Incomplete, opaque, unequal or asymmetric information can happen if corporations filter facts in ways that benefit them and to manufacture uncertainty, whereby potential victims are unaware of the risks. Often, knowledge about the potential negative impacts of new technologies is uncertain or limited. In such cases, co-producing evidence between the affected population and scientists and/or professionals in ecotoxicology can support addressing injustice. Knowledge can thus be generated through normal applied science, professional consultancy and also post-normal science where facts are uncertain and stakes are large. Here we walk on the practical steps of the hydrogeologist Robert Moran and the ecologist Robert Goodland. Unequal power relations are contested through the co-production of scientific knowledge on soil and air pollution, dead fish in rivers, endangered species, radioactivity or seismic risks, salinity in water. This knowledge can give local organisations visibility and legitimacy.


Continuing from Chapter 27, we see that Total, Chevron-Texaco, Shell and others have been able to escape from decisive court cases. With the Shell company, we could contribute research to both business ecological economics and to the campaign “Shell must fall”. Artistic imagination, knowledge and political impetus are combined in such campaigns. The powers of industry and government obfuscate reality as in climate change denial or nuclear energy risks, and by deliberate lies from the pesticide, asbestos or tobacco companies There is journalistic and scientific work making the facts visible in a confrontation with what is called the “manufacturing of uncertainty” (Oreskes and Conway 2010; Michaels 2008). This “fabrication of uncertainty” must be separated from “genuine uncertainty”. The “precautionary principle” could be applied, but usually it is not. Sometimes for new technologies, the risks are genuinely uncertain.

An ability to identify the uncertain risks caused by new technologies and investments is useful to environmental movements. Their assessment requires co-production of knowledge between ecotoxicological consultants and the affected population. A positive outcome is sought from these participatory practices, but it is not at all guaranteed.

Activists Mobilizing Scientists in Rössing (Rio Tinto) in Namibia, and in Niger (Areva) 1

One remarkable article from the ICTA UAB group working on social metabolism and environmental conflicts was Marta Conde's “Activists mobilizing Science” in the journal Ecological Economics (2014). This was based on her fieldwork in Namibia on the health effects of radiation from uranium mining by the Rio Tinto company, and on interviews in Niger also on radiation left behind by Areva, the French nuclear energy company. Her conclusions relied on work by the activist-scientist Bruno Chayeron of CRIIRAD France (Figure 28.1), and they have been mentioned in Chapter 10. Marta Conde shed light on processes where unequal power relations led to unequal access to information. Both Namibia and Niger (and their Indigenous peoples) were historically subject to coloniality and racism. Together with scientists, the local activists co-produced new and alternative knowledge that gave the local organizations visibility and legitimacy, information on how to protect themselves from the impacts of radioactivity and allowed them to some extent to challenge the misleading information produced by the state or by companies. She called this process Activism Mobilising Science, a major contribution to Post-Normal Science and to Science and Technology Studies (STS).

The uranium Rössing mine near Arandis, Namibia (MJ Photography / Alamy Stock Photo).
Figure 28.1

The uranium Rössing mine near Arandis, Namibia

Source:  MJ Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

In the following pages, I figuratively walk in the steps of activist scientists or professional consultants such as the hydrogeologist Robert Moran ‒ he was loved in Argentina, Peru, p. 633Colombia and other countries and continents ‒ and the ecologist Robert Goodland who did voluntary work in Kashipur (Odisha, India), the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia and elsewhere after he retired from the World Bank. Also, Bruno Chayeron travels the world as a nuclear energy “citizen scientist” desfazendo entuertos, providing technical information to local EJOs to straighten the wrongs in their territories. Andrés Carrasco (1946‒2014) and other scientists in Argentina researched with local groups the effects of the glyphosate used massively in soybean production for export (Conde and Walter 2022).

Risk, Uncertainty, Activist Knowledge, Post-Normal Science in the EJAtlas

In the EJAtlas we make visible events that were somewhat hidden although already known, bringing to the forefront alternative understandings of the real world, making them potential objects of politics (Gibson-Graham 2008). In this chapter, we focus on scientific knowledge required to argue about human health and environmental impacts and on scientists’ participation in socio-ecological conflicts alongside Indigenous peoples, international and local EJOs, peasants, citizens, trade unionists, fisherfolk, pastoralists and religious groups.

The Indigenous miners who were forced to work in Potosí mining silver ores and amalgamating them with mercury (azogue) learnt that the process was toxic. They often died as azogados. A drawing by Guaman Poma de Ayala with the title indio azogado shows an Indian bribing an officer to avoid the mita (forced labour) in Huancavelica's azogue mines. p. 634The EJAtlas deals with similar socio-economic injustices of the last decades. Lay citizens and local EJOs immersed in ecological distribution conflicts engage with professional scientists to understand the impacts that an extractive or polluting project will cause or is causing to their environment and to themselves. Scientific controversies arise, often as “late lessons from early warnings”.

One of the variables in the section on impacts in the EJAtlas data sheets is the existence of genuine scientific uncertainty regarding the risks of the project in question. It could be low-level radiation in the use of nuclear energy, the use of cyanide in gold mining, DBCP or chlordécone in banana plantations, Endosulfan in a cashew plantation, the presence of pneumoconiosis (black lung) or other industrial illnesses, the suspicion of excessive lead blood levels in children next to an industry. Another variable in the EJAtlas, in the section on “protagonists” of the conflict, allows for the presence of “scientists and professionals”. This variable is ambiguous because “professionals” also means lawyers and journalists, for instance, not only scientists. We could then select cases in the EJAtlas where the EIA (environmental impact assessment) is disputed as a document purporting to turn the conflict into a technical, post-political issue. If we cross these three variables (scientific uncertainty, presence of scientists and contested EIA) we get a substantial sub-sample of cases to be analyzed with the hypothesis that “extended peer communities” are active (as described in “post-normal science” (PNS) by Funtowicz and Ravetz 1993; Figure 28.2). For this chapter I have chosen about 20 conflicts under the lens of PNS, focusing on the arguments displayed by different groups.

Post-Normal Science in the diagram by Funtowicz and Ravetz.
Figure 28.2

Post-Normal Science in the diagram by Funtowicz and Ravetz

The relevance of PNS in the study of socio-ecological conflicts has often been noted before. The famous case of radiation from Sellafield-Windscale in the UK is in the EJAtlas. 2 Another case is Love Canal 3 explicitly analyzed under the lens of PNS by Fjelland (2016) who showed the struggle between, on the one hand, the scientific arguments and the clout displayed by the official New York Dpt. of Health and, on the other hand, the local EJO led by Lois Gibbs. In this chapter, I look more at conflicts in the global South.p. 635

PNS was born in the 1980s (Strand 2017) in discussions from philosophy of science on risk analysis and cost–benefit analysis of new technologies with enormous stakes. Before the Three Mile Island accident of 1979, experts attempted to calculate probabilities of accidents in nuclear energy to assuage industry, political leaders and the public. “The Rasmussen Report” was issued. This did not stop debates that included, in practice, non-certified lay experts from civil society expressing opinions and helping to prevent the building of NPP (Chapter 10). There is room for normal applied science, also for professional consultancy (by engineers, medical doctors) and for post-normal science. It depends on the nature of the conflict in question. The assessment of the likelihood of grave nuclear accidents belongs to “post-normal science”. Other names are applied to the processes of “extended peer review”. For instance, the role of children's parents in the lead poisoning episode at the Zijin Huaqiang battery factory in Fujian in this chapter could be called “popular epidemiology” in the US EJ movement.

The participation of non-official experts arises from the nature of the case as in the damage to the health of local inhabitants done by Texaco (later Chevron) in the deep Amazon of Ecuador, where in the 1970s and 1980s there were no doctors. PNS proposes a scientific practice that is reflexive, inclusive and transparent in regard to scientific uncertainty, while moving towards a democratization of expertise because of the nature of the problems considered. However, the feasibility of conducting PNS processes has been questioned because of obstacles to recognition and participation. The unequal distribution of power limits freedom of opinion, limiting the possibility of sustaining open and deliberative dialogues between agents with opposite visions (Orozco-Meléndez et al. 2022). This chapter contributes to the analysis of such challenges to PNS in many countries in the global South (or in other countries with weak democracies).


Glyphosate in Argentina: paren de fumigar 4

This is a debate between economic logic and human and environmental health briefly described already in Chapter 17. In 2009, Dr Andrés Carrasco concluded that glyphosate was highly toxic and that its exposure had serious effects on embryos. His research was questioned by Monsanto. The US Embassy in Buenos Aires – according to WikiLeaks ‒ lobbied in the company's favour after Carrasco's research was made public. As described elsewhere in this book (Chapters 17 and 21), bottom-up collectives were set up by mothers whose children's health was severely affected. At stake is the whole structure of the Argentinean biomass economy, based for many decades on transgenic soybean exports.

