CommunitY ACTIONS

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA

From that day, wives of the fishermen attempted through various means to secure the release of their husbands and did not find any solution. It was in this context that a priest from Kerala, India visited NAFSO. When the women learned that the priest had come to Sri Lanka, they went to meet him. Since then, women have joined the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement [NAFSO]. Under the guidance of the National Convener of NAFSO, women fought on many fronts and also protested outside of the Ministry of Fisheries until their husbands were freed.

Since then, Sri Vimukthi has been leading many struggles whenever fisherfolk rights are violated, and not limited to fishing-related struggles only; we have joined hands with farmers, plantation workers, displaced communities, war-affected people and also with workers.  

In light of the awareness campaign started in 2014 by the Peoples Movement Against Port City, Sri Vimukhti realized that the Colombo International Financial City [CIFC] – also known as the new Port City Colombo – was an illegal project, and so mobilized more fellow community members against it. The leaflets prepared by NAFSO and PMAPC were used to educate communities, focusing on the detail of the CIFC, rather than just sand mining as had been done previously by actions led by the Catholic church.

We first conducted an in-depth education programme with selected women leaders. They played a major role, collecting signatures in fishing villages for a people’s petition  by PMAPC. The protest letters were sent to the Coast Conservation Department [CCD] and handed over to the same agency as the scoping agency of the CIFC. Herman Kumara, National Convener; Hemantha Vithanage, Chairperson, Friends of the Earth?; Sajeewa Chamikara, environmentalist, handed over the papers in front of the Ministry of isheries. All these campaigns were organized with the discussions held among the PMAPC Members. We used social media to mobilize people. One of the campaigns were launched during Christmas season. Hence we had to make several telephone calls other than email communication, sending letters and organizing community meetings.

There were several campaigns launched by the PMAPC during the Presidential election campaign of 2014, in which the opposition promised to stop CIFC once elected. As a result of the agitations, the president elected in January 2015 decided to stop the project temporarily and study the impacts on the communities. Between February and August 2015 the project was on hold due to people pressure and the government of Sri Lanka came up with a solution to deal with the project, saying, “Unless we continue the CIFC construction, the country needs to pay huge penalty as the China Harbour Engineering Company would sue the government, so we need to continue according to the agreement of previous regime.”

The first image in the gallery underneath the text shows PMAPC led a campaign to hand over the petition to the Coast Conservation Department as the scoping agency of the CIFC EIA process and project approving agency. Herman Kumara, National Convener, Hemantha Vithanage, Chairperson, FOE, Sajeewa Chamikara, Environmentalist, with the papers in front of the ministry of fisheries. All these campaigns were organized with the discussions held among the PMAPC Members. We used social media to mobilize people. One of the campaigns were launched during Christmas season. Hence we had to make several telephone calls other than email communication, sending letters and organizing community meetings.

The second image shows Sri Vimukthi Fisher Women Organization leaders together with PMAPC engaged in several campaigns in Negombo, Colombo, Chilaw and many other areas along the western and north western coastal belt. For these campaigns, there were several fisheries organizations other than SVFWO and NAFSO engaged. MONLAR, CEJ, Small Scale Fisheries Trade Union, LST, Janawaboda Kendraya and many more organizations got together to organize campaigns in Colombo.

The third and forth images show Seminars, Street agitations, Round Table Discussions, Media briefing and Stake Holders Meetings were conducted to in several occasions to raise the awareness, register people’s protests, dialogue with policy makers throughout the campaign launched during this period.

The PMAPC brought various sectors together to highlight how the CIFC would affect the country. The scholars looked into how the economy, environment, food security, fisheries, social life would be affected by the CIFC and presented their reports. Based on the reports, PMAPC prepared a book and this was also used as educational material which circulated widely among various communities. The editorial board was formed and editors met communities, scholars, media and journalists. Most of the team members voluntarily served, considering the issue as an important national matter. One of the Bishop of Methodist Church was very much inspired by the group at the time whenthe Catholic Church gave up their campaign and deserted the fishers, and other members agitated against the CIFL.

PMAPC wanted to keep the momentum of people’s agitations with various activities. Several campaigns were launched in several places to stage protest against the CIFC.

The campaign continues with the limited number of groups and the Coordinator of Sri Vimukthi Fisher Women Organization leading the People’s Movement Against Port City with the support of concerned community members and the CSOs, media and religious groups.

