now exists to make dramatic advances toward the elimination of nuclear weapons is at risk of being lost. Partly due to the significant new agreements on nuclear disarmament after 1987, but more particularly as a result of pressing new challenges posed by non-nuclear conflicts since 1991, nuclear arms have been given comparatively low priority on the churches disarmament priorities in the last decade of the twentieth century. It is again important that the voice of the churches be heard on this question at a decisive moment.
The nuclear disarmament agenda
Among the most positive disarmament developments of recent years has been the renewed attention given to the desirability and feasibility of abolishing nuclear weapons. The debate over the future of nuclear weapons is far from resolved, and the Nuclear Weapon States are still far from committed to immediate action towards abolition. But the broad outlines of the global nuclear disarmament agenda are now widely accepted.
The Final Document of the recent NPT Review Conference, adopted by consensus, incorporated a substantive set of principles and measures to guide future nuclear disarmament activities. These included "an unequivocal undertaking by the nuclear weapon states to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals" (though without specifying when that might be accomplished), and support for a number of interim steps such as "concrete agreed measures to further reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons systems" (commonly known as "de-alerting"), and "a diminishing role for nuclear weapons in security policies to minimize the risk that these weapons ever be used and to facilitate the process of their total elimination."
The "New Agenda" resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority at the last session of the UN General Assembly (2000) was directly based on the NPT Final Document. Countries that voted in favor of the resolution included China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and every NATO member except France, which abstained. Only three countries, Israel, India, and Pakistan the three nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories of the NPT voted against the resolution. A handful of others abstained.
These decisions demonstrate that a near-consensus now exists on the outlines of the global nuclear disarmament agenda. It remains to be seen, however, how rapidly and completely that agenda will be translated into action.
NATO nuclear policy
Crucial decisions being taken individually and collectively by the member states of NATO will do much to determine the future success or failure of the nuclear disarmament agenda.
In its new Strategic Concept in 1999 NATO formally restated its position that nuclear weapons are "the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies," pledging to retain them "for the foreseeable future." The Alliance also agreed, however, to conduct an internal review of its nuclear policies, including "options for confidence and security-building measures, verification, non-proliferation and arms control and disarmament."
The results of this review were presented to the North Atlantic Council in December 2000. The report maintained the status quo with respect to nuclear weapons policy, reiterating that NATO deems nuclear weapons to be "essential" to Alliance security, and asserting the need to retain them "for the foreseeable future." The report also says that "There is a clear rationale for a continued, though much more limited, presence of substrategic nuclear weapons in Europe." Significantly, however, the report states that "Alliance nations reaffirm their commitment under Art. VI of the NPT to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." It also declares NATOs support for the thirteen action items agreed during the 2000 NPT Review Conference and reiterated in the "New Agenda" resolution. These are positive steps.
Unfortunately, however, the report gives no indication of how NATO intends to go about implementing these commitments, or how the decision to retain its present nuclear policies can be reconciled with such steps. There is no specific provision for the review process to continue, yet it is crucial to the future of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation efforts that NATOs nuclear policies be revised to conform to the global nuclear disarmament agenda.
The report takes no position on the US National Missile Defense (NMD) program, though other NATO members have protested vigorously against it and are known to be consulting now on its implications. President Clintons decision in September 2000 to delay deployment of the system has been reversed by the new US Administration that has declared its intention to proceed with it. Such an action could inflict serious damage on the existing arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation regime.
Up to now NATO discussions on nuclear policy have been conducted mainly behind closed doors. The recent report now acknowledges that there is a need for greater openness and transparency, promising that "the Alliance will continue to broaden its engagement with interested non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and the general public and will contribute actively to discussion and debate regarding nuclear weapons and nuclear arms control and disarmament issues."
