It would seem that there is nothing sustainable about decimating a region’s social fabric. But somehow displacing 20,000 Ugandans to develop a British tree plantation is considered “sustainable development” under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
This incident, brought to light in a case study by Oxfam and elaborated on by the New York Times, represents a radical intensification of the phenomenon I blogged about yesterday: ostensibly “sustainable development” that is nothing of the sort.
By looking at this case of a neo-colonialist land grab in Africa, one can more clearly see how thoroughly the profit motive of powerful inter- and trans-national institutions (in this case, the World Bank and HSBC) warps the ideals of sustainable development:
According to the company’s proposal to join a United Nations clean-air program, the settlers living in this area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.
People here remember it quite differently.
“I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”
Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.
“They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”
…the government and the company said the settlers were illegal and evicted for a good cause: to protect the environment and help fight global warming.
The case twists around an emerging multibillion-dollar market trading carbon-credits under the Kyoto Protocol, which contains mechanisms for outsourcing environmental protection to developing nations.
The company involved, New Forests Company, grows forests in African countries with the purpose of selling credits from the carbon-dioxide its trees soak up to polluters abroad. Its investors include the World Bank, through its private investment arm, and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, HSBC.
In 2005, the Ugandan government granted New Forests a 50-year license to grow pine and eucalyptus forests in three districts, and the company has applied to the United Nations to trade under the mechanism. The company expects that it could earn up to $1.8 million a year.
But there was just one problem: people were living on the land where the company wanted to plant trees. Indeed, they had been there a while.