Subashini Deepa, Coordinator of Sri Vimukthi. December 2021

PIRAEUS, GREECE

We made posters and flyers to invite other citizens around the port to contribute to monitoring and to collect testimonials. The Observatory of Piraiki-Piraeus was born as a spontaneous and collective method to monitor the environmental damage related to port construction.

Photos were taken from many locations around the port: Elefsina, Salamis, Drapetsona, etc. Citizens were documenting changes in the landscape. Right now the observatory also counts on a small boat that is sent out to spot any illegal dredging happening in the sea.

The observatory obtained the support of Tselentis Vassilis, a great professor of the University of Piraeus, working on environmental monitoring in maritime environments. Thanks to the observatory, we have enough evidence for solid scientific work about the environmental damages caused by port construction. Now we are about to transform the Observatory into a non-profit for the study and protection of public health, environment and climate.

During lockdown, we also organised public action, and made an outdoor installation with childrens’ paintings about their perceptions of the port’s impacts. The paintings were fixed on the trees along the seaside road of Piraiki, but the police came and destroyed them. But after we made them again.

In 2020 we also won in court, obtaining a temporary restriction to halt dredging operations. We also organised marches, such as the one for the protection of the monuments the Tomb of Themistokles and the Kononion wall.

 

Dimitra Vini, from the group ‘OHI LIMANI STIN PIRAIKI’ (No port in Piraiki peninsula). October 2021

GENOA, ITALY

After creating our committee, we collected more than 2,000 signatures via word-of-mouth. We then organized two demonstrations in May 2018 and May 2019, as well as conferences and workshops, creating awareness on the pollution problem that affects port areas. No public demonstrations took place in 2020 and 2021 because of Covid-19- Our protests were based initially on our sensorial experience: black or even yellow smoke, bad smells, ship noise and dark dust on the external surfaces of our buildings, and even on our hanging laundry. Back in August 2011, at the request of a person who later participated in the creation of the committee, the municipal police measured the sound reaching his apartment from the port at 10 pm. Before the departure of well known ferry the sound level was 54.4 dB, while after its departure the residual level measured was at 42.3 dB. The limit set for night time was 50dB.

 

As well as noise, other official data on atmospheric pollution have been made available by ARPAL. Their equipment records the atmospheric concentrations of various pollutants: NO2, SO2, ozone, carbon monoxide, fine dust (in some stations) and even benzene. The measurements are available on the ARPAL website, hour by hour. However, despite this mass of data, marine traffic is still obscured. The control unit closest to the port is located in Via Bruno Buozzi, but is located on a road with heavy traffic and at street level. Consequently, this control unit ends up mainly monitoring road traffic. The other control unit next to the port is in Corso Firenze. Crossing that data with those about the movement of the ships, however, you can still see peaks in the detection curves.

 

Between 19-23 June 2016, the association Cittadini per l’Aria, which is linked to our Committee  in Genoa, measured ultra-fine particles from the Hotel Savoia in Piazza Principe (about 800 mt from the sea): during the docking and departure maneuvers of ships, particulate emissions were 40 times times higher than those of clean air areas. Research undertaken at the University of Genoa has shown how naval emissions contribute to the concentration of PM 2.5 in Genoa for about 10% of the total, with a clear increase in values in the summer season.

 

The problem of monitoring through control units is that they cannot determine the source of pollution. What is needed is the so-called ‘inventory of emissions’, which is able to consider international standards on emissions associated to the power of ship engines, as well as the traffic in the port. The 2015 report issued by ARPAL on atmospheric emissions revealed that maritime activities are most responsible for NOx emissions (62%) and particles (39%), followed by road traffic (26% and 28% respectively). The situation improves with favorable winds, which reduce NOx down to 40%, but gets worse in summer, when the winds are not favorable and there is high port traffic.

 

Availability of  precise and updated data should be a priority for City Hall and ARPAL in order to target the sources of emissions and to avoid European fines, which taxpayers end up paying. We have developed a more accurate method for an autonomous calculation of ship emissions, considering international references (EMEP/EEA air pollutant emission inventory guide book), but this data are not considered official.