The voice of the churches
The churches have a long history of addressing nuclear weapons issues, and in recent years the European and North American churches have worked together on NATO nuclear policy questions. In April 1999 the Canadian Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA sent a joint letter to all NATO members declaring that "Contrary to NATOs current strategic concept, nuclear weapons do not, cannot guarantee security. They deliver only insecurity and peril through their promise to annihilate life itself and to ravage the global ecosystem upon which all life depends."
The Councils called on the governments of all NATO members to ensure that NATO policy:
affirms NATOs support for the rapid global elimination of nuclear weapons and commits the Alliance to take programmatic action to advance this goal;
commits NATO to reducing the alert status of nuclear weapons possessed by NATO members, and to pursuing effective arrangements for the rapid de-alerting of all nuclear weapons possessed by all states; and
renounces the first-use of nuclear weapons by any NATO members under any circumstances, and commits NATO to the pursuit of equivalent commitments from other states possessing nuclear weapons.
As part of the same initiative, the World Council of Churches sent a similar letter to the governments of all non-NATO nuclear-weapons states.
More recently, the WCC helped to organize an international gathering of church representatives to explore effective church responses to the NATO nuclear review. American, Canadian, and European church staff with responsibility for public policy issues, individuals from related denominational and ecumenical committees and institutions, and representatives of the Canadian Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, and the WCC attended this event, which took place in Brussels on 5-6 October 2000. They were assisted by researchers in security and arms control, and benefited from a session with a senior NATO official. The consultation agreed:
to recommend to the ecumenical community that it should engage directly with the current NATO review process with a view to encouraging NATO states and NATO itself to conform to the obligations undertaken in the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and
to impress upon churches the need to re-energize their peace witness and, within the framework of the Decade to Overcome Violence, to undertake education, public awareness activity, and advocacy regarding the continuing threat of nuclear weapons.
Renewed debates now on the future of nuclear power plants and on the health effects on civilian populations and military personnel of the use of depleted uranium weapons stir public opinion again, raising new, serious questions. The collective efforts of the churches are needed now, and could make an important contribution to raise public awareness of the crucial nuclear-related decisions facing NATO countries, to encourage greater transparency in NATOs decision-making processes, and to reinforce public demands for real progress toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.
One means for the ecumenical community to engage directly with the NATO review process would be to send a delegation of church leaders from representative WCC churches to meet with government ministers and officials in key non-nuclear NATO states. The purpose of these coordinated visits would be to encourage those states to work to ensure that NATO nuclear policies conform to the nuclear disarmament obligations undertaken in the Non Proliferation Treaty and reaffirmed and elaborated upon in the Final Document of the 2000 NPT Review Conference and in the recent "New Agenda" resolution in the UN General Assembly. These meetings could also be used to encourage greater transparency and public access to NATOs decision-making processes on nuclear issues. In addition, such a tour could help to raise public consciousness of the continuing importance of nuclear disarmament both within the ecumenical community and beyond it.
Statement on Nuclear Weapons Disarmament
The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Berlin, 26-27 January 2001,
Reiterates its deep and long-standing concern at the continued risk to Creation posed by the existence of nuclear weapons,
Welcomes the successful outcome of the Sixth Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in May 2000,
Welcomes the Final Document of the Review Conference, which established a new global agenda for nuclear disarmament,
Expresses its satisfaction at the overwhelming support received by the "New Agenda" resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its 55th Session (Millennium Assembly, 2000), which reaffirmed states commitment to the pursuit of this disarmament agenda,
Notes the significance of continuing deliberations within and among the member states of NATO on NATO nuclear policy and the future of nuclear disarmament,
Stresses the vital importance of ensuring that the policies of NATO members and NATO itself conform to the obligations undertaken by states in the Non-Proliferation Treaty and are consistent with pursuit of the global nuclear disarmament agenda, and
In the light of the recommendations made at the international gathering of church representatives in Brussels in October 2000,
Calls upon the member states of NATO and NATO itself to ensure that their nuclear weapons policies conform to the obligations undertaken by states in the Non-Proliferation Treaty and are consistent with pursuit of the global nuclear disarmament agenda, and in particular: to affirm NATOs support for the rapid global elimination of nuclear weapons and to commit the Alliance to take programmatic action to advance this goal; to commit NATO to reducing the alert status of nuclear weapons possessed by NATO members, and to pursuing effective arrangements for the rapid de-alerting of all nuclear weapons possessed by all states; and to renounce the first-use of nuclear weapons by any NATO member under any circumstances, and to commit NATO to the pursuit of equivalent commitments from other states possessing nuclear weapons;
Encourages the member states of NATO and NATO itself to provide greater transparency and public access to NATOs decision-making processes on nuclear weapons issues;
Asks the WCC, in consultation with the Conference of European Churches, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and the Canadian Council of Churches, to organize a delegation of church leaders to meet with government ministers and officials in key non-nuclear NATO states to encourage those states to support these policies;
Asks the WCC further to organize comparable processes on the role of nuclear arms and the ways toward nuclear disarmament in other regions of the World Council of Churches, like North East Asia or the Middle East, and
Calls upon member churches in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence to renew their witness for peace and disarmament through education, public awareness building and advocacy to overcome the continuing threat of nuclear weapons.