There is an organization called the Doctors Network of Fumigated Towns (Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados). While Monsanto, the US biotech giant, used to be the exclusive producer of glyphosate, it was later taken over by Bayer. Glyphosate is currently used not only in soy cultivation but also for growing cotton, maize, citric, yerba mate, wheat and other crops. Traces of the herbicide are routinely found in tests of foodstuffs, water, topsoil and human urine above limits set by regulators ‒ according to Dr Medardo Ávila Vázquez, the coordinator of the Doctors Network of Fumigated Towns (Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados). The expansion of soy crops in the country led to aerial spraying of glyphosate reaching the edge of many urban settlements.p. 636

“Glyphosate can lead to a wide array of health problems […]. It alters the intestinal flora and can lead to hepatic problems and neurologic alterations, increasing the risk of malformations and diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s”, according to statements by Damián Verzeñassi, a doctor and researcher at Rosario National University. Since 2010, Verzeñassi and his team have studied the health of more than 115,000 people in 31 towns from different provinces of Argentina. These health problems reported by Ávila Vázquez and Verzeñassi are backed up by findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which classifies glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans. For years, glyphosate was considered to be among the safest pesticides by international agencies such as the United States EPA. Should glyphosate be banned in Argentina? Can human health be considered together with other scientific issues of soybean cultivation, such as the loss of nutrients, the export of water or the impacts on soil fertility?

Uranium Mining in Indigenous Territory in Nebraska 5

This is one of several cases uploaded in the EJ Atlas on uranium mining in North America. It is a case of PNS with the intervention of a local hydrogeologist. It is also an example of the environmentalism of Indigenous peoples engaging in a valuation contest where sacredness and historical values are displayed. Crow Butte mine was an in-situ leach uranium mine located in Dawes County, Nebraska, and is located in Lakota Treaty Territory. It was operated by Cameco Corporation (a Canadian company, Canada being the world's second largest producer of uranium). It was the first uranium mine found in Nebraska, it didn't start production until 1991. The mine was located 6 km southeast of Crawford, a town of about 900 people. Opposition to the mine began in 2007 when local groups filed a petition against its expansion, and in 2008 opposition increased from the Oglala Sioux Native American Tribe and environmental groups due to a request for the renewal of the mine's licence for another ten years.

Because of the opposition raised, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted a public hearing to the concerned groups to voice their concerns about the threats to their water supply, and also to the spills and leaks into the nearby White River, which runs from the mine to Pine Ridge Reservation. In the mining process, local water is used to inject a leach solution into drill holes in the ore, extracting uranium from the solution and processing it into solid yellowcake on site for shipping to fuel production facilities for nuclear power plants.

The worries in the community solidified when a local geologist at Chadron State College (Hannan LaGarry PhD) answered the call from activists to scientists claiming that threats to the water supply were imminent, concerning the lack of mapping and monitoring of the faults in the bedrock, which could be transmitting wastewater from the mine through the confining layers of rock and into the White River. Other concerns expressed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe were related to the massive volume of water used during the operation of the mine, which was extracted from aquifers which the tribe described as “precious” and “ancient” and very slow to recharge. Debra White Plume of Owe Aku said that “Crow Butte is known to the Lakota as a sacred place for vision quest and medicine, and where Crazy Horse [Lakota Leader] spent many of his last days in prayer and solitude before his murder at the nearby Ft. Robinson prisoner of war compound. We can’t go there anymore”.

In 2014, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the mine its new licence for another ten years. Yet, in June 2018 Cameco Corp announced that depleting uranium concentrations p. 637in the Chadron aquifer and unfavourable market conditions meant that they stopped mining operations.

LNG in Ensenada, Baja California 6

A few miles south of Tijuana on the Mexican-US border, in Ensenada, the local population opposed Sempra Energy's expansion of its regasification plant to add capacity to liquefaction with a movement called Ensenada Resiste. While in the US a project like this was considered risky, the Costa Azul Consortium, a subsidiary of the Mexican company IEnova, in turn, a subsidiary of the American company Sempra Energy, built a regasification plant which started to operate in 2008. In this conflict, Total and Chevron appear again. This plant receives vessels of liquefied natural gas (LNG) transforming it from liquid to gaseous state, to then be exported to the United States through a network of gas pipelines also owned by Sempra Energy. This was one of the first foreign companies to distribute natural gas in Mexico with the EcoGas network of Mexicali; it also has several electricity generation projects in Baja California to supply the United States and the local market. The company currently has a new project. Instead of importing LNG and transforming it to a gaseous state, it will now be able to receive natural gas from the United States, convert it to liquid status (cooling it to -162°C) and export it on ships to Pacific countries. Sempra would turn Baja California into a platform for the export and import of natural gas between the United States and the Pacific, and perhaps Europe.

Therefore, when it is cheap to buy gas in Texas, gas will be transported to Ensenada and use its liquefaction plant to export it; when it is more profitable to acquire gas elsewhere, it will be transported through Baja California to the United States. The company also plans to build a storage terminal for refined petroleum products called Baja Refinados. Sempra Energy, through its subsidiary IEnova, signed preliminary agreements with affiliates of Total, Mitsui and Tokyo Gas for the 20-year sale of all liquefied natural gas (LNG) that it intends to transform into the plant during phase 1. Total also acquired a 16.6 per cent stake in the plant project. Sempra also has a contract with Chevron so that its subsidiary Chevron Combustibles de México can use approximately 50 per cent of the storage capacity of a new marine hydrocarbon receipt, storage and delivery terminal that Sempra plans to build next to its gas plant.

What are the risks and who is evaluating them? These projects represent potential emissions of methane and other toxic gasses, as well as effects on marine ecosystems by wastewater thrown into the sea at very low temperatures. This could have effects on fishing, tourism, recreational activities and grey whales. The proximity of projects enhances the risks to each other in the presence of geological faults and fractures.

With the plant expansion project, a broad mobilization started with the name Ensenada Resiste. Since 2003, opposition has been aroused against the regasification plant by the inhabitants of the Bajamar housing complex, located less than 4 km from the plant. They obtained an amparo lawsuit that granted the definitive suspension of the plant. There is also an agrarian litigation for the fact that this plant was built on several lots belonging to the Costa Azul Agricultural Colony. Academic staff of the Centre for Scientific Research and Education (CICESE) and the University of Southern California (USC) rejected the expansion of the natural gas plant, denouncing the environmental effects it would cause and the fact that the project is contradictory to an energy transition process. The population demonstrated against the citizen consultation process carried out fraudulently in October 2020, which was favourable p. 638to the company's project. The consultation had been manipulated because Sempra coerced the mayor of Ensenada by offering to allocate 430 million pesos for the construction of 24 public works. Popular participation was deviated by this political manoeuvre.

Prince Rupert at Risk: LNG in British Columbia, Canada 7

Aurora LNG Terminal was to be in British Columbia, Canada, one more terminal for LNG, a fashionable fuel. In the summer of 2017, the terminal was in the EIA stage, but it was cancelled in September. The primary project backer was Nexen Energy, a subsidiary of CNOOC, China's top LNG importer. Other backers included Japanese companies INPEX, an LNG supplier to Japan, Korea and Taiwan; and JGC, formerly known as Japanese Gasoline Corporation and now an engineering company that builds LNG facilities. The cost would be Canadian $ 20 billion. The gas would reach the coast through controversial pipelines.

What was the local debate? The Aurora LNG export facility would threaten the fishing community of Prince Rupert, displacing local residents and enabling the expansion of further fracking. CNOOC-Nexen wanted to build a four train LNG liquefaction, storage and export terminal within ½ km of the Canadian community Dodge Cove and within 3 km of the city of Prince Rupert. This project might mean drastic health impacts to the local communities as well as impacting the Skeena River Estuary, where the berthing terminals, dredging and tanker traffic would be. Besides people's homes, and migratory birds using the Pacific Flyway, would be impacted by the location of this project (Figure 28.3).

Prince Rupert, BC, Canada as a sacrifice zone for LNG Plants and Export Terminals (Wilderness Committee).
Figure 28.3

Prince Rupert, BC, Canada as a sacrifice zone for LNG Plants and Export Terminals

Source:  Wilderness Committee

Aurora LNG would ship 24 million tonnes a year. The project would feature up to four trains for liquefaction of natural gas, storage facilities, power plants, up to three LNG loading berths, a marine offloading facility, a floating pioneer facility, a 5,000-man work camp, a pipeline and related infrastructure to bring gas to the facility. The LNG tanker berthing would be only 500 m from the centre of the main marine navigational channel, putting all vessel traffic entering and exiting Prince Rupert Harbour within the hazardous zones. This project would require dredging sediment in the Skeena River Estuary which might release toxic dioxins and furans into surrounding waters with adverse impacts on wildlife and human health. Digby Island is home to many species of special concern, including nesting colonies of Great Blue Herons, essential habitat for the Western Toad, a nationally important Pacific Flyway for migrating birds and a transit area for Humpback Whales.

Aurora LNG would burn approximately 7 million m3 of gas per day to process 97 million m3 of gas into LNG. This would dump thousands of tonnes of harmful emissions on the air of Dodge Cove, Prince Rupert, and surrounding communities. Cumulative impacts for the already approved PNW LNG and the proposed Aurora LNG were one major concern. Independent environmental reviews of the proposed Petronas LNG export facility on neighbouring Lelu Island identified that the alteration of the water flows from the massive facility would destroy the Flora Banks Eelgrass habitat, essential to the life cycle of the salmon of the Skeena River, the third largest salmon run in the world. The Aurora project was likewise proposed on top of essential eelgrass habitat and the potential alteration of water flows had not been adequately studied.