 

Another important detail to consider when monitoring emissions from the port is the (increasing) age of the ships and ferries that circulate – some of them here in Genoa are more than 40 years old. The other polluting factor is the vertiginous increase of the number and dimensions of cruise ships, which even if they are less polluting compared with the past thanks to technological improvements, already have power with an electrical absorption of  more than 10 MW at berth. Every cruise ship uses the same power of a town, such as Ovada. The standards  that regulate the environmental impact of maritime traffic are the MARPOL (MARine POLlution), established by the IMO (International Maritime Organisation), but these standards are influenced by shipping companies. As an example, limits for NOx emissions are not applicable to ships built before 2000, while the Energy Efficiency Design Index – used to control the emission of CO2 – is not used for ships built before 2013. So older ships have a sort of environmental immunity.

 

It is estimated that premature deaths in Genoa caused by pollution (not only by maritime traffic) are about a hundred cases, with a similar number for severe hospitalizations. This is the direct cost, but there is also an indirect one. As reported by the previously mentioned document by ARPAL, an ongoing legal dispute is taking place with the European Commission for exceeding the annual average emission of NO2 (regulated by the 2008/50/CE) between 2010 and 2013.

 

Being aware of the importance of targeted monitoring, we also contacted the Environmental Department of the Liguria Region, demanding pluri-seasonal monitoring of pollutants in the more critical points of the area close to the Cruise Terminal and the Ferry Terminal of Genoa Harbour. According to these criteria, a few sensors will be placed by ARPAL inside of an international project. In parallel the above mentioned sensors will be integrated by some low-cost stations for controlling fine particles (PM10s and PM2,5s). This approach is known as “citizen science”.

 

Control of emissions of ships is in the hand of the Coast Guard (Capitaneria di Porto) . Controls of the ship’s oil and fuels are mainly two: the one indirect on log-books and the other direct by measuring the sulfur content in the fuel (in mass). According to Italian law, the first must be applied to 10% of the ships that enter the port (counting them once at year); the second control to the 30%. As a consequence the direct control can be limited to the 3% (2% before January 2020). On the other had control of NOx is generally applied through a document check. The direct method for measuring emissions (NOx , Sox, particulate, etc.) should be drilling the chimney and installing special sensors. Acquisitions and analyses should be carried out with special instrumentation, and rarely used. Five-six years ago seven ships have been inspected with this direct method in Genoa c/o ARPAL and Coast Guard. In one outstanding case direct results were non compliant with the certificates data.

 

With such ineffective laws, controls are scarce and there is a possibility for shipping companies to use not compliant fuels and/or not efficient equipment.

 

After long discussions and a number of meetings with the port institutions,  in July 2019 (agreement renewed at the beginning of 2021), the Coast Guard signed a  volunteer agreement with companies that own cruise ships. Nevertheless this agreement has not been signed by companies that own ferries and merchant ships.  The agreement is based on the use of fuels with low sulfur content at a decade of miles far from the port already.

There are some technological solutions that could improve the situation at berth, i.e. the so-called “cold ironing”.The Electric docks could be a solution to eliminate smoke and noise. Scrubbers are also useful for decreasing SOx  when burning heavy fuels but when in open loop they move pollution from air to sea. LNG or conversion to methanol are also alternative options (and in the future hydrogen). These options have also secondary effects, which should also be subject to inquiry. 

 

At a political level, the emissions are considered an inevitable fact by many institutions. In a follow-up meeting with city hall, the Mayor seemed concerned about the fact that if the above said volunteer agreement should be converted into ordinance shipping companies could decide to move to another port, with the city losing jobs.

It also emerged that the mayor has very little power over the port in the present system. According to us, our proposal however, would not produce a migration of shipping companies to other nearby ports as there are many committees of citizens that are taking action along the Tyrrhenian sea.

 

As a conclusion we remarked to institutions that shutting down the port can’t be a real option, in case of excessive pollution, as it is not the same as to prohibit circulation of some categories of cars in a city. The situation was not fantasy because we suffered from heavy pollution from ships during Covid-19 lock-down, when many cruise ships and ferries were at berth contemporarily.

In those circumstances some ships must be moved outside the port, by ordinance.

Enzo Tortello, from Comitato Tutela Ambientale Genova Centro-Ovest. November 2021

GENOA - PRA', ITALY

Without any consultation / agreement with the local citizens, and without any written, agreed compensation plan, during over 40 years of construction work the wonderful beach and shoreline was completely devastated and buried to realize a huge container harbour, today the biggest of Italy and one of the biggest of the Mediterranean sea. The construction of Pra’ harbour is one of the largest and more invasive “state-responsibility” environmental disaster in Italy after the second world war, by placing a massive commercial harbour just in front, just in touch, with valuable historical local downtown with buildings, churches, several centuries old villas. The verbal, scam, promise of 5.000 work places in the harbour for the local citizens never materialized, and as today the number of the few local citizens working in the harbour is much less than those working in the past for the bathhouses, hotels, restaurants and shipyard, fishing activities.

