Holcim and environmental justice

5 May 2011 - A Meeting for environmental justice and Holcim repudiation" was held today, in the camp set up by the Pro-health Apaxco-Atotonilco Movement to prevent the operation of the waste mixing plant for alternative fuel of Ecoltec company. This facility is a subsidiary of Holcim, the multinational cement company, and has been responsible for a series of pollution incidents that have affected the health of the community, and cost the lives of 11 of its members.

The Meeting was convened by the local movement, the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA), Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) and mexican organizations Otros Mundos Chiapas and Marea Creciente. It took place on the same day that HOLCIM held its annual meeting of shareholders, in Dübendorf, Switzerland, and on the same day that the camp turn to its second year.

The event featured a panel of guests and members of the Pro-health Movement, to a local audience of about 200 people.

The Master of Science and Director of the Center for Analysis and Action on Toxics and Alternatives (CAATA), Fernando Bejarano, spoke about the risks and impacts associated with the incineration of hazardous and non hazardous waste in cement kilns, a practice that started under the false pretense of sustainable production (that would replace fossil fuel use). This was part of a joint strategy agreed in 1999 by the industry's largest firms: LAFARGE, HOLCIM and CEMEX.

Bejarano explained some historic milestones of development and social conflict in the cement industry in the area, with multinational presence of the firms mentioned above plus lime plants, all very close to the population. Finally, he mentioned the acute and chronic effects on human health caused by the most common emissions of this process: nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulates, organic compounds and heavy metals.

Then, Domingo Lechón, from Otros Mundos Chiapas, reviewed some information on production and economic expansion of cement industry and HOLCIM in Latin America, and spoke about several cases of conflicts in the region involving the multinational as the main aggressor of communitie's rights and environment ("Holcim in Latin America: Case Studies". This paper was prepared by ATALC and includes cases of Guatemala and Colombia, besides that of Apaxco, Mexico. [Download here: http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/pdfs/2011/holcim-in-latin-america-case-studies/view]

Eduardo Giesen, co-coordinator of GAIA in Latin America, expressed the Alliance´s support for the struggle of the Pro-Health Apaxco-Atotonilco Movement against the reopening of the Ecoltec plant and negative impacts of burning waste in cement plants, a major emerging campaign theme within this global alliance.

He emphasized the challenge of unity that should keep the movement together to demand the political and health authorities to fulfill their responsibility to ensure welfare as well as individual and collective integrity of members of Apaxco and Atotonilco communities against contamination of the cement industry and other megasources in the area.

Finally, Victor Hernández Arce, a member of the Pro-health Apaxco-Atotonilco movement reaffirmed the commitment of the local organization to stand up for its rights in the environmental stuggle against ECOLTEC and HOLCIM, in the framework of the struggle for environmental justice in Mexico.


GAIA: Eduardo Giesen, eduardo@no-burn.org
Otros Mundos Chiapas: Domingo Lechón, domingolechon@otrosmundoschiapas.org