Student night blockade against uranium mining in Meghalaya, India

Shillong, Oct 14 – The influential Khasi Students Union (KSU) has announced a two-night road blockade in Meghalaya beginning Wednesday to protest a proposed uranium mining project in the state.

The road blockade would affect vehicular movement, specially night passenger buses and goods laden trucks, on the national highways between Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.

The blockade will be on from 7 p.m. till 5 a.m. Wednesday, and then again for the same duration Thursday.

‘The KSU at a meeting Tuesday decided to intensify its stir… to protest the Meghalaya government’s decision to lease out land to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL),’ said KSU president Samuel B. Jyrwa.

‘The KSU believes the uranium project would harm the environment and health of people living adjoining areas,’ Jyrwa said.

The state government has tightened security across the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of southeastern Meghalaya.

‘We are concerned that the proposed road blockades may affect other northeastern states too,’ Meghalaya principal secretary (home) Barkos Warjri told reporters here.

Police heads of the four districts — East Khasi Hills, West KhasiHills, Jaintia Hills and Ri-Bhoi — have been asked to see that the traffic flow along the national and other highways are not disturbed due to the night blockade.

Chief Minister D.D. Lapang told reporters: ‘The uranium reserves are a national property and no one can stop the government from using them.’

‘The government has waited for 20 long years to persuade the people to allow uranium mining at Domiasiat in West Khasi Hills district of southern Meghalaya.’

The KSU and local parties have been spearheading the movement against the Meghalaya government’s decision to allow the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to carry out pre-project development programmes in 422 square hectares in the uranium-rich
areas of West Khasi Hills.

A senior Meghalaya government official said the union ministry of environment and forests had already allowed UCIL to start uranium mining for the annual production of 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore and processing of 1,500 tonnes of the mineral ore per day in West Khasi Hills district.

The UCIL has proposed a Rs.1,046 crore open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Domiasiat in the West Khasi Hills district. Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tones of uranium ore deposits.

Public meetings and protest against World Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference a big success!

A big thanks to those who came along to the fantastic public meetings in Sydney and Wollongong last week: hearing from Northern Territory Traditional Owners speak out against the proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty.  The public meetings and protest of the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference on Wednesday morning were fantastic!

You can check out information, campaign materials, films and more at: http://beyondnuclearinitiative.wordpress.com/

Below are two speeches from a public meeting at the Illawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre on Dharwal country (Wollongong) on April 22, 2009.

A couple of weeks prior to the meeting, a shipment of spent fuel rods from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor had been transported in the dead of night through Wollongong to be taken out of Port Kembla in New South Wales.

Dianne Stokes, Mark Lane and Mark Chungaloo (Traditional Owners of the proposed federal radioactive waste dump site at Muckaty in the Northern Territory ) were keen to meet with other communities affected by the Lucas Heights facility- if an NT dump is built then these fuel rods are eventually mooted to be dumped on their land.

Fred Moore-lifetime union activist

Garry Keane- MUA Illawarra Branch Secretary

Some of the news coverage of the protest:

Garrett urged to speak up on nuclear issues

ABC Online
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/04/22/2549572.htm?section=justin

Politicians, Aboriginal leaders and environment groups have joined forces to protest against an international conference on the nuclear industry, currently meeting in Sydney.

The coalition is also calling for an end to the Northern Territory radioactive waste dump proposal.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlum says the Labor Party has had a year and a half in Government, but still has not dealt with radioactive waste management issues.

He is calling on the Environment Minister Peter Garrett to consult on the issue.

“It’s been an incredible disappointment to me that Peter Garett as Environment Minister has completely gone missing on this issue, and the Prime Minister has given the running of radioactive waste on uranium mining issues to Martin Ferguson, the Industry Minister,” he said.

“We’re not hearing from the Environment Minister and that’s why the Greens and the community groups who are represented here today are stepping up to do his job for him.”

Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation says sustainable energy rather than nuclear power is the way forward.