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Initiative for a peaceful and sustainable development in Africa
On January 20th, 2001 the "Initiative for a peaceful and sustainable development in Africa" (Initiative für eine friedliche und zukunftsfähige Entwicklung in Afrika) was established. Colleagues of twelve African States as well as from Europe participated in the foundation.
The initiative is aiming at bringing this continent into discussion again this continent which has been designated as the lost continent" by many people in the past years. By the time more than 100 people became members of this initiative. Together we want to contribute that:
the civil wars will be stopped and
to draw the attention to the nearly permanent violation of human rights in many parts of Africa as well as to the
ecological and economic problems and the connected undesirable developments.
We assume, in this connection, that also Europe is responsible for these conflicts, however, that part of this responsibility for the situation and for the state of the people must be attributed to the ruling élites, so that we, with our work, want to contribute to the democratization of the development in Africa.
However, democratization cannot be reached if we do not promote a peaceful development in large parts of Africa. Because of this we made it our job to organize a comprehensive conference in Africa with the subject Peace at the Great Lakes," being one of the central conflict fields. The conference is to take place in 2002 if this turns out to be possible. At the occasion of this conference we like to analyze the reasons for this war, which are from our point of view, historical ones comprising ecological factors, and on the other hand, are due to the riches of resources as well as to the independent military development in different states of the region.
One of the aims of this conference should be to inform a broader public about these facts. As a second item, the initiative is planning to work out a peace plan for the region round the Great Lakes, that should consider the whole of the the factors mentioned above, because only a complex solution can be successful.
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'PROSPECTS FOR HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES'
Tim Cooper of the Centre for Sustainable Consumption, Sheffield Hallam University writes:
Despite widespread concern at the environmental implications of the 'throwaway society', industrial countries continue to increase the amount of waste that they generate each year. Little data has hitherto been available to support claims about 'planned obsolescence.' A new report, however, provides some of the most comprehensive data available on how people in Britain use and maintain household appliances, how long their products last, and what happens when they are discarded.
Entitled Prospects for Household Appliances, it represents the most comprehensive investigation of its kind undertaken to date according to authors Tim Cooper, Head of the Centre for Sustainable Consumption at Sheffield Hallam University and a past adviser to the Environment Select Committee, and Kieren Mayers, until recently a Hewlett-Packard research engineer specialising in electronics recycling. The results have significant implications for the development of new products, the repair and reuse sector, and future waste collection and recycling. On the latter, the research is particularly timely because the European Union is expected soon to adopt legislation requiring appliance manufacturers and importers to set up systems for the recovery and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment.
The report contains a wealth of new information that exposes the substantial throughput of household products in a modern industrial society, with millions of products sold, passed on to others, and ultimately sent for recycling or disposal. The scale of such activity poses a major environmental challenge.