The original, cynical, plan of the complete burying of the shoreline was stopped “thanks” to the disastrous flood happened in year 1993, which caused one fatality and heavy damages to the ground floors of countless buildings, food by water and mud, event which made clear that forcing the local rivers into tubes to bury the beach was not a such brilliant idea. Therefore a channel was left between the shoreline and the harbour, at least over 2/3 of the length of the original beach. The flood as well “woke up” the local citizens, that until that time stayed just “at the window” looking passively at all that harbour chaos and environmental devastations. Their strong protests made possible to modify the harbour design and to obtain the channel and, beside it, a buffer zone, a “Fascia di Rispetto”, with a swimming pool, a football field, a rowing regatta field and long cyclo-pedestrian paths. Anyway, that huge space was left mostly in an abandoned, run-down, situation for over a decade, with the old, decommissioned, railway track site with its ruined walls acting as a barrier between the downtown and the new buffer zone.

In the mean time, the locally elected political representatives of the District of Pra’ were cancelled by Genova administration to create a wider district, again without any consultation / agreement with the people. Due to the missing of local representatives, a citizen city committee, the “Comitato per Pra’ “in 2007 was founded and started a several years protest campaign, with claiming banners hanged along the railway walls, claiming parades, heavily criticizing local authorities. Those actions, anyway, even if right and sacred, moreover supported by a new-born local newspaper “Il Praino”, didn’t substantially achieved the expected results, because the protests became a kind of “normal” situation, without nearly anybody, in Genova administration, 15 km + far away, really listening nor making the “extra mile” to fix the issues.

To get out of that unpleasant situation, in year 2014 “PRimA’vera” foundation was created by a group of local citizens having had important experiences in business and administration, at national and international levels, with the target to mobilize the town all around the common scope of transforming the “holy protest” to proposals and real actions. To change the trend and to “design the future Pra’, to get as nice as in the past, even in a different way”. The Foundation adopted completely new ways of working, implementing different tools than previous committees and spontaneous citizen groups, stopping street protests and contestations and starting a direct dialogue with the local authorities, with the companies operating in the harbour of Pra’, and with anybody who could help and give a hand. 

Showing respect for all but at the same time firmly asking for solutions, creating projects, drawings, rendering views mobilizing and using local citizens skills, talents work and professional experiences. Same as the popular Italian “Ritz” pretzels, “sweet one side and salted the other side” the Foundation organized countless meetings and conferences with authorities representatives, thanksgiving events one side, but as well, the other side, when needed, going for “protest mail bombings”, “popular petitions”, “See-Hear-Speak” trio street shows, which reveals to be very powerful for image and media impact with very small efforts compared to the nearly useless “mass protests” of the previous years. 

To amplify the voice of the local citizens the digital newspaper / paper magazine “SuPra’tutto” (www.supratutto.it) was founded, reaching some thousands of readers every day, and becoming the reference for the local information, especially for everything related to the harbour. The “open account” of the name of the harbour of Pra’, previously even wrongly named, was fixed, and step by step the “impossible” became possible. 

The dialogue straight with the European Commission, making available some funds for the rehabilitation of the local land, made possible the reshaping of 2/3 of Pra’ shoreline, which today is good looking and busy of runners, swimmers, rowers, joggers, especially after the creation of the “Sport Citadel” with its athletic track and as well, recently, the open public fitness machines area, realized by the Foundation. The PRimA’vera Foundation as well produced and edited 2 videos to visualize the journey to the Pra’ of the future which became very popular. One of the Foundation motto is “Gutta cavat lapidem” an old Latin proverb meaning that even a water drop, if well directed and persisting, time after time can even cut the stone. 

Foundation actions got the respect of the local authorities, bringing back as well the lost self-confidence and pride to Pra’ citizens, generating enthusiastic and positive side initiatives by several local associations, step by step enriching the local culture and territory. The problems generated by the harbour construction, and the daily problems arising from the container terminal operations are still heavy, there’s still a lot of work to do, anyway Pra’, as the “Phoenix”, is rebirthing from its same ashes, and has taken the right path to fix all those issues at best, sooner or later.

Guido Barbazza, from Fondazione PRimA’vera. November 2021