Typically for a peaceful successful protest case like this, the participating groups are listed as: Indigenous groups or traditional communities, international and local EJOs, local government/political parties, neighbours/citizens/communities, recreational users, local scientists/professionals and fisher people. The tame repertoire of actions taken were community-based p. 639 p. 640participatory research, creation of knowledge, development of a network, alternative media, objections to the EIA, official complaint letters and petitions.

Norsk Hydro's Alunorte Refinery in Barcarena, Belem, Parà 8

Hydro Alunorte is the world's largest alumina refinery and it is located in Bacarena, close to Belém, Brazil. In 1984, a project with Japanese capital called Albras-Alunorte was established, now belonging to the Brazilian corporation Vale. This was part of the global process of relocating polluting and energy-intensive industries to the South, specifically Japan's decision to outsource the production of aluminium. The Brazilian military regime embraced the opportunity. The Tucuruí mega-dam was inaugurated in 1984 and resulted in social and environmental disasters (Chapter 19). Since then, Tucuruí dam has been providing energy to the aluminium industry at subsidized rates. The process of turning Barcarena into an industrial centre continued unabated after the dictatorship, with hydro-ways and pipelines transporting kaolin and bauxite. This part of Northern Brazil inspired Steve Bunker's theory on ecologically unequal trade (Chapter 26), and the decades-long regionalist lament by Lúcio Flávio Pinto, the journalist and editor of Jornal Pessoal.

Hydro Alunorte refinery started its operations in 1995 transforming bauxite into alumina. The owners are Norsk Hydro whose main shareholders have been the Norwegian state (34.3 per cent), the Norwegian Government Pension Fund (6.81 per cent) and other transnational financial corporations. The factory Albras (Alumínio Brasileiro S.A.) transforms Alunorte's alumina into aluminium and is owned by Norsk Hydro (51 per cent) and the Japanese consortium NAAC (Nippon Amazon Aluminum Co. Ltd) (49 per cent). Industries in the region also include the steel plant Usipar and kaolin processing Imerys Rio Capim Caulim S.A. and PPSA.

Since the 2000s public entities such as the Instituto Evandro Chagas (IEV) from the Ministry of Health and other scientific experts detected water pollution in the community of Barcarena threatening environmental and human health, especially of children diagnosed with skin and visual problems. Workers of the company have also been affected. IEV confirmed that water pollution was caused by leakage and toxic waste of Hydro Alunorte. One main leak took place in 2009, with lead and mercury. The company was fined (R$ 17,000,000) but it never paid up, denying evidence of a lasting environmental impact. Dwellers and local organizations with the support of Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (MAB) denounced this situation to Brazilian authorities. Paulo Sérgio Almeida Nascimento was shot dead in March 2018; he was the leader of the Associação dos Caboclos, Indígenas e Quilombolas da Amazônia (CAINQUIAMA), an environmental justice organization which had denounced the company. Paulo had asked for governmental protection but it was denied. The company is said to follow the Norwegian Code of Practice for Corporate Governance.

On 17‒18 February 2018 heavy rainfall had led to flooding in the Barcarena region and resulted in flooding at Alunorte. The containment basins of the bauxite residue deposit were exceeded until February 27th. A scientific-political debate followed. Local residents and Brazilian authorities accused the company in Barcarena of causing a toxic leak in February that polluted the water supply. A study by the Evandro Chagas Institute determined that Alunorte had contaminated the nearby waters with heavy metals. Alunorte questioned the validity of the institute's scientific work and sued state prosecutors. In May 2018, a Brazilian federal judge upheld a state court decision forcing Norsk Hydro to slash output by half at the refinery after the company admitted to making unlicensed emissions of untreated waterp. 641

Hazardous Waste Incineration in Sarzedo, Minas Gerais, Brazil 9

Establishing incineration as the solution to the waste problem has been a proposal across Brazil and the world, meeting opposition from civil society and in particular the waste-pickers movement. An international network exists (GAIA). Minas Gerais has been on the front lines of this struggle and in 2014 became Brazil's first state to prohibit the incineration of urban solid waste. However, a new legislative project brought forward by the private economic sector favoured incineration projects. One of these controversial projects is the burning of hazardous industrial waste by the company Ecovital in the municipality of Sarzedo, close to Brumadinho in Minas Gerais. The main protagonists of this conflict have been working-class catadores, neighbours and citizens, and scientists who provided information.

In 2013 public-private partnerships in the waste sector of the Belo Horizonte metropolitan region and the possibility of incineration technologies were discussed in the Legislative Assembly of Minas Gerais. Brazil's Movimento Nacional de Catadores de Materiales Reciclables (National Movement of the Pickers of Recyclable Material, MNCR), the Instituto Nenuca de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (INSEA) and other organizations launched protests and street demonstrations against the adoption of incineration technologies by private operators, claiming that this would contradict Brazil's solid waste policy (regulated by Law 12.305). The MNCR initiated a campaign for a legislative project (PL 4.051/2013) that would prohibit the incineration of solid waste and instead promote selective waste collection. The movement demanded that local deputies stop another legislative project that would promote the utilization of plasma pyrolysis technologies, which allegedly would pose risks to public health. Moreover, incineration also jeopardizes the recycling work done by Brazil's catadores because the economic viability of incinerators depends on solid waste with high calorific value and this competes directly with selective waste collection. After much mobilization, the ban on solid waste incineration in Minas Gerais was adopted at the end of 2014 (through Lei 21.557/2014). The importance of the selective waste collection of thousands of catadores in the state, who are organized into more than 150 associations and cooperatives, was recognized.

A particular conflict in this context has been the incineration of chemical toxic waste by the company Ecovital Central de Gerenciamento Ambiental in the industrial district of the municipality Sarzedo, Minas Gerais. After obtaining a licence from the Belo Horizonte metropolitan region in 2014, the company started burning 3,000 tons of hazardous industrial waste in what it calls the “largest and most modern hazardous waste incineration plant in Brazil”. The incinerated waste stems from chemical production by the famous French multinational company Rhodia, which operated from the 1960s to the 1990s in Cubatão. It consists of a range of highly toxic substances such as hexachlorobenzene and pentachlorophenol (PCP), used as insecticides and fungicides until it was forbidden in Brazil in 2006. Still today, several areas south of São Paulo are contaminated by Rhodia's substances. Despite this, in Sarzedo there were no public hearings before Ecovital began its activities.

In the surrounding area there are the Imaculada Conceição and Riacho da Mata neighbourhoods, a permanent protection area and community recreational facilities. Residents are allegedly affected by diseases as well as dust and bad smells that come from the plant's smoke, which has already made people move away. The presence of PCP has been particularly worrying. Mobilization by residents was led by the ad-hoc local movement SOS Sarzedo and was supported by the MNCR, INSEA, the Observatório da Reciclagem Inclusiva p. 642e Solidária (ORIS), the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and ACPO, founded by former employees of Rhodia in the 1990s. They noted that toxic waste incineration is an outdated technology when it comes to environmental safety. The movement criticized the choice of an urbanized area like Sarzedo and the fact that the states of São Paulo, Paraná and Bahia had already rejected Evovital's incineration plans. The transport of hazardous waste over 600 km was also called into question.

Following an increase in public and political pressure and interventions by the Public Ministry of Minas Gerais and the municipality of Sarzedo, the movement had its first victory when in 2016 the company had its incineration licence for PCP and hexachlorobenzene temporarily suspended. A civil lawsuit was launched, and a new public hearing was announced. Up to that point, 500 tons of toxic waste had been incinerated. Ecovital also considered the incineration of urban solid waste. However, a decree was issued in 2018 prohibiting the storage, disposal and processing of waste from outside the state if hazardous substance concentrations exceeded a specified value. After that, residents continued to complain about air pollution.

Ecovital's first environmental licence expired in 2018. It requested a ten-year extension. The company had already been issued a preliminary extension allowing it to continue its activities. In July 2019, the extension of the incineration licence was debated in a public hearing in Sarzedo marked by community protests. More than 200 residents attended the hearing and, together with civil society organizations, demanded the complete closure of the plant. In an open letter, the SOS Sarzedo platform, the NGO Cedefes and CPT denounced the negative environmental and health impacts associated with the incineration project as well as attempts by the company to manipulate public opinion.


Sasol Pollutes Sasolburg, Mpumalanga, the Vaal River and Other Areas in South Africa 10

Significant air and water pollution in the Vaal River, Mpumalanga and elsewhere in the country have been caused by Sasol (South African Coal, Oil and Gas Corporation Ltd.), a top-polluting company. The Vaal River is the third-largest river in South Africa and is the main source of water for the Witwatersrand area. It has been plagued by multiple forms of pollution for decades, devastating nearby communities and wildlife. It is said that pH levels in the river water can be as acidic as lemon juice, and some residents of surrounding settlements say that birds fall dead from the sky when they fly over the area. Locals suffer from respiratory and cardiac illnesses because of the government's non-enforcement of emission standards for Eskom and Sasol. A lot of the water pollution also comes from acid mine waste tailings.