Some key findings are as follows:
Over 23 million household appliances are being discarded each year, weighing around half a million tonnes, figures that are rising as ownership increases;
38% of consumers rarely or never get products repaired due to cost;
Nearly one half of consumers are dissatisfied with the life span of household appliances although almost 10% of appliances discarded as waste still function;
Households own at least 25 appliances, on average, and more than a half of all appliances are less than five years old;
Around a quarter of discarded appliances are re-used and nearly 10% of householders own five or more second hand appliances
New collection and recycling processes will be needed for small appliances and televisions in order to meet the likely future EU targets
People want more information about how to dispose of appliances safely and how long new products are designed to last.
The results have significant implications for the development of new products, the repair and reuse sector, and future waste collection and recycling. On the latter, the research is particularly timely because the European Union is expected soon to adopt legislation requiring appliance manufacturers and importers to set up systems for the recovery and recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Copies of the report may be purchased from Urban Mines Limited (price £15) at The Cobbett Centre, Village Street, Norwood Green, Halifax HX3 8QG Email:
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Threatening the Existence of Khasia Punjees in Bangladesh
M.A. Rub is Director of Gono Bikash Sangstha (GBS), a registered NGO in Bangladesh and an INES member.
Address: Magazine house, Naddapara, Dakshin Khan, P.O. Ashkona,Uttara, Dhaka-1230, Bangladesh
Tel: +88-02-891-1389, Fax: +88-02-801-3031
The Khasia are a distinctive group of tribal people in Bangladesh. The Khasis live in the Sylhet Division in hills and dales. They have been living in the forest areas in the Sylhet Division for a long time. They have distinctive characteristics of life and livings, culture and a society that promotes the causes of ecological and environmental situation of our country.
It is estimated that about 20,000 Khasia families are living sporadically along the border forestry areas of the Sylhet Division comprising 90 villages known as punjees. They live a natural and holistic life.
The Khasis build reed-roof houses generally on the top of the hills like a dangling bungalow overlooking the green forestry and the blue sky. If, on the flatland, they raise the house-plinth over 5-10 ft height to keep them away from the attack of wild-life animals or possible diseases or attack from insects.
They are fundamentally and basically hilly agriculturists and horticulturists by tradition and heritage. The Khasis possess indigenous knowledge about bio-diversity and maintenance of ecological balance.
The 5th Five-Year Plan (1997-2002) of GoB says that "In making a breakthrough in agricultural technology, it is necessary to preserve the variety of life, i.e. bio-diversity. The preservation of bio-diversity is both a matter of insurance and investment, necessary to sustain and improve agriculture, forestry, livestock and fisheries production systems in order to keep future options open as a buffer against harmful environmental changes and as a raw material for scientific and industrial innovations. Moreover, we must conserve bio-diversity as a matter of survival. The variety of life helps make the earth fit for balanced enjoyment of life. It plays an important role in all major life-support services, from maintaining the chemical balance of the earth and stabilizing climate to protecting the watershed and renewing soil. Maintaining a nations bio-diversity is integral to maintaining its wealth."
The 5-year plan "attaches due weight to the development of our biological resources. The importance of species and ecosystems will be considered in the formulation of development policies and programmes. Institutions assigned responsibility for conserving biodiversity will be supported by necessary financial and organizational resources. The species and ecosystems on which our survival depends will be clearly identified and appropriate technology applied to make our survival worthy of human beings."
The Khasis are adept in preservations of forests in an indigenous method. It is a role of life for them and an art of religious blessings as they say. The bio-diversity has strongly rooted into the minds of the Khasis. They belief that they have come from the heaven to earth to earn righteousness and to make the earth wonderful. They believe that the earth is Mei Ramew means Mother Earth that is so piety toward mankind. They compare the earth with the mother. Hence, earth should not be degraded. Therefore, they follow strict rules and regulations relating to preservation of forests and earth as a religious sanctity.
