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Posted by on Jan 4, 2008 in At TMV | 1 comment

Saving Forests: Saluting Martyrs from USA to Malaysia…

logging in jungles

What is common between Kelesau Naan of Malaysia, Sister Dorothy Stang of America, Kinkri Devi of India, Chico Mendes of Brazil, and Aldo Zamora of Mexico? The real heroes who laid down their lives to protect the forests from loggers and miners. Except for Kinkri Devi, who died of natural causes recently, others were allegedly murdered by those who thought that they were providing obstacles in the rape of the forests.

Although armchair environmentalists/NGOs play a crucial role in highlighting conservation/Global Warming/other issues and raising them at the national and international fora, the sacrifices made by grassroots heroes usually goes unsung. The Times of London has done a fine job in bringing into focus the contribution of some such people…

“Kelesau Naan (of Malaysia) never went to school. He signed his name with a thumb print and spent his entire life living in the jungles of Borneo. But among his tribe, the Penan, he was a visionary and an inspiration.

“Now he is dead, possibly murdered, allegedly by agents of the loggers whose lucrative business he was putting in jeopardy. His broken skeleton was found last month – two months after he was reported missing – and yesterday 100 relatives and neighbours lodged a police report demanding an investigation. Micheal Ipa, his nephew, said: ‘We believe he has been killed by people involved in logging’.

“For years, he had organised his people in a desperate defence of their home and heritage: the pristine rain-forest in the deep interior of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

“Similar accusations were made in 2000, when Bruno Manser, a Swiss shepherd who became a prominent campaigner on behalf of the Penan, disappeared without trace while travelling alone through the forest. His remains were never recovered and he was declared dead by a Swiss court two years ago.”

Among others who died for the cause:

Sister Dorothy Stang, a 73-year-old American nun, was shot dead in Brazil in 2005 while fighting to protect the Terra do Meio region from loggers. Within days, the area was declared a protected site

Chico Mendes, a rubber tapper and environmental activist, became a posthumous icon in Brazil after he was murdered in 1988 by ranchers opposed to his campaign to protect the Amazon from deforestation

Aldo Zamora was collecting data on illegal logging for Greenpeace in Great Water forest, Mexico, when a logging gang ambushed his car and killed him in May 2007

Kinkri Devi went on hunger strike against a court’s refusal to hear her case against a mining project in Himachal Pradesh in India. She won her case and an award for her efforts. She died this week (To read her Obituary in The Times of London please click here…)

(Sources: Amnesty International; Times archives)

Photo above, courtesy The Times: Tied logs are hauled through the forests by bulldozers.

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