Sewage also flows freely from poorly managed drains. Scientists trace elevated sulphur dioxide emissions as well as heavy metals in the soil and acidic water to 22 collieries and 13 coal-fired power stations (including the newest, Eskom-owned Kusile). The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) charged that Sasol does not comply with regulations on discharging waste. However, the City of Ekurhuleni and the Emfuleni Local Municipality have defended Sasol, which has allegedly failed to maintain its infrastructure but accuses community members of sabotage through theft and vandalism. Facts are deemed to be uncertain, p. 643and the balance of costs and benefits is in doubt. Sasol has a history of high emissions of toxic pollutants in Sasolburg, Free State and Secunda, Mpumalanga, and it is the second-largest emitter of GHG in South Africa after Eskom.

The company-dominated city of Sasolburg is south of Johannesburg. It was built by Sasol Ltd. to house employees at the coal plant producing commercial quantities of oil. This Sasol coal-to-oil refinery releases the highest amount of volatile organic compounds in South Africa. People suffer from asthma, respiratory illnesses, heart attacks, and other illnesses triggered by Sasol's pollution, which reportedly causes about 20,000 deaths per year. Activists have been a driving force behind efforts to curb pollution and fight Sasol's impunity. “Extended peer review” is not easy when power is asymmetric.

Sappi Ngodwana Pulp Mill, South Africa 11

The Sappi company cheerfully states that “it is a global renewable resource company that uses every part of the tree to make every day more sustainable. Our high-quality packaging, speciality and graphic papers, pulp and biomaterials are innovative solutions”. The reality is that for over 50 years the Sappi Ngodwana pulp mill, also located in Mpumalanga, has polluted the Elands River valley and surrounding areas. The air pollution is evident from the foul taste and burning eyes. Mpumalanga is a province subject to extractivism of coal and commodities such as pines, eucalyptus and cellulose. Mpumalanga means “east”, or literally “the place where the sun rises” in the Swazi, Xhosa, Ndebele and Zulu languages.

Chemicals such as chloride leach into the Elands River system, and there is a potential serious conflict between the mill and downstream users of the river system, who need clean water for drinking, washing and irrigation. Vast monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations supply the mill with raw logs. These plantations impact heavily on water resources and biodiversity, cause severe soil erosion, spread invasive alien plants and have historically displaced local people from their land. The mill increased its production of pulp for kraft, in the process of further increasing its capacity and simultaneously converting to cellulose production.

Should eucalyptus (an invasive species) be welcome? Are biologists active in this debate? Mill effluent is presently sprayed onto irrigated pasture which becomes saturated and then leaches through the soil. Resistance to the project is old, it started in the 1960s when local farmers questioned the impacts of the mill. The conflict escalated due to the death of fish in the Elands River, which triggered greater awareness. During 2003, Sappi announced expansion plans which resulted in protest action with toyi toyi dancing and the handing over of a memorandum opposing the expansion (toyi-toyi is a dance of protest, a form of participation in the scientific and policy debate). Environmental groups criticized the EIA process.


Oyu Tolgoi in Mongolia 12

This is one of the world's largest new copper-gold mines and is located in the South Gobi region of Mongolia, 80 km north of the Mongolia-China border. It is a combined open-pit and underground mining project approximately 235 km east of the Ömnögovi Province capital Dalanzadgad. The site was discovered in 2001 and is being developed as a joint p. 644venture between Turquoise Hill Resources (a subsidiary of Rio Tinto) and the Government of Mongolia. The mine began construction in 2010 and shipped its first batch of copper in 2013. The Oyu Tolgoi mining project is the largest financial undertaking in Mongolia's history and is expected to produce 450,000 tonnes of copper annually. It is one of these mines that by itself drives the political history of a whole colonized country, like Grassberg in West Papua, Goro nickel mine in New Caledonia, Kumtor gold mine in Kyrgyzstan, Paguna copper mine in Bougainville.

Oyu Tolgoi means “Turquoise Hill” in Mongolian. Concerns have been raised by local Mongolian herders around various health and ecological impacts directly related to the mining activities. A World Bank Report clearly outlined that the daily water needs of the nomadic populations were largely overtaken by the water usage of the industries in place. Water scarcity, decreased pasture capacity, dust and noise pollution have a strong impact on the health and welfare of Mongolian herder communities. Approval of the expansion of the mine came after disputes between Rio Tinto and the government which led to the suspension of the construction in 2013. Moreover, there were plans for a 450-MW coal-fired power station to provide power for the Oyu Tolgoi copper mine using local coal resources. In 2016, it was announced that Rio Tinto and its Canadian affiliate Turquoise Hill signed off on a $5.3 billion expansion of their massive Oyu Tolgoi mine ending a three-year stalemate and political tension over revenue sharing and the foreign role in Mongolia's mining sector.

External experts did what they could. As Robert Goodland (himself a Canadian and former World Bank officer) wrote in 2012,

The main communities impacted by the mine are traditional nomadic herders […]. The main impacts on these indigenous peoples are likely to be significant and already include dust and pollution harming the grazing, exacerbation of respiratory disease […], less water availability for their herds, construction and operation of roads and rails hampering transhumance.

Bank Watch reported: “With huge amounts of unexploited natural resources, the Mongolian economy is estimated to grow massively. But will it also benefit the people in Mongolia? Our work shows how mining operations lead to pollution and displacement for local herders and exacerbate water scarcity issues”.

Lead Poisoning of Children in Huaqiang Battery Factory, Fujian, China 13

This case is similar to that in Chapter 6: “Lead poisoning in a battery recycling enterprise in Pizhou, northern Jiangsu”. Here, the protagonists are children and parents. We have a brief account of events in 2008‒9 when villagers repeatedly protested against a battery plant which polluted the air, water and soil of the local environment and sickened children with excessive blood lead in Shanghang, a county in Fujian province. Shanghang County is also the base of the transnational Zijin Mining Group. Shanghang Huaqiang Battery Co. Ltd. is one of the largest professional manufacturers of Electrode-Plate and Valve Regulated Sealed Lead-Acid batteries in China. In July 2005, the company moved from its original location in Quanzhou City to Jiaoyang Industrial Park in Shanghang County.

Landless peasants were promised that at least one person in a household would be employed in the factories, but it turned out that factories like Huaqiang Battery preferred to recruit migrant workers instead of local villagers to avoid potential local collective actions. At the p. 645same time, local villagers started to smell the unpleasant odour coming from the Huaqiang battery plant. Gradually, some other strange things happened (e.g., pigs and geese in some households became sterilized, flowers in the village did not blossom), which could not be explained by traditional knowledge. An open letter issued by villagers of Chongtou stated:

a large amount of lead dust and lead mud were dumped on the side of the plant without any treatment. When it rains, it directly flows down, causing serious water and soil pollution. Lead dust is everywhere around the plant, and it is scattered everywhere when the wind rises. The physical and mental health of thousands of peasants and over 3,000 students in the nearby schools have been affected by the disaster-related pollution that threatens the intellect and fertility of future generations.

In March 2008, a woman from Chongtou village who woke up in the early morning to do laundry found that a white and smelly sewage with foam was discharged from Huaqiang Battery Plant to the stream that villagers were still accessing for water. Several hundreds of villagers from the same village gathered in front of the Huaqiang Battery Plant and asked the factory to stop the sewage discharge and give a statement. However, the factory ignored the protest and the person in charge of the factory disappeared. The angry villagers put some stones to block the road to the factory to stop the in and out vehicles, and then they sat down and refused to disperse. Later, the villagers clashed with the workers in the factory as well as officials from the Industrial Park, the police intervened and mediated the clash. After the pollution accident in March 2008, Huaqiang Battery Co., Ltd. carried out the work according to the “rectification” opinions of the Shanghang County Environmental Protection Bureau and the guidance of the Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. Huaqiang Battery was fined CNY 75,000 and quickly built a sedimentation tank; villagers saw the cement pool of about 20m2 and less than one metre deep, and they did not believe it would reduce the lead pollution.

In August 2008, the Shanghang Huaqiang Battery Co. Ltd held a public hearing for the second phase of its project. The venue was changed without notification, so that only the party secretary, the village director and the leaders of the production unit in the village rushed to attend the hearing. At the end of the hearing, more villagers went to the venue and asked the county to provide the EIA report for the second phase of the Huaqiang Battery. The county could only provide an EIA issued by Shanghang Environmental Protection Bureau, which did not comply with the regulations from the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Moreover, villagers also claimed that the direct discharges of sulphuric acid, heavy metals and highly toxic substances into the streams without any treatment seriously polluted water resources and the groundwater; it violated the provisions of Article 30 of the Water Pollution Prevention and Control Law. In addition, the emissions of lead dust from Huaqiang Battery were not treated by the dust-free equipment.