Types of forest land:
The headman (clansman) differentiates land and forest based on religious wisdom and system in order to protect the land and the forest. From time immemorial, the Khasis have distinguished the earth and the forest in three main types. These are:
Lawadong meaning prohibited forest concave for the source of water and mainland;
Law lyngdoh meaning sacred forest conservation for various gods and goddess, and
Law lynnong meaning reserved firewood and forestry for community.
The community forests that used to be earmarked for the Khasis were owned by the Kurs (means clansman) at punjees or raid (means circle) levels in the Khasis land. These were rather private forests. These types of differentiation are now non-existent because of the land tenure policy of the country. It is estimated that 70% of the Khasis- tribal families living in the Sylhet Division have no land entitlement or permanent settlement for their housing / punjees.
Economic life of Khasis:
In modern times, 80% of the Khasis families eke out their main livelihood by the production of betel-leaf (pan in Bangla) and by cultivation of betel-nut, jackfruit, lemon, pineapple and other horticulture crops in the hills and forest lands. They do not, however, practice "Jhum cultivation" which means that there are some tribal people who change their housing or settlement to cultivate crops on that lands nearby. The Khasis economic sources of income come from pan cultivation and horticulture. Under the Khasis system, it is the women who owns and controls the property and the family, the forestry, the land management and cultivation techniques.
Technique of plantation:
Presently, over 15,000 acres of hilly lands are under betel-leaf cultivation. With indigenous traits and traditional knowledge, the Khasis have developed a new technique of pan and horticulture crops cultivation. The betel-leaf is a creeper type of plantation that requires trees for climbing and twining, at least of 7 feet in height, but taller and bigger trees are better. Hence, the Khasis plant and grow trees saplings of various descriptions of local varieties that they know well of hilly suitability. They know where to plant which variety such as turmeric through crop diversification. They use their own technique to ascertain the quality of the land for crop production. The betel-leaf is planted by the side of the trees grown on the chosen land.
The life span of betel-leaf amounts to 10 15 years. Thereafter, the betel-leaf vines die on the land. The betel-leaf cultivated plots of hilly lands are abandoned for over 4 to 7 years. This technique is called ERI SLU. The suspended period helps the land to replenish the fertility of the soil. The SLU becomes a thick, deep and inaccessible jungle called BASAN. The forest and the abandoned betel-leaf cultivated land are put to rest in order to regenerate by itself almost as the virgin fertile land. During the recession period, only weeds, grass and small trees, rather shrubs / herbs are planted and grown under the shade of naturally grown forestry. The plantation of betel-leaf recycles after the suspended period again but without any damage to the trees that grow taller and larger when naturally undisturbed. These methods of cultivation simply go to proof how the Khasis are protecting trees and taking care of trees and traditional knowledge and the expertise they have about forest, land, nature and environment. The Khasis are apt in creating a specific resource diversity in a hilly environment that may rightly be called "socially constructed nature." The resource diversity systems created by the Khasis are essentially a dynamic and sustainable forestry development.
Eco-park development or destruction?
With the initiation of a government plan at the direction of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to develop an Eco-park around the famous waterfalls at Madhavkundo under Barlekha Upazila and Luthitilla at Murai chhari under Kulaura Upazila in the deep forests of the Moulvibazar district, the existence of over 1,000 Khasis and the Garo families in the Sylhet Division is threatened. This project has endangered the age-old human habitation and poses damages of the natural flora and fauna including the forests. Most importantly, the socio-economic and cultural situation of the tribal families will be severely affected. The life-style and their relentless struggle for preserving, protecting and promoting the environment will dwindle.