“There are jobs, dollars, export growth and the ability for this country to be a platform for a sustainable energy future,” he said.

“Now we can be that, or we can cling to the coast and let our country become a quarry and the increasing pressure for material that goes out as ore to come back as waste to be perpetually stored here.

“That’s not a future we want to see.”

Rowdy protesters target nuclear meeting

April 22, 2009 – 11:09AM

Noisy protesters are targeting a global nuclear conference in Sydney, saying they want attendees to know they are not welcome.

About 60 people from a group calling itself the Sydney Anti-Nuclear Coalition were on Wednesday demonstrating in front of the Elizabeth Street hotel playing host to the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference.

The coalition is mainly made up of environmental, student and trade union groups.

Police dragged several protesters away after they tried to get into the building and ordered the demonstrators to move on, but made no arrests.

The conference is a nuclear fuel industry event, held annually at different locations around the world.

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney played down the scuffles and praised the group for braving the wet weather to turn out.

“It’s been a bright and bouncy protest. It’s had a bit of passion as it should, because there’s high stakes here,” he said.

“There are people here from Perth, from Melbourne and the Northern Territory and nationally there is a very deep concern about all things nuclear in Australia.”

Mr Sweeney said arguments that nuclear fuel was a green alternative to coal power were not acceptable.

“You can’t call an industry that creates a waste that’s a carcinogen for 250 million years clean or green,” he said.

“It (nuclear energy) is not going to ride over the hill as a white knight and save us, it’s not a solution to climate change.

“It’s expensive and linked to the worst weapons and the worst waste.”

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said it was important for people to voice their concerns about nuclear energy.

“The nuclear industry needs to know that wherever they set foot in Australia, we’ll have a presence,” Mr Ludlam said.

“Sometimes it’s important to just confront them and let them know they’re not welcome here.”

© 2009 AAP

Could the trade union movement benefit from measures to tackle climate change?

By Asbjørn Wahl, Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees

Most problems in society are mainly social and political, even if at first glance they seem purely technical or scientific. This is a hard-earned lesson for the labour and trade union movement.  For example, workplace technology can be developed to serve different interests: the shareholders, the customers, the workers… In the end it is the actual balance of power which decides the solution and who it will benefit.

The threat of climate change is no exception. The solution of this problem requires, among other things, a huge amount of new technology. But the problem isn’t just about technology, it is a genuinely social and political issue. It is decisive, therefore, that the trade union movement develops its own climate change policies. We have to move from a reactive to a proactive position. In the end, it is a question of what kind of society we want to develop.

Facing up to the issues
So far, much of the trade union movement has hesitated when confronted with the problem of climate change, even though this situation has moved on significantly in recent years. There has been a tendency to deny the seriousness of the problem, and there has been some opposition against taking action as a result of a (fully understandable) fear of job losses.

Our first challenge is therefore to face reality. We have to realise the overwhelming scientific proof that climate change is here, that human activities are crucial factors, and that this can be catastrophic. We must realise that the main reason for the problem is the burning of fossil fuel. This means the success factor of any measure is whether or not it contributes to reducing the burning of fossil fuel. The way we live and work will change radically over the coming years either as a result of action, or of inaction. Not to act, or to delay action, is not an option, but will only make consequences worse.

Failed markets need political control
The Stern Report, which reported to the UK government, concluded that “climate change represents the biggest market failure in history”. The on-going financial crisis represents another huge market failure in history. We cannot rely on those same failed market mechanisms to solve these crises.

Both climate change policies and the financial crisis will need increased democratic control of the economy. That is exactly what we, in the trade union movement, also need for many other reasons. This means that the climate crisis not only represents a threat, but also new possibilities for the trade union movement. The on-going crises, together with neo-liberalism’s current crisis of legitimacy, have actually opened an array of opportunities waiting to be exploited.