The lead poisoning was uncovered because a local villager took his son to the provincial hospital for a test in June 2009 ‒ excessive lead was found in his blood. More children were tested in August, showing similar results. When the new semester started in September, local people took their children to be tested, also confirming excessive lead in their blood. More villagers started to take their children outside the province to get tested, not trusting the local results. Local police began preventing residents from going to other provinces for medical tests.

As the pollution came from the Huaqiang Battery Factory, the Government of Shanghang County ordered to stop its production immediately from 10 September 2009. However, p. 646Huaqiang did not comply, which led to great dissatisfaction among the villagers. Lead poisoning fears kept hundreds of pupils away from primary and middle schools. One kindergarten, just 800 m from the factory, also reported a large number of absences. On 17 September 2009, hundreds of parents and some other Shanghang residents protested in front of the Jiaolong Township government offices and blocked a local highway for hours; a market strike echoed the protest. Officials from Longyan City and Shanghang County governments visited the township to talk with villagers and announced some decisions on the same day: people with excessive blood lead would be treated with support from the government; children who lived 600 m around Huaqiang Battery would be examined for blood lead; production of the Huaqiang Battery Plant would be suspended; representatives would be elected to supervise the implementation of the above measures. People gradually dispersed after the announcement and the factory was finally shut down.

In a mediation meeting on 18 September 2009, local residents shouted to the local officials, “You have introduced these dirty factories, are you responsible for our children? You have to pay for our green hills and clear waters! You have to return us to a healthy environment!” On September 20th, people from relevant government departments went from door to door to mobilize students to go back to school. After the three-day market strike, the shops in Jiaoyang Township reopened. However, many students still had not returned to school. According to the local government, doctors tested almost 300 children under the age of 14 and found that 121 of them showed signs of lead poisoning.

On 27 September 2009, the Fujian Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau determined that “Shanghang Huaqiang Battery Co., Ltd. in Fujian Province should be deemed responsible for more than 100 children with excessive blood lead”. Still in August 2017, local villagers found a large amount of industrial toxic waste piled up in the abandoned Huaqiang Battery Plant.

Australian Lynas Corp's Rare Earth Refinery in Kuantan, Malaysia 14

This investment prompted Malaysia's biggest environmental campaign. A large rare earth refinery was producing toxic waste close to 30,000 residents, a peatland, a bio-rich estuary and floodplains in a marine ecosystem. On 8 March 2011, a New York Times article revealed the construction of a world-scale rare earth (RE) refinery project in an industrial estate in Gebeng, near Kuantan, Malaysia. The refinery belonged to Australia's Lynas Corporation, which owns and operates a mine and concentration plant in Mt Weld (Western Australia, WA) shipping the ore concentrate a very long distance from Fremantle Port to the Kuantan plant for extraction and processing into RE oxides.

In 1992, the WA government granted Lynas’ predecessor Ashton Rare Earth Limited conditional approval for a processing plant in Meenaar industrial estate. The EPA of WA approval stipulated numerous social and environmental conditions. Choosing, instead, a Malaysian site, Lynas could avoid the stringent Meenaar conditions set by the WA government. The refinery is about 2 km from a residential population of 30,000 and 700,000 people live within a 25-km radius (including Kuantan city with over 400,000). Malaysia's last RE refinery, Asian Rare Earth (ARE), left a toxic legacy involving aclean-up effort costing $100 million. Partly owned and operated by Japan's Mitsubishi Chemical in the industrial town Bukit Merah, nearby villagers and workers experienced miscarriages, birth defects and unusually high incidence of childhood leukaemia due to poor management of toxic and radioactive wastes, lack p. 647of health and safety measures and government inaction despite independent scientific evidence of dangers. ARE closed down in 1992 after ten years of operation and strong popular actions and protests.

A peat mangrove ‒ theoretically protected by law ‒ sits adjacent to the Lynas refinery. The Lynas refinery went ahead without public knowledge, consultation or impact assessment on the peatland, its biologically rich estuary and floodplains, and the marine and coastal ecosystems of the South China Sea. Pitched as a ‘green’ supplier of materials for low-emission technologies vital to tackling climate change, it is ironic that Lynas located its refinery in this rich tropical peatland, which stores huge amounts of carbon which are emitted whenever burnt in the drought season.

Malaysia's biggest ever environmental campaign evolved as local, Australian and international environmentalists became alarmed by the secrecy surrounding the refinery, the fast-tracked approval, a 12-year tax break granted to Lynas and the vulnerable social and ecological environment with prior experience of tragedies in Bukit Merah. On 15 May 2011, about 100 people organized by DAP (Democratic Action Party) Kuantan gathered at the refinery to demonstrate before police moved in to arrest four individuals: DAP Pahang publicity secretary Chow Yu Hui, organizing secretary Lee Chin Chen, Khor Hui Ying and Thing Siew Shuen. They carried banners with radioactive symbols. Malaysia's political regime has been described as an “electoral authoritarian regime”.

On 22 June 2014, thousands of protestors organized by NGO Himpunan Hijau (“green assembly”) gathered outside the Kuantan facility when guards began violently disrupting the crowd. Sixteen protestors including Australian-based activist Natalie Lowrey were arrested and detained in a Kuantan prison while two others were hospitalized after guards beat them. Her arrest incited worldwide protests and a petition signed by 15,000 people calling for her release (Figure 28.4).

Natalie Lowrey at the scene of her arrest in Malaysia (Damian Baker, Friends of the Earth).
Figure 28.4

Natalie Lowrey at the scene of her arrest in Malaysia

Source:  Damian Baker, Friends of the Earth

In December 2018, a newly elected government demanded that Lynas ship back its refinery waste to Australia by September 2019 or else they would not have their licence renewed. This caused the company's stock price to fall by more than half. In August 2019, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad extended Lynas’ operating license by three years on condition that Lynas stop importing radioactive materials by July 2023. In response, protests continued. On 28 April 2021, thanks to the joint efforts of organizations and political parties including Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth), Lynas failed an EIA for a proposal to build a permanent toxic and radioactive waste dump that would be sited in a rainforest forest reserve that feeds two rivers that supply 90 per cent of the population of Kuantan with drinking water.

Coal Mining in Dehing Patkai, Assam, India

The next two cases, with extractivist state companies in India engaged once again in internal colonialism and the destruction of forests, certainly belong to this sample of PNS cases. The first one is on coal. Near the Assam border with Myanmar, Dehing Patkai, known as ‘Amazon of the East’, is home to many endangered species and is believed to be the last remaining contiguous patch of lowland rainforest area in Assam, extending up to the Deomali elephant reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. Dehing Patkai is also home to Assam's state bird, the white-winged duck; the state tree, the hollong, and the state flower, the fox tail orchid. These rainforests straddling the Dehing River and the Patkai range of the Eastern Himalayas, which comprise the Indo-Burma global biodiversity hotspot, are a valuable ecosystem. According to p. 648the Forest Department of Assam, 46 species of mammals, 71 species of reptiles, 290 species of wild birds, 276 species of butterflies, 70 species of fish, 70 species of dragonflies, 101 species of orchids and thousands of different insects are found in the sanctuary. Located on the southern bank of Brahmaputra, Dehing Patkai is also home to a large number of Asiatic elephants.

The Government of Assam declared 111 km2 area of the rainforest as ‘Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary’ on 13 June 2004. Located within the greater Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve (total area of 937 km2), this Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary spreads across the oil- and coal-rich districts of Upper Assam namely Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar.

Coal mining in the region dates back to the British era. In 1973, North Eastern Coalfields (NEC), a Coal India subsidiary, was provided a 30-year lease. The lease expired in 2003, but Coal India didn’t attain a clearance from the forest department. That same year, the state government notified the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve and the wildlife sanctuary was carved out in June 2004. But Coal India continued to mine in the area. The NEC approached the Assam government seeking a fresh lease only in 2012, but it was rejected. The CIL applied again for the clearance of 98 ha in 2019, out of which it was carrying out mining activities in 73 ha. As the nationwide lockdown was imposed for the COVID-19 pandemic, a conditional clearance for a coal mining project was permitted in the Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest in April 2020. The National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change approved the project provided it fulfilled 28 conditions.

The decision sparked massive protests in the state. From prominent student unions in Assam to internationally acclaimed actors and artists of Assamese origin, many raised their concerns on the approval of coal mining activities in the Dehing Patkai rainforest. The ‘Forest Man of p. 649India’ Padma Shri Jadav Payeng in his appeal to the Union government said, “Coal mining in the Dehing Patkai rainforest will severely impact our climate, environment of Assam and other parts of the North Eastern region. I appeal to the government to change this decision”.

Assamese musician-composer Joi Barua said,

If our ecosystem, trees, the habitat and the wildlife are at risk – what are we left with? Where is literature and poetry going to spring from? Where will fables originate? Where will folk music take its inspiration from? As people, what do we fall back on to? Just barren land from where all of nature's bounty has been plundered due to man's greed?

Dr Deborshee Gogoi, an academic and a cartoonist said, “Earlier when a child cried, we showed them a bird or a dragonfly. Now, we hand them the mobile phone. We can be rich only if our biodiversity is rich”. Rapper and songwriter Rahul Rajkhowa, vented his anger in his ‘Rap for Dehing Patkai’.