It is reported that the Forest Department has already got the approval of 11 million Taka from ECNEC in June 2000 for the implementation of an Eco-park at Madhavkundo and Murai chhari hilly areas bordering north-eastern parts of Sylhet. The 654-acre Madhavkundo hilly lands and 830-acres Murai Chhari hilly areas are proposed to be brought under so-called Eco-park development just for creating facilities for tourists, preservation of rare forest animals, plants with construction of brick buildings and brick schools in the remote hills of Sylhet- the land of Hazrat Shah Jalal (R). Under this demolishing and destructive development, at least five Khasia punjees viz. Ewlap punjee, Muraichhara punjee, Ugachhara punjee, Luthijuri punjee and Kukibari punjee will be demolished. Moreover, focal points covering some 40-50 acres of land from the main waterfalls at Madhavkundo will go to directly affect Khasis families living there. Thereby, over 1,500 Khasis families will ultimately face eviction from their century-old habitat and environment.
Where is the democracy?
The democratic Prime Minister and her Government did not bother to consult and get the consent of the affected Khasis and Garo tribal families or their leaders nor have they undertaken any survey or anthropological or morphological studies to weight the cost-benefits social and economic outputs against the demonic development investment.
The signs and symptoms of demonic development have already started with indiscriminate felling of trees and putting into practice the evil eviction process of tribal families there. The tribal families are alleged to have been put into pressure under-handedly and clandestinely from the project authorities to desert their homes and hearths although they have paid land tax Tk 20 lakh since 1974. Although some of the tribal families living there for over 75 years, yet they have not been given land rights to their utter detriment and destruction. Some families who have got a lease document or agreement from the Government for high lands (hilly areas) are also threatened to be moved away silently and surreptitiously.
The Tk. 11 crore project of the Ministry of Environment and Forest is expected to be completed by the end of 2004. The cabinet approved the biodiversity conservation project last July after the Prime Minister has given her consent on March 6, 2000. The implementation activities go to level down 1500 acres of forest and hilly areas comprising of Khasis homes to build roads and other infrastructure.
The Eco-park development concept and action at a place where the tribal people and tribal traditional technique and knowledge have already been keeping and preserving an environment of the highest order is inconsistent with the 5-year plan (1997-2002). It is against the principles of culture and heritage and a violation of human rights. Stop demonic development and start improvement activities, socially, economically and environmentally acceptable to the hopes and aspirations of the freedom loving tribal people of Bangladesh. The Prime Minister perhaps has not been told that nature has a peculiar way of revenge. For example, CHT development efforts and their aftermath may be taken into consideration. The Karnaphuli HydroElectric Project was set up with US aid during the Pakistan time. The project displaced 20 million of the multi-ethnic population. Later, the matter was made worse by the efforts of re-settlement with the plainland Bangladeshis, known popularly as the CHT insurgents who left Bangladesh for India (Agartala) which was politically settled during the present regime of the Hasina Government on December 2, 1997. The problem still persists although covered by a Peace Treaty with the return of 80 thousand armed surrendered families. Hardly Tk 22 crore was paid to them as a compensation against the allocation of Tk 272 crore in the Pakistan time.
Bangladesh came into existence on the world map as an independent sovereign country after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the Nation and father of the present seating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched freedom-fighting on 26 March, 1971 and the country became independent after a 9-month struggle on December 16, 1971.
Photos are contributed by Anna Jorunn Garvik, SPS.
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Announcement INES Council Meeting
Thursday 24, 14.00 h Friday 25
Symposium 10 Years after Rio
What are the positive results?
What are the negative results?
What are the ideas as to the events "10 years after?"
Friday 25, 18.00 h
Reports from the
Chairman Armin Tenner,
Treasurer Dieter Meissner,
Executive Director Reiner Braun.
Saturday 26, morning
Perspectives of INES, introductions by:
Chitralekha Marie Massey,
Saturday 26, afternoon, evening:
Elections, Executive Committee and Council
10 Years Anniversary of INES
Introduction by David Krieger,
Boat trip, 10 years INES
Sunday 27, morning 13.00 h
Poster Session, INES Projects
INES projects in 2001 and 2002
First discussion about the next International Conference
We will offer the possibility of a sightseeing bus tour including a visit to the New Center" of Berlin.
The Council Meeting is open to all members of INES. Please register at the Dortmund Office.
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