two articles here -the american indian comes to mind in the first (adjacent), not to mention similar such situations thruout the world, and, in the second(*1), an excellent example of the mentality and profound ignorance in 'business-as- usual economic growth'.

perryb
Jun 30th 2007 Economist Magazine
Australia's aborigines
Hard paternalism

SYDNEY

Drastic measures for a troubled people

VISITING an outback aboriginal settlement can be an unsettling experience for the few city Australians who venture there. Large packs of scrawny dogs wander aimlessly in search of food through rubbish-strewn red desert camps. The report of a recent inquiry in the Northern Territory (NT), where many such camps are located, sheds light on their less visible human misery. After visiting 45 aboriginal settlements over the past ten months, the inquiry found violence and child sexual abuse rife in every one.


AFP Enjoy it while you can
   The report shocked Australia. Its respected authors, Rex Wild, a prominent barrister, and Pat Anderson, an aboriginal health-worker, blamed alcohol, drug abuse, pornography, unemployment and a breakdown of aboriginal culture and identity for the horrors they uncovered. Ms Anderson said alcohol was “totally destroying” families and communities. “Something needs to be done to curb this river of grog.” But the report's headlines were quickly trumped by the response of John Howard, the prime minister.
   On June 21st Mr Howard announced that the federal government was taking control of 60 aboriginal communities in the NT, sending police and soldiers in to patrol them and suspending their rights to grant permits to visitors. He also imposed bans on alcohol and pornography, ordered compulsory health checks on children under 16 and declared that welfare payments would be stopped to parents whose children failed to attend school.
   The prime minister described this as a response to a “national emergency”. It is also the most controversial intervention in aboriginal affairs in the 40 years since Australians endorsed a referendum transferring power to legislate for aborigines from states to the federal government. Aborigines comprise about 2% of Australia's population, but 29% of the NT's, which covers a vast area. Many settlements there have evolved since Canberra legislated 31 years ago to give aborigines rights to their traditional land in the NT (a self-governing federal territory). Some remote settlements have imposed their own grog bans, and coped well; others have not.
   Few question Mr Howard's sincerity when he says the NT report “distressed” him. But questions are also being asked about other aspects of the timing and motivation of his draconian response to an “emergency” dating back years. Mick Dodson, an aboriginal leader, gave warning four years ago that “Our children are experiencing horrific levels of violence and sexual abuse beyond comprehension.” No federal swoop followed.
   After 11 years in power, Mr Howard's conservative coalition government now lags in opinion polls as it faces an election later this year. His tough stand on aborigines recalls the one he took against boat refugees in 2001, helping him win his third election later that year. Mr Howard has seized on the NT exposé to recapture the political initiative at a time when polls suggest voters are starting to doubt his mettle.
   His actions have divided urban liberals, the main champions of aborigines' rights to self-determination. They have also split the aboriginal community itself. Yet leaders at Mutitjulu near Uluru (Ayers Rock), where police and the army arrived on June 27th, complained some women were fleeing in fear the authorities would seize their children. Mr Wild accused the government of taking a “gunship” approach and ignoring his report's call to invest instead in better education.
   Memories of white paternalism linger in many communities. Mr Howard declared that children's welfare comes before “constitutional niceties”. But there are certainly political risks. Some Australians think aborigines are to blame for their own problems, and will resent more money being spent on them. Many others feel troubled by the plight of indigenous people stemming from more than 200 years of European settlement. Whether a heavy-handed approach can succeed where others have failed may prove one of Mr Howard's biggest tests.


(*1)
Jun 30th 2007 Economist Magazine
Dammed if they do

SIPHANDON

Dolphins, catfish and people at risk

THINK dams inundating idylls in developing countries were things of the past? Think again. To the dismay of many, the Siphandon (“4,000 Islands”) district of southern Laos, home to pretty waterfalls, tranquil waterways and a colony of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins, is the site planned for a 240MW hydro-electric dam. Even parts of the Lao government think it is a step too far.
   Laos is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Its government is eager to harness what natural resources it has, notably an abundance of mountains and surging rivers.


Seven dams are already working on its bit of the Mekong and 11 more are under preparation, including the massive, and controversial, 1,088MW Nam Theun 2 project. In 2006 the government signed a deal with Mega First of Malaysia to look at constructing a barrage across the Hou Sahong channel of the Mekong, near the Cambodian border. The idea is to sell electricity to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
   The project is backed by most of the government and by Khamtay Siphandon, an 83-year old former guerrilla leader and ex-president who took his name from the district where he was born. But it has incurred the wrath not only of green campaigners but of people within the government's own ranks.
   Some officials want the affected wetlands listed under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty protecting such areas. Experts in fisheries and even the assessment commissioned by Mega First and an Australian partner said the project posed serious threats. If the dam goes ahead it may block a channel that more than 200 species of migratory fish, such as giant catfish, use to bypass waterfalls between Laos and Cambodia. This would disrupt their breeding cycles and might wreck the livelihoods of the riparian population. Last month 34 scientists from around the world signed an open letter stressing the importance of this migration channel. Around 70m people in Laos and beyond depend on Mekong fish.
   Mega First wants to build a “fish pass” to deal with migration—a non-starter, say opponents, given the huge number of fish that traverse the area. They hope this is one project where an international outcry, threats to a rare ecosystem and potential loss of local livelihoods may offset the probably limited financial gains from supplying power to Laos's neighbours.

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