Following the ongoing protest (Figure 28.5), 15 the NEC announced the temporary suspension of all its mining operations in the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, during the first week of July 2020, the Assam government decided to upgrade the sanctuary into a national park to ensure better conservation. Finally, a judicial probe was ordered by the Assam government to investigate illegal coal mining activities in the Dehing Patkai rainforest region. Decisions are urgent, and incommensurable values are in dispute. Scientists, university students and artists took part in the protests. Very rich biodiversity is endangered, the cultural pride of Assam is being defended, and nevertheless a growing supply of coal is needed for India's economy and also gives legal and illegal money incomes to local people.

Stop Coal Mining and Save Dehing Patkai (Abu B Siddik designs).
Figure 28.5

Stop Coal Mining and Save Dehing Patkai

Source:  Abu B. Siddik designs

Uranium Mining within the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, Telangana, India 16

The Amrabad Tiger Reserve (ATR) is one of the big Tiger Reserves (TR) in India spreading over the Nallamala hills for 2,800 km2. This forest is very rich in biodiversity, with lofty hills, numerous rivers and thick forest areas. It became a TR in 1983. This forest is also home to the Chenchus, a most vulnerable scheduled tribe in India. The conflict emerging in this area is related both to the conservationist rules which have become more restrictive in India after 1972 (Wildlife Protection Act), and to the exploration of uranium. The Chenchus community have been living in this forest for millennia; they are continuously threatened by eviction in the name of conservation. Now, the government grants uranium mining concessions in the same area. There are risks to humans, to tigers.

The process of displacement of the Chenchus from the Reserve Forest started early in the twentieth century by the British. It became a normalized process in 1980 after the declaration of the Nallamala forest as a Tiger Reserve, which led to the displacement of many Chenchus. Today it is estimated that about 200 villages are situated in and around the reserve, out of which 120 are within the sanctuary limits. However, the Chenchus have always fought back and have never accepted the Tiger Reserve in their territory. According to the Integrated Tribal Development Agency data in 2015, there are 10,671 families comprising 41,780 people belonging to the Chenchu Adivasi community across Nallamala forest in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Besides the tiger project and “fortress conservation” (Chapter 11), since 2003 the Chenchus have also been fighting against the proposed uranium mining within and around the TR, when p. 650the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) applied for a mining lease. Since then, the Chenchus, together with NGOs and environmentalist groups, have campaigned against the exploration of uranium in Nalgonda district. While in 2003 the Union Forest and environment ministry approved the denotification of 1,000 ha of the Tiger Reserve to allow the uranium exploration, in 2004 the State Pollution Control Board rejected the project in the Malappuram area as too close to the Tiger Reserve. This was considered a first victory for environmentalists and the locals, but the company continued to explore new areas to drill for uranium.

Trying to cope with uncertain risks and local opposition, the new proposed site for uranium was Seripally, in Devarakonda Mandal. Environmentalists, people's representatives, political leaders and local tribes also opposed this. At an environment public hearing held by the Pollution Control Board on 3 March 2005, the majority said a firm “no” to the UCIL proposal. In a public hearing in 2006 in Hyderabad, K. Saraswathi, the joint secretary of p. 651city-based Forum for Sustainable Development, said: “There was a strong police presence at the public hearing (at Kadapa) and several activists were beaten up”. “One of our activists in Kadapa even received death threats from the police”, said Ravi Rebbapragada, chairman of Mines, Minerals and People, another NGO. However, all this did not stop the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) giving the site clearance and permission for the setting up of mines.

In 2011, in the name of tiger protection, a number of 40,000 Chenchus were planned to be relocated from the Nallamala Forest. The MoEF in 2009 had packaged this as voluntary resettlement. The others are fighting against the relocation. In the meantime, the state board of wildlife approved uranium exploration inside the Amrabad Tiger Reserve. The resistance against the project united the local communities, the conservationists and the state authorities against the Central Government. Indeed, the proposed uranium mining would both severely impact biodiversity and will result in the displacement of over 70,000 people. In opposition to this, the left parties organized protests across the State in support of the demand to stop the mining project. A signature campaign was also organized by the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HyTCS).

On 9 September 2019, a huge ‘Nallamala Bandh’ (general strike) was observed by people's organizations and political parties against the central government. Shops, banks and educational institutions remained closed, and people rallied and raised slogans against uranium exploration. Hundreds sat-in in dharna at the Ambedkar Chowrastha in Hyderabad, blocking the traffic. People were not going to allow the Delhi government to carry out the plan to explore uranium in the forests. Then, on 16 September, the Telangana State Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Central Government not to permit or allow mining operations of uranium in the Nallamala forest area. In theory, India plans to increase its uranium production tenfold over the next 15 years. Other conflicts on uranium mining in India have been described in Chapter 25.


Maradykovsky Chemical Weapons Storage and Disposal Facility 17

This is one case in the Russian Federation where military control and civil society activism come against each other. Kirov Oblast lies in the central part of European Russia in the Volga and Vyatka River basins. There were protests in 2019 and 2020 at the Maradykovsky Facility outside of Mirniy village in Kirov Oblast. Between 1953 and 2005 it stored a total of 6,928 tonnes of chemical weapons, which made up 17.4 per cent of Russia's total arsenal. What to do with them? As Russia tries to recover its imperialist role, the question becomes more relevant.

In 1993, Russia signed an international treaty to destroy all of its chemical weapons. In order to do so, eight specialized chemical weapon disposal facilities were built, one of which was on the territory of Maradykovsky's Chemical Weapons Storage Facility. The disposal programme began in 2005/2006 and ended in 2015; within that period, 7,000 tonnes of chemical weapons were destroyed. This produced chemical waste which has been stored in landfills, with the majority of the waste being classified as moderate or low hazardous waste, although there are around 200 tonnes of extremely hazardous waste.p. 652

In 2017, after all eight facilities had finished disposing of the leftover chemical weapons, Russian officials began preliminary discussions about how best to continue. These initial discussions triggered protests in Mirniy because residents were hoping that the facility would be shut down indefinitely. Moreover, in March 2017 it became clear that the Radioactive Waste Management Enterprise (RosRoa) was taking part in government officials’ discussions. Later it was revealed that RosRoa was planning on converting Maradykovsky into a deactivation, disposal and storage facility for Class I (extremely) and II (highly) hazardous waste.

The news spread on social media and groups such as ‘anti-radiation Vyatka’ formed, which then mobilized to write letters to President Putin, the local government and the Supreme Ataman of the Union of Cossacks, demanding that construction of the storage facility be stopped. Additionally, on 5 March 2017, a petition was organized by ‘anti-radiation Vyatka’ and flyers were distributed across the area warning residents of the potential plans. In response, RosRao stated that any plans would be discussed with residents and that no radioactive waste would be stored at the facility.

In April 2017, a public consultation was held to reassure residents that the village's safety was officials’ main priority and they discussed the possibility of allowing Maradykovky to store an additional 1,000 tonnes of waste. In total, 150 local residents showed up and vocalized their concerns that officials were not taking sufficient safety precautions. Ultimately, in October 2017 the local government prohibited the entry of chemical waste from other regions and instead proposed to convert Maradykovky into a pharmaceutical production company or recycling centre. However, in April 2019 a federal decree announced a new, unified framework for handling and monitoring Class I and II hazardous waste. A large national project would start in 2020 and convert all previous chemical weapons facilities into industrial engineering complexes. Rosatom, the State Nuclear Energy Corporation, is at the forefront of developing the legal regulation and procedures of dealing with Class I and II hazardous waste and RosRoa will work with it to oversee the building and management of the project. This announcement sparked an ongoing series of protests in Kirov Oblast, the first of which started on 17 June 2019.

People are worried about the health impacts since the facility is being constructed in a highly populated area. Also, they worry about the environmental impacts, because it is located next to the river Vyatka and will be constructed on marshy soil. In addition, the facility is located in a zone where earthquakes are allegedly prone to occur. The Regional Ministry of Environment stated that a referendum was impossible. Notably, on 30 June 2019, 600 people gathered in Kirov city and were joined by activists from the Shiyes camp and Fridays For Future ‒ the petition gained close to 600 signatures. In Shiyes in Arkhangelsk region authorities are building a landfill to deposit waste from Moscow permanently. Local citizens, excluded from decision making, fear health risks and environmental degradation. 18

The petition from Kirov city demanded five things: for the project to be cancelled and moved to a non-populated area; for the local government to ban the entry of dangerous waste into the region from other areas of the country; to convert the facility into something that would actually economically benefit the area; permission for an independent ecological investigation to take place and for a local referendum to decide whether or not the facility should be converted into an industrial engineering complex.

The protests continued, such as the one in August 2019 organized by the Communist Party attracting 50 people. Furthermore, in January 2020 there were protests in which 300 people took part. At this protest, it was prohibited to display any political slogans or symbols. Another p. 653protest was announced for November 2020 in light of the publication of the official ecological report; however, people were banned from gathering. The official investigation concluded that the project was safe. In response, an independent investigation took place, conducted by counter-experts of the Union for Chemical Safety. The scientific group struggled to gain access to the project's documentation and was finally granted access via a court decision. The experts had difficulty making sense of the plans.