Trade unions thus have to prioritise climate change policies, but we have to embed these policies in a broader political context. We therefore also have to overcome the contradictions between specific workers’ immediate, sectoral interests and broader interests of workers as a whole. In other words, we are not only transport workers who face a change in work pattern; we are human beings confronting a potentially catastrophic event.

Redistribution of wealth
One thing is quite clear: there will be far-reaching changes. The question is therefore, how do we meet these challenges? Currently, workers and trade unions are on the defensive. We are under pressure. There is a tendency to individualise responsibility for greenhouse-gas emissions. All of us have to pay for the emissions we cause, it is said, even though those emissions in most cases are effects of the way society is organised and market forces are pushing.

Of course emissions have to be reduced, even radically. This cannot, however, be left to each individual’s responsibility. Neither can it be done by implementing economic restrictions which in practise exempt the rich and wealthy from any change. Why should ordinary people support the necessary climate change policies under such conditions? People will never accept that rich people can continue to pay their way, that corporate interests are protected, while the costs are put on workers, consumers and taxpayers. What is needed, therefore, are collective political solutions in which policies against climate change are combined with a radical social redistribution of wealth. Anything short of that will prevent any solution to the climate crisis.

From defensive to offensive
Environmental organisations tell us we have to make sacrifices to save the climate and our planet. This is both incorrect, and strategically and tactically wrong. Climate change policies are not only a question of sacrifices, but of creating a better society for all. Roger Toussaint, president of Transport Workers’ Union Local 100 in New York, got it right when he, at a climate change conference, stated that: “Going green is not just about job creation, it is about an improved life for working people.”

Serious climate change policies will give us an opportunity for progressive social change. Change will presuppose a more democratically managed economy. it will create millions of green jobs – particularly in public transport and in the production of renewable energy. It will reduce market competition and thereby also reduce pressure at work. It will make it necessary to shorten working hours to reduce the overexploitation of resources and allow a more just distribution of jobs across the globe. It will, if we do our job properly, hopefully reduce consumerism as a way of compensating other unmet needs in our societies, characterised by alienation and powerlessness. In short, social change is a precondition and a solution at the same time to stopping climate change.

Furthermore, reduced greenhouse emissions will also reduce pollution in workplaces and communities. An enormous – and free – transfer of technology to developing countries will be necessary, both to reduce their increase in emissions and to lift two billion people out of poverty. Most importantly, climate change policies will secure the survival of human beings and the planet.

Alliances and social mobilisation
Global summits haven’t achieved social equality, jobs for all, decent working conditions, eradication of poverty, gender equality. It seems unlikely they will solve the problem of climate change either. Instead, we need a social and political mobilisation for alternative solutions built on solidarity, equality and peoples’ needs.

The trade union movement will need to build strategic alliances with the environmental movement, and others. To do that, we have to overcome a couple of important weaknesses. Firstly, we have to ensure the environmental movements understand the role of social power (the class conflict). Secondly, we ourselves need to increase the understanding of environmental problems and the climate crisis in our trade unions. This can only happen if the two movements start to co-operate, exchange views and experiences and develop a friendly and constructive environment for discussion.

An excellent example is the Blue-Green Alliance between the United Steel Workers and the environmental movement Sierra Club in the USA, which “is focused on restoring an additional element to the relationship between public policy and electoral politics … that of movement building … without strong, well-organised social movements mobilising along a society’s basic fault lines, meaningful change is unlikely.”

Our long-term perspective must be to build the social alliances necessary to change society, not the climate. It is ambitious, but necessary and possible – and we will sit in the driver’s seat.

In summary
•    Trade unions have to face up to the reality of climate change now
•    We need to be proactive, not reactive, to deal with the consequences
•    Climate change is part of a broader political context. We should look at the structure of society to find solutions.
•    We have to work with others, especially environmental organisations.
•    Climate change offers many possibilities: new green jobs, a greater role for public transport, less market competition… We must act now to seize these changes and make this a positive step for workers.