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Feb 25, 2014

Milieudefensie / FoE Netherlands: Harmful shale gas deal between Shell and Yanukovych must be halted

by Friends of the Earth Netherlands / Milieudefensie — last modified Feb 25, 2014 12:50 PM

AMSTERDAM, 25 February 2014 – Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands calls on Shell to break off a shale gas deal with Ukraine because of environmental damage and strong suspicions of corruption.

For the last several months, Milieudefensie and its sister organisation Zelenyi Svit / Friends of the Earth Ukraine have been researching the environmental impact of Shell's shale gas activities in Ukraine. This study shows that Shell is using harmful techniques in drilling for shale gas (1) that would be illegal in the Netherlands; polluted fracking water is being dumped into open reservoirs. In 2013, Shell entered into the deal with recently ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, representing Ukraine and the Ukrainian company Nadra Yuzivska. This happened in the presence of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (2).


Geert Ritsema, head of the energy and natural resources campaign at Milieudefensie: ‘Shell must withdraw its agreement with the Ukrainian state now that Yanukovych has been removed. The Ukrainian people never assented to shale gas. Ukrainians are being doubly penalised by Shell: the environment is being polluted as Shell is dumping toxic waste water into open reservoirs and it also seems that Nadra Yuzivska is being used to funnel money to Yanukovych and his supporters.’

Shell entered into the USD 10 billion shale gas deal with the Ukrainian government and the Nadra Yuzivska LLC company in Davos in January 2013. Nadra Yuzivska LLC receives half of the profits and 90 per cent of the company is owned by the state. 10 Per cent of this company, however, is in the hands of a small shadowy company (3) that has frequently been linked by the Ukrainian media to the Yanukovych faction. There are strong suspicions that the company serves as a cover to channel funds to the Yanukovych family (4).

Toxic fracking water in open reservoirs

In recent months, Milieudefensie and Friends of the Earth Ukraine investigated Shell’s drilling locations (5). They discovered that polluted drilling liquid and fracking water are being stored in open-air reservoirs, which are separated from the underlying ground by only a layer of plastic. The water in these reservoirs contains fracking chemicals and toxins such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and radioactive materials, which occur naturally deep underground. These substances are harmful to health when they get into groundwater or evaporate from the reservoirs into the air.

Geert Ritsema: ‘Shell employs a double standard and would rather drill for shale gas in countries where regulations and enforcement are not as strict. It is unacceptable that a Dutch company such as Shell – which wouldn’t dare to risk getting involved with shale gas in the Netherlands – can use these harmful and dangerous techniques in other countries.'

In the Netherlands, storing fracking water in open reservoirs is not permitted, due to the danger of leakage and the vaporisation of harmful substances such as benzene. Moreover, large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that has a great impact on climate change, vaporise in open reservoirs. If drilling fluids and fracking water are stored in sealed tanks, this gas can be captured, but not from open reservoirs (7).

Shale gas protests worldwide

In Ukraine, just as in the Netherlands, people’s objections to shale gas are increasing, based on the dangers of groundwater pollution, earthquakes and the impact on the landscape. Pavlo Khazan, campaign leader at Friends of the Earth Ukraine: ‘The Ukrainian people have never agreed to shale gas. A number of municipalities have declared themselves ‘shale gas free’. Now that Yanukovych has been ousted by the Ukrainian people, a new government must immediately end this contract with Shell.’

In the time to come, Milieudefensie will be investigating Shell’s shale gas activities in Ukraine, Argentina and South Africa. Together with sister organisations in the Friends of the Earth network we will try – just as in the Netherlands – to prevent or to stop drilling, to call on Shell to honour its responsibilities and to call on governments to make greater efforts toward clean energy.

For more details about our investigation in Ukraine, video material of the open reservoirs, interviews with local residents, and for more information about our national and international shale gas campaign, please contact our press office: +31 (0)20-5507333,

(1) Communications about Shell’s activities in Ukraine, such as in the media, always refer to shale gas; strictly speaking, however, it is not shale gas but tight gas that is referred to. This is gas that is trapped in compacted sandstone instead of slate (shale). The method of extraction, in which fracking takes place deep underground by pumping in highly pressurised water and chemicals, is for the most part the same as is done with shale gas and thus the risks and impact on the surroundings are comparable.