In Slovenia – Closing Down a Lafarge Factory 19

There are several cases in the EJAtlas of complaints against cement factories because of the health risks of burning waste in cement kilns (as a measure that is supposed to save GHG emissions from fossil fuels). As an outcome of one of these conflicts, a Goldman Prize was given in 2017 to a local activist in Slovenia: the farmer Uroš Macerl. This was a small conflict in a small country, with a happy ending for the time being. The energy-guzzling cement industry plays a central role in the growth of social metabolism and economic growth. At the manufacturing end, there were complaints because of uncontrolled exhausts caused by the incineration of waste in a cement factory belonging to the transnational Lafarge Cement in Trbovlje. The company argued that they operated within the normal range of permitted emissions, but locals thought otherwise. The scientific facts were in dispute, and the issue was seen as urgent. They formed an EJO called Eko Krog.

For decades, air pollution from local manufacturing operations had been settling over the narrow valleys in central Slovenia's historically industrial towns. Dangerous emissions affected forests, wildlife and people. Cancer rates in the region outpaced the rest of the country. Among these companies was Lafarge Cement, which in 2003 took over a 130-year-old cement plant in Trbovlje. Lafarge received strong support from the local government. The company promised jobs and denied that its emissions would harm residents. Its assertions were met with scepticism by citizens. Among them were the members of Eko Krog, the local environmental group organized by volunteers. Uroš Macerl was the president of Eko Krog and an organic farmer whose family farm sits on the outskirts of the Lafarge plant. He grew up on the farm belonging to his grandfather. Many farmers suffered losses as industrial pollution wiped out the three most vital elements of their livelihood: clean air, soil and water. When he was 23 years old, Macerl took over his family's farm but gave up the fields and orchards because air pollution made growing crops impossible.

Unwilling to accept the injustice to his community, Macerl began organizing farmers, residents and local groups to collect air quality data that showed increased dangerous pollutants. He presented the data to the media, as well as local and national authorities. But his arguments fell on deaf ears as job creation was prioritized at the expense of air quality. After enduring years of pollution from the cement plant, Macerl came to a breakthrough in 2009 when Lafarge applied for an environmental permit to co-incinerate hazardous industrial waste with petcoke. The company claimed that only areas within 500 m of the main chimney stack would be affected by the emissions. Part of Macerl's property fell within the pollution zone outlined in Lafarge's plans, granting him legal standing to challenge the permit application.

The Slovenian government rubber-stamped the permit, and Lafarge began incinerating over 100 tons of waste on a daily basis. Macerl filed and won a lawsuit that cancelled the permit, but Lafarge continued to burn petcoke and waste. Noting the Slovenian authorities’ failure to enforce the court ruling, Eko Krog and Macerl informed the European Union. Meanwhile, p. 654Macerl rallied community opposition while simultaneously managing his farm. As president of Eko Krog, he kept the community updated on the legal proceedings. The European Commission sided with Macerl and requested that Slovenia be brought before the European Court of Justice for its failure to enforce EU pollution standards. The national authorities finally ordered Lafarge to halt production. The National Agency for Environment repealed the environmental permit for the incineration of waste in cement factories.

Fracking in Lancashire, UK 20

Some of several successful struggles against fracking in Europe took place in the UK – in Sussex and also in the North of England. Here we consider the 2014‒19 struggle against Cuadrilla Resources, a UK energy company that announced that it was applying for permission to carry out horizontal high pressure hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of four wells at each of two sites in Lancashire. One site is at Little Plumptons, also referred to as the Preston New Road Site, a few miles from Blackpool. These applications were part of a larger plan to drill up to 100 wellpads in the licence area (PEDL 165) covering 1180 km2. Each horizontal well could travel over 2 km underground. This means practically every square metre of the area would be fracked under. Drilling companies believed trillions of cubic feet of shale gas may be recoverable from beneath parts of the UK and more than 200 onshore exploration licences were awarded to energy companies. In 2011, all fracking was suspended in the UK after it caused earthquakes near Blackpool, but the ban was lifted later.

In August 2014, an ad-hoc group calling themselves the Nanas staged a three-week anti-fracking occupation on one of the fields in the planning area, with the support of Reclaim the Power. Cuadrilla, which had rented the field from a farmer, argued that the occupation caused disruption and distress to the farmer's family and his business, and applied for an injunction to prevent further protests in the area. The company was granted the injunction to prevent activists from entering land in October 2014. A member of the Nanas, Tina Louise Rothery, was the only named defendant in the case and Cuadrilla's legal costs were awarded against her. She refused to pay the £55,000 legal fees and in December 2016 a judge discharged the order against her and she was spared jail.

Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) obtained a reversal of Lancashire County Council's recommendation to grant Cuadrilla's application on 29 June 2015. Cuadrilla's fracking applications to create 90 seismic activity monitoring stations were refused by the Development Control Committee (DCC). Over 50,000 people signed a petition calling for a rejection of the fracking applications. The share price of iGas dropped sharply after the council's announcement. The Council's refusal of the licences came after PNRAG employed experts to give evidence at the hearings to explain technical aspects of fracking instructing a barrister to advise the DCC members of their legal position, which contradicted the Council's own legal advice. Friends of the Earth provided their own similar assessment. The DCC refused the applications on noise, traffic and landscape grounds. Here we have a classic PNS case again: facts in dispute, different values at stake and uncertainty about the risks.

Cuadrilla Resources was not a powerful multinational and the Nanas were indeed a grassroots EJO supported by Friends of the Earth and expertly trained lawyers. Cuadrilla appealed the Council's decision. A public inquiry ensued and the appeal was upheld by the Government on 6 October 2016. The decision to allow fracking in Lancashire was only the second licence to permit fracking (as opposed to exploratory work) in the UK, and the first p. 655to involve horizontal drilling. PNRAG's lawyers Leigh Day claimed the Government's decision appeared to be in breach of Lancashire County Council's development plan, as well as in breach of the correct planning law tests. PNRAG submitted legal proceedings at the High Court against the Government's decision. Meanwhile, Cuadrilla began surface construction work at the site in January 2017. Cuadrilla stopped drilling after multiple earth tremors. Fracking resumed on 15 August 2019, but activity was suspended 11 days later, after the UK's largest fracking-induced seismic event. In September, after the Nanas celebrated 1,000 days of activism at Preston New Road, Cuadrilla announced that it was giving up. (The Observer, 13 October 2019).

In summary, in 2014 the Nanas had captured a field under planning application by Cuadrilla hopping over the fence, setting up tents and claiming squatters’ rights, staying for three weeks.

By the time they left, the Nanas had earned the support of 14,000 local residents and appointments at Manchester's High Court, and their action, along with that of other campaigners, led to Lancashire County Council rejecting Cuadrilla's fracking application, a decision later overturned by the then secretary of state, Sajid Javid.

The Nanas mounted an ironic and emotional war of attrition against Cuadrilla. At the entrance to the Preston New Road site, they sang, danced, knitted, prayed, read poems and monologues, and obstructed fracking activity wherever possible. Every Wednesday, dressed in white, they staged a call for calm at a site where tensions between protesters and police sometimes erupted into violence (The Observer, 13 October 2019). I find it moving to read that, jumping scales, the “Anti-Fracking Lancashire Nanas” were to appear in 2021 at the Cop26 rally in Glasgow alongside Greta Thunberg (M. Holmes, Lancashire Post, 28 October 2021).


Scientists were active in the ecological distribution conflicts summarized in this chapter as they are in many other cases in the EJAtlas and the outside world. Though they are rarely the main protagonists. Environmental risks do not spread evenly across social classes and geographies, and we find example after example where the affected urban or rural communities, or occupational groups (such as waste-pickers) ask for help from scientists (“Activists mobilizing Scientists”) searching for their knowledge on the impacts that old or new investments might have. A variety of arguments are displayed in the EIA procedures, in court cases or when asking for reparations for damages. Often issues are transnational, and awareness of ecologically unequal exchanges or Raubwirtschaft helps to construct coalitions across the world to protest the environmental injustices. Colonial relations usually dominate deliberative processes of consultation on soybean or LNG trade, coal mining and burning, copper and gold production for export, and there is also internal colonialism within countries stopping scientific deliberation. We have pointed in this chapter to some positive North–South connections (Norway state company with Brazilian activists; Australian support to Malaysian activists).

As Temper et al. (2015, 2018, 2020), Scheidel et al. (2020, 2023), Navas et al. (2022) have explained, the EJAtlas provides empirical, statistical material for a research agenda that contributes to understanding how inequalities (economic, social and epistemic) are shaped p. 656through changes in socio-metabolic growth and transformations in the economy. Unequal power relations are contested through the co-production of scientific knowledge on soil pollution, air pollution, dead fish in rivers, endangered species, radioactivity, seismic risks …The commodities that appear in this chapter are similar to those in other chapters: pesticides, herbicides, soybeans, paper pulp, aluminium, hydropower, rare earths, copper, gold, lead, cement, petcoke, uranium, coal, oil, gas (and LNG) and chemical weapons. The EJAtlas integrates activist and scientific knowledge into the research on environmental justice movements. It includes many examples of contested nuclear risks or risks from asbestos or endosulfan, kidney disease in sugarcane and rice plantations, alleged contamination with lead, sulphur dioxide, arsenic, mercury and dioxin, as well as protests related to heavy metals or particulates from CFPP, and to the risks of waste incineration. Many different sciences are involved. Scientists help environmentalists, sometimes with success. Sometimes medical doctors in the pay of companies hide the facts, and sometimes they dispel uncertainties.

The increased and changing metabolism requires new materials and sources of energy, and at the same time, this creates new uncertain risks to the environment and to human health. Such risks are not social-class or caste or gender neutral. While state policies are failing in general to stop excessive GHG emissions, loss of biodiversity and local toxic pollution, the grassroots complaints are sometimes more effective. International alliances are born such as GAIA (against incineration) backed by scientific knowledge.

What are then the relations between world movements for environmental justice and Post-Normal Science? In Silvio Funtowicz's own crystal-clear summary, 21

A good example of a problem requiring post-normal science is the actions that need to be taken to mitigate the effects of sea level rise consequent on global climate change. All the causal elements are uncertain in the extreme, at stake is much of the built environment, and the settlement patterns of people, what to save and what to sacrifice is in dispute, and the window for decision-making is shrinking. […] In such contexts of policy-making, normal science (in the Kuhnian sense) is still necessary, but no longer sufficient. We can locate post-normal science in relation to the more traditional problem-solving strategies in the figure (Figure 28.2). This has two axes:

  • ‘Systems uncertainties’, which conveys the principle that the problem is concerned not with the discovery of a particular fact, but with the comprehension or management of an inherently complex reality.

  • ‘Decision stakes’ which concern all the various costs, benefits and value commitments that are involved in the issue through the various stakeholders.

When systems uncertainties or decision stakes are small, we are in the realm of ‘normal’ science, where expertise is fully effective. When either system uncertainties or decision stakes rise then skill, judgement and sometimes even courage are required. This is the realm of professional consultancy. And when either or both system uncertainties or decision stakes are high, this is the realm of post-normal science. In post-normal science, the solutions are evaluated by the criteria of the broader affected communities… Nevertheless, post-normal science is a valid form of inquiry and not merely politics or public participation.

PNS is a crucial contribution in its own terms to the philosophy and sociology of science. It must not be intellectually and politically assimilated to one more postcolonial call for “listening to the subaltern” (Coronil 1994). PNS does not preach democratic participation in conflicts for its own sake, and environmental justice as the supreme goal. PNS is a “type of science”, useful for “policy making” when facts are uncertain, decisions stakes are large and p. 657values are disputed. In Funtowicz's words: “The epistemological analysis of post-normal science, rooted in the practical tasks of quality assurance, shows that such an extension of peer communities […] is necessary for the effectiveness of science in meeting the new challenges of global environmental problems”.

I then conclude this chapter with the following two points:

  1. How does PNS contribute to global political ecology?

  2. What contributions, if any, does this book make to PNS?

In this book I focus on the grassroots actions of an environmentalism of the people denouncing damage to human and environmental health, trying to stop resource extraction and pollution. Such movements sometimes achieve “degrowth in practice”, they are indeed practical “policy-makers”. While governments and companies try to reduce complexity by claiming that risks are known and will be safely managed, and that economic benefits compensate for the socio-environmental damages, communities point to other uncertain aspects and time dimensions that should be taken into account. Usually, the damage done cannot be later amended; and it certainly cannot be measured only in monetary terms. The legitimation of the opinions, interests and values of the affected communities is therefore one main help from PNS to political ecology. This legitimation of ways of knowing and different valuation languages through the extension of “peer communities” is in itself a great contribution to the recognition and participation of the dispossessed and downtrodden in environmental conflicts. This is independent, so to speak, of the role of PNS in the epistemology of complex realities.

In its turn, how does this book on global political ecology contribute to PNS? As we compare the Slovenian, Canadian, Lancashire UK or United States cases in this chapter to the Telangana and Assam (India), Fujian (China), Mongolian, South African, Brazilian, Argentinian, Malaysian, Russian cases, we demand more attention from PNS practitioners towards local contexts where the social actors are often rendered voiceless, killed, displaced, jailed, frightened and otherwise reduced to silence. Sometimes dialogues would be possible but the authorities do not allow them.

In the South as in the North, activist knowledge is easily despised. Under authoritarian regimes, moreover, activists are not easily allowed to come onto the stage. Though relatively powerless, they try to make themselves heard by appealing to national or international scientists or other supporters across gulfs of cultural distance. The possibilities of PNS, deliberative democracy and “extended peer review” are curtailed by the structural or open violence in areas long subject to coloniality and racism. As Banerjee plainly writes, “postcolonial critiques of corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and stakeholder engagement practices show that colonial relations dominate deliberative processes of consultation between Indigenous communities and multinational corporations in the extractive industries” (Banerjee 2021). The brutality of extractivism does not fit with the niceties of public participation informed by sound scientific knowledge.

Sometimes, getting killed allows subaltern voices to reach wider audiences – as with Chico Mendes, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Gloria Capitan, Berta Caceres, Fikile Ntshangase and so many other environmental defenders. This is the real world, far away from diplomatic courteous collective debates recognizing the legitimacy of different problem framings, in terms of both facts and values. It is rather a world of naked power, violence and incommensurability of values.p. 658



Rio Tinto's Rössing Uranium Mine, Namibia, EJAtlas. See also Chapter 10.

Areva Uranium Mines in Agadez, Niger (Valentina Bassanese), EJAtlas.

Areva Uranium mining in Imouraren, Niger (Zahra Moloo), EJAtlas.


Radiation and sheep: Sellafield (formerly Windscale), Cumbria, UK (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.


Love Canal dump site at Niagara Falls, USA (Sara Orvis), EJAtlas.


Koop, F. (2018). Glyphosate use on the rise in Argentina, despite controversy, Buenos Aires Times, 13 January.

Aerial Fumigation with glyphosate in the Putumayo, Colombia (Lucie Greyl), EJAtlas.

Monsanto and soy monocultures, Argentina, (Lucie Greyl), EJAtlas.


Indigenous tribe battle Crow Butte Uranium Mine, Nebraska, USA (Ciara Leonard and Ksenija Hanaček), EJAtlas.


Planta de licuefacción de gas de Sempra Energy en Ensenada, Baja California, México (Ensenada Resiste and Yannick Deniau), EJAtlas.

Zazueta Martínez, I. (2021). Sempra Energy en Ensenada: gas con aroma a desvío de poder, La Jornada del campo, 16 October.


Digby Island proposed Nexen Aurora LNG (fracked gas) export facility, BC, Canada (Karl Frost), EJAtlas.

Pole, G. (2016). Prince Rupert at Risk: LNG tanker danger is the elephant on the water, The Common Sense Canadian, 16 January.


Aguiar, D. (FASE), Cardoso, A. (INESC) and Vecchione, M. (2015). The marketing behind poisoning people (NAEA/UFPA). EJOLT, 27 October.

Hydro Alunorte alumina refinery in Barcarena, Pará, Brazil, EJAtlas.

Marinko, J. (2018). Brasilien: Indigener Führer und Umweltaktivist ermordet, Amerika21, 20 March.


Wastepickers and residents of Sarzedo struggle against incinerators, Minas Gerais, Brazil (EnvJustice MS), EJAtlas.


Sasol pollutes Sasolburg, Mpumalanga, the Vaal River and other areas, South Africa (Dalena Tran), EJAtlas.


Sappi Ngodwana, South Africa (Philip Owen), EJAtlas.


Oyu Tolgoi very large copper and gold mine, Rio Tinto, Mongolia (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

Goodland, R. (2012). The Oyu Tolgoi Copper & Gold Mine Project. Comments on Chapter D1 of the ESIA: “Environmental and Social Management Plan Framework”. 32 pages, dated July 31, prepared October.

Bankwatch Network, Mining boom in Mongolia.


Lead poisoning by Shanghang Huaqiang Battery Company, Fujian, China (Malena Bengtsson).


Lynas Refinery in Kuantan, Malaysia,(Anitra Nelson and Lee Tan), EJAtlas.


Coal mining in Dehing Patkai, Assam, India (Anwesha Borthakur and Brototi Roy), EJAtlas.


Uranium mining proposed within the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, Telangana, India (Eleonora Farnari), EJAtlas.


Maradykovsky chemical weapon facility, Russia, EJAtlas.


Shiyes Landfill in Arkhangelsk region, Russia (Carola Rackete), EJAtlas.


Lafarge cement Trbovlje, Slovenia (Lidja Zivcic), EJAtlas.


Preston New Road Fracking Site (aka Little Plumptons), UK (Rhia Weston), EJAtlas.


Funtowicz, S. (2021). A quick guide to post-normal science, Integration and Implementation Insights, 19 October.

Monograph Book