Progress in Liberia, Tanzania, and South Africa

E-LAW U.S. honors the growing corps of grassroots advocates in Africa. Together, we are building the capacity to protect the environment for generations to come. We are pleased to report on recent victories and current work.

New Environmental Law for Liberia

Lawyers at Green Advocates, Monrovia, Liberia
Lawyers at Green Advocates, Monrovia, Liberia.

E-LAW U.S. has worked since 2001 to build Liberia’s first public interest environmental law organization, Green Advocates. Until recently, Liberia has lacked basic statutes protecting the environment. Lawyers at Green Advocates have called on E-LAW U.S. and E-LAW advocates around the world to review a draft environmental law for their country.

Alfred Brownell of Green Advocates recently wrote with good news: "After more than three years of hard work and lobbying, Liberia now has three instruments providing for the protection of the environment and the sustainable management of Liberia’s natural resources... This work would not have been accomplished had it not been for the good comments and valuable information provided by numerous [E-LAW] Amigos."

Helping Tanzanians Protect Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake, is threatened by water pollution, especially nutrients that promote runaway growth of invasive weeds that starve the lake of oxygen. E-LAW’s partners in Tanzania at the Lawyers` Environmental Action Team (LEAT) external link are seeking to restore Lake Victoria by forcing polluters to comply with environmental standards. Two such polluters are large fish-processing plants in the Gulf of Mwanza, Tanzania, that discharge fish carcasses and untreated wastewater into the lake.

Thanks to a grant from the Alice C. Tyler Perpetual Trust, E-LAW U.S. has provided LEAT with funds to pay for measuring pollutants in wastewater discharged by the fish-processing plants. This project will enable LEAT to obtain hard proof that the plants are violating the law and call on them to improve their waste disposal practices. LEAT collected samples of contaminated wastewater in April 2004 and expects to receive laboratory results soon.

Fighting Toxic Waste in South Africa

An ill-advised incinerator. Shongweni, South AfricaAn ill-advised incinerator. Shongweni, South Africa.

Local governments in South Africa are wrestling with the question of what to do with thousands of tons of medical waste generated by hundreds of health care facilities throughout the country.

Incineration companies are pushing to build poorly designed medical waste incinerators that endanger public health by releasing dioxins and heavy metals into the environment. Fortunately, grassroots South African lawyers at the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) external link are helping steer South Africa toward more sustainable solutions for medical waste management.

LRC is teaming with E-LAW U.S. to derail plans for flawed incinerators. South Africa requires proponents of new incinerators to prepare environmental impact assessments (EIAs) that describe the projects and their likely impacts on the environment and public health. This EIA process is designed to enable communities to participate in decisions about local medical waste incinerators. However, EIA documents are lengthy and technical. Often, lawyers and communities in developing countries have little or no experience reviewing EIAs and evaluating their adequacy.

E-LAW U.S. Staff Scientists worked with LRC’s lawyers to evaluate five EIAs submitted by incinerator proponents in South Africa. E-LAW U.S. found serious flaws in each EIA, including designs that failed to include technologies for controlling emissions of dioxins and heavy metals, and studies that failed to properly assess how dioxin emissions would impact local cancer rates.

With this support, LRC has stopped each of these medical waste incinerators from moving forward and protected South African communities from tons of toxic emissions. E-LAW U.S. continues to work with LRC to promote more sustainable ways to manage medical waste.

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Liberia celebrates a new environmental law, helping Tanzanians protect Lake Victoria, and fighting toxic waste in South Africa.