(2)  News item 24 January 2014: 'Ukraine and Shell sign $10bn shale gas deal'
In addition to the deal made in Davos in January 2013, Shell also has a partnership agreement with the Ukrainian gas company Ukrgazvydobuvannya for unconventional gas extraction in the same region. More information on both partnership agreements can be found on Shell’s Ukrainian website (in Ukrainian):

(3) SPK Geoservice (

(4) News items on the links between Yanukovych and Nadra Yuzivska LLC:
-Forbes news item (in Russian):
-Pravda news item (translated from Ukrainian by the Anticorruption Action Centre):
-News item: 'Ukraine to become shale gas superpower':

(5) Shell has a permit to drill for shale gas in an area of nearly 8,000 square kilometers between the cities of Kharkov and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. The first drilling was done at the end of 2013, and is now taking place at the second location. Images of the two drilling locations (Belyaevsky-400 near the village of Vesele and Novo Mechebylivska-100 near the village of Alisivka ) can be requested from Milieudefensie.  Shell plans to carry out drilling in ten locations in 2014 and start commercial shale gas extraction in Ukraine in 2015 (news item 27 January 2014: 'Ukraine’s cooperation with Shell expanded'

(6) Four reservoirs measuring 7,500 m3 are situated at the drilling locations. At the Belyaevsky-400 drilling location, three reservoirs are currently filled with fluid and drilling waste; the fourth reservoir is intended for fracking water storage. At the Novo Mechebylivska-100 drilling location, reservoirs have been dug but are not yet in use.

(7) Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 83 times as powerful as CO2 for the first 20 years. In the Environmental Impact Report for the Belyaesvska-400 drilling location, Shell stated that the methane emissions during the fracking phase would be 15.7 tonnes (Table 4.2.18 line 7, column 7 p. 54 A study on comparable shale gas wells in the US with both open reservoirs and sealed storage tanks including methane capturing installations (Allen et al. 2013) shows that average emissions in the fracking phase is 1.7 tonnes of methane. The lowest measured emission in that study was 0.04 tonnes of methane, with the use of the best available techniques such as also required by the European shale gas guidelines. Methane emissions at Belyaesvska-400 are thus nearly 400 times higher than permitted European limits.

Feb 21, 2014

Friends of the Earth Europe - Ukraine: violence must end

by Friends of the Earth Europe — last modified Feb 21, 2014 11:05 AM

The violence must end in Ukraine. Friends of the Earth Europe expresses its solidarity with our colleagues in Ukraine and all the victims of violence.

Friends of the Earth Europe calls on the European Union to undertake all possible diplomatic steps to end the abhorrent violence witnessed in the streets of Kiev, Ukraine. Standing in solidarity with Friends of the Earth Ukraine/Zeleny Svit, we are deeply concerned for the safety of all citizens, and express our sympathies for the victims of brutality.


Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the Ukraine, and condemn the violence. The Ukrainian government must bring an immediate end to brutality on Kiev's streets, for the sake of its citizens, and democracy."

Friends of the Earth International is demanding that all charges against Friends of the Earth Ukraine member Vadim Shebanov, and other activists arrested and detained by the police during a peaceful protest in the city of Dnipropetrovsk on January 26, are dropped. Mr Shebanov, who is a well-known activist and former deputy of the Dnipropetrovsk regional council, was engaged in an effort to try and open negotiations between local authorities and protesters gathered in the city centre.

Feb 10, 2014

South Africa - Fracking: another chip at our democracy

by Anti-fracking coalition South Africa — last modified Feb 10, 2014 11:19 AM

Statement anti-fracking coalition South Africa

South African Minister of Mineral Resources Susan Shabangu’s comments that government is going to be moving ahead “decisively” on shale gas exploration in the Karoo is in stark contrast to what people in the Karoo want. As part of their constitutional rights, they are asking for agrarian transformation; employment and decent jobs; decent levels of affordable basic services and infrastructure; and at minimum, the basic goods of human life, starting with the most basic levels of goods like nutritious food, and safe and comfortable accommodation. This is what is needed for the Karoo, not a plan for fracking that is extractive and will leave the Karoo with a toxic environmental and social legacy.

It is critical that the government listens to those who will be the most vulnerable to the impacts of fracking. It is not about “a public campaign to visit communities who may be affected to explain what will happen”, as the Minister says will happen. It is about doing the right thing for the well-being of the people of the Karoo and their natural environment. Telling people what will happen is an agenda of the elite who will benefit from the extraction of gas from the Karoo basin.

This is an undemocratic agenda, and undemocratic process. We urge the government to properly consult the people in the Karoo and work out an inclusive developmental strategy that will improve the livelihood of people in the Karoo. The people of the Karoo need to be given space to come up with a developmental plan that suits them, and a plan that will benefit them over a long period of time. Fracking will not benefit the majority of the people in the Karoo, like any other extractive industry, only a few high profile individuals will benefit from it.  In the long term, their natural environment, upon which they rely, will have been lost for the profit of outsiders.

Minster Shabangu’s agenda, and indeed government agenda is clearly articulated in the Minister’s address to the IHZ McCloskey South Africa Conference 2014: Cape Town, 29 January, where she promised that investments in fossil fuels (coal was the reference) will be protected by government when she stated that changes in the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Bill will “protect the sanctity of investments in the context of national development imperatives.” This is what fracking is about in the Karoo, creating wealth for the elite, and ensuring that this happens with government protection in an undemocratic manner.

We recognise that people of the Karoo are connected to the world by the global crisis we face on the destruction of nature, the failing economic system and an ever more ruthless system of capital accumulation that dehumanises peoples’ labour. Globally, people are pushing governments to say no to fracking; we will again become a pariah state.

The struggle in the Karoo is embedded in responding to three challenges: ensuring an agro-ecology based on agrarian reform and food sovereignty; securing the Karoo’s scarce water resources; and ensuring that people have a direct say in how energy is produced and used in the Karoo through the approach of energy sovereignty, that is non extractive.

We believe the government should develop a meaningful and locally based response to the proposed fracking for gas in the Karoo and ensure that people have a clean, healthy environment where they live and work.

Endorsed by:

Southern Cape Land Committee

groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa

Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Justice and Peace Department

Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute


Southern Cape Land Committee

Phumelelo Booysen

Programme Officer


groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa

Bobby Peek


Tel (w): 033 342 5662

Mobile: 082 464 1383


Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Justice and Peace Department

Shaka Dzebu

Advocacy Officer

Tel (w): 012 323 6458

Email: /

Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute

Bishop Geoff Davies           

Executive Director

Tel (w): 021 701 8145


Feb 04, 2014

The story of Tree ordination in Sri Lanka

by Hemanth Withange — last modified Feb 04, 2014 05:40 PM

“Thou shall not cut these trees” - they are ordained now

Buddhist monks chanting “Pirith, Kesha, Loma, Nacha, Dantha, Tacho" wrapped the trees with saffron and red color robes and ordinated 1000 trees, while local community members and environmentalists chanted “Saadoo, Saadoo, Saadoo”. Tree ordination is the practice of recognising the sacred nature of trees by ordinating (or consecrating/ sanctifying) them by blessing them and wrapping them in traditional monks' robes. Venerable Badullagammana Sumanasara Thero, Venerable Kalupahana Piyarathana Thero, Venerable Thalangalle Sudhamma Thero and Venerable Dr. Balaharuwe Sirisumana Thero took the lead in this tree ordination.


Urge Sri Lankan authorities to strengthen environmental protection for this precious area.


This first massive tree ordination ceremony in Sri Lanka was held on the 11th January 2014 in Akkara Anuwa and Dimbuldena villages in the Nilgala Forest. Fifty Buddhist monks, over 300 local people and a range of environmental organizations participated in the event. Muslim religious leaders from the area also joined the event. The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka initiated this tree ordination ritual in order to highlight the massive forest destruction of the Nilgala forest.

A history of tree ordination


Symbolic tree ordination is a ritual initiated by Ecology Monks (Phra Nak Anuraksa), a group of Thai Buddhist Monks. It has also been practiced by Cambodian, Vietnamese and Burmese monks in the last two and a half decades. On the surface, tree ordination is presented to the world environmentalist movement as a clever and original idea, using the widely respected symbol of monastic robes to make loggers hesitate to cut down trees. It combines the pre-­Buddhist values of spirit worship, the Buddhist values of respecting nature and the political messaging of saving the forests and trees from destructive development.


It is generally acknowledged that the first tree ordination - wherein a tree not already considered sacred was wrapped in saffron-colored cloth and given monastic vows - was performed in Thailand in 1988 by the monk Phrakhru Manas Natheepitak of Wat Bodharma in Phayao Province, Northern Thailand. Phrakhru Manas arrived at the idea after hearing the story of two highway workers who had been forced to cut down a bodhi tree, and thereafter were beset with misfortune.[1] Venerable Keeranthidiye Pannasekera Thero and several environmental activists ordinated the giant “Dun” tree located along the Baduraliya-­Kukulegama road in 1997, which was suppose to be cut down to make way for the road expansion for the Kukule hydropower project. Venerable Dr. Balaharuwe Sirisumana Thero and several farmers' organisations, with the support of CEJ, ordinated the giant ‘Red Sandalwood’ tree in Badulla town in 2008 when the Municipal council decided to cut it down to expand a nearby road.


Every tree is a “bodhi”


Buddha said that "A tree is a wonderful living organism which gives shelter, food, warmth and protection to all living things. It even gives shade to those who wield an axe to cut it down". Primitive man had the highest regard for trees, because in his view it was another living being. In Buddhist thinking the tree also has a soul like other living beings and thus it could, when hurt or damaged, feel pain, or even bleed. Buddhism and Hinduism believe that there are 330 million gods, goddess and deities in the world and some of them are living in big trees.


People sometimes make small shrines under trees to worship them. Some also believe that the spirits of our ancestors are also living in ancient trees. Banyan trees are commonly believed to be such sprit trees.


Since Guathama Buddha attained Nibbana (or Nirvana) under a bo (or bodhi) tree, these trees are never harmed or chopped down. The term 'bo' (or 'bodhi') is used by Buddhists to imply two distinct meanings: in a narrow sense, it implies the bo Tree (Ficus religiosa) tree under which the last of the Buddhas, Siddhartha Gautama, attained Enlightenment. In a broad sense, it implies any tree under which a Buddha has attained enlightenment. The most historical and venerated tree is the Sri Maha Bodhi located in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.


It is believed that as many as twenty eight Buddhas were sitting under different types of tree when they attained enlightenment [2] . Like the bo tree, it is widely believed that none of these trees should be cut down.


A Buddhist monk is prohibited from cutting down a tree or having a tree cut down not only because it has life but because it could also be the abode of a deity. The Vinaya Pitaka, the Book of the Discipline, which lays down rules for the proper behaviour of monks, describes the destruction of vegetable growth (meaning five different kinds of propagation - what is propagated from roots, from stems, from joints, from cuttings and from seeds [3]) is an offence requiring pacittiya (or expiation/ amends)


Ancient followers of Buddha followers also practiced the principle of ‘no harm to the trees’ unless the felling of a tree or cutting of a branch is absolutely necessary. They followed strict rituals and urged deities and animals in the trees to move away before cutting trees or burning forest to make way for cultivation.


Similarly, in the old days in Thailand when certain big trees were required for the making of the traditional royal barge or posts for the tall roof of a royal pire, an offering had to be made and a royal proclamation read to the spirit before the tree could be cut down. This was a wise practice to preserve big trees from wanton felling by the simple folk.


In that sense the massive destruction of the forest is a modern practice and not in line with Buddhist beliefs.

Urge Sri Lankan authorities to strengthen environmental protection for this precious area.


Ordination of a tree


In modern society where money has become the only measure of value, people look at forest as ‘land’ and trees as ‘timber’. All Buddhist beliefs about nature, forest and trees are being lost. This loss of respect and sanctity for nature is the main reason for all the man-made environmental disasters we face today.


A tree is a symbol of altruism. It doesn’t expect anything, but it provides for other living beings and for nature. In modern culture humans have very little or no respect for trees in return. Therefore, it is important to revive ancient beliefs about forests and trees. One can ask whether ordination of a tree is the right approach and a 'proper' Buddhist ritual. Thai Buddhist Monk Achan Chah once said, “They ask, “Then are you an arahant [or Arhat - meaning one who has attained enlightenment]?” Do I know? I am like a tree in a forest, full of leaves, blossoms and fruit. Birds come to eat and nest, and animals seek rest in its shade. Yet the tree does not know itself. It follows its own nature. It is as it is.” (Ajahn Chah, A Tree in a Forest)"[4] Arguably every tree is an ‘Arhat’.


The notion of the ordination of a tree is a timely ritual to bring back respect and sanctity for nature. Tree ordination builds villages' and nations' commitments to protect trees from unending development.


We pledge to protect all the large and small trees living in this forest. We know that harming the ordained is a great sin. Instead of elites and officials protecting the forest from commoners, as in ancient times, now it is the commoners who must protect the forest from the encroaching elites and powerful land grabbers. Instead of picking trees to be felled, the villagers now pick trees to be saved.


Let the trees remain standing and serve nature because they are ordained now. “Thou shall not cut these trees.”

1 Avery Morrow,Tree Ordination as Invented tradition

2 Walter Wijenayaka, Ata Visi Budhuvaru – The 28 Buddhas­‐details&page=article-­‐ details&code_title=51122

3 Prof J. B. Dissanayake, What Buddhists believe about the Bodhi Tree "Thou Shalt not cut this Tree!" 4


Hemantha Withanage is the Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice/ Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka. He is the Treasurer and an executive member of Friends of the Earth International and the Convenor of the NGO Forum on ADB.

Put pressure on Sri Lankan authorities to strengthen environmental protection for the ancient Nilgala forest

by Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka / Centre for Environmental Justice — last modified Feb 04, 2014 04:23 PM

Sri Lanka's ancient Nilgala forest is being ripped up to make room for cash crops. Put pressure on Sri Lankan authorities to strengthen environmental protection for this precious area.

Petition: Ask Sri Lankan authorities to strengthen environmental protection for this precious area.


Land grabbing is threatening to devastate Nilgala forest. The forest, known for its medicinal plants, is being torn up to make way for cash crops such as rubber, sugarcane, plantains and rambutan.

Instead of preventing the land grabs, local politicians appear to be encouraging and benefiting from the destruction. Opportunistic land grabbers have sprayed weed killers in the delicate forest, killing undergrowth and medicinal plants. Some of these trees, such as Aralu, Bulu and Nelli, are invaluable, rare and have been growing in the area since King Buddhadasa's reign in the fourth century .

Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka/ Centre for Environmental Justice organized a massive ceremony on January 11 this year to raise public awareness. The ceremony took a special and relatively new approach to forest preservation techniques: the trees were ordinated (similar to consecration or sanctification) in a Buddhist ritual.

  • We demand an end to all land encroachments initiated in the past few years. We also demand an immediate halt to the destruction of the forest and to its conversion into cash crop plantations.
  • We also demand that Nilgala Forest be placed under the protection of the Forest Ordinance or under the Fauna and Flora Protection ordinance and the forest demarcated.
  • We urge the Forest Department to establish a proper forest protection mechanism for Nilgala and set up a Forest Office with adequate staff to protect and preserve the Forest.


Put pressure on Sri Lankan authorities to strengthen environmental protection for this precious area.


Friends of the Earth Japan: America and Europe Move Away from Coal but Japan Continues to Support the World's Biggest Coal-Fired Power Plants

by Friends of the Earth Japan — last modified Feb 04, 2014 04:45 PM
Filed Under:

Japanese Environmental NGOs say NO to Japan Bank for International Cooperation's coal financing!

Three Japanese environmental NGOs (JACSES, Kiko Network and Friends of the Earth Japan) are taking a stand against JBIC's (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) continued financing of coal-fired power plants in developing countries in their "No Coal! Go Green! No to JBIC's coal financing!" project. The problems concerning JBIC's coal financing are as listed below:

1. Even when state-of-the-art technology is used for coal-fired power plants, they still produce the highest amount of CO2 emissions compared with any other form of energy. When compared with natural gas, coal-fired power generation produces twice as many emissions. This is a serious, international problem as emissions from coal-fired power plants are a major driver of climate change.

2. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and several governments (the US, the UK, Nordic countries, etc.) have either stopped investing in coal power generation or proposed stricter standards for coal-fired power plants. However, through the government-funded Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), the Japanese government is promoting policies that support coal projects.

3. In the past 10 years, JBIC has financially supported 21 coal-fired power generation projects in developing countries (JBIC's investments and loans totalled more than 680 million yen) with a total capacity of over 20GW. In a single year, total CO2 emissions can total 120 million tons, the equivalent of 1/10th of Japan's annual emissions and half of the country's emissions from coal-fired power generation. Compared to other countries, JBIC is the leading financer of coal-fired power projects in the world.

4. Currently, JBIC is considering financing the Batang coal-fired power project in Indonesia (one infrastructure export project promoted by Prime Minister Abe). Despite attacks by the local police and the military against protestors and the negative effects this project will have on the locals' livelihoodd and health, JBIC has yet to directly listen to locals' concerns.

We will continue to investigate and report on the above issues. Please visit our homepage for updates concerning this project.

More information:

  • Yuki Tanabe, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), +81-3-3556-7325,
  • Kimiko Hirata / Megumi Taguchi, Kiko Network, +81-3-3263-9210,
  • Hozue Hatae, Friends of the Earth Japan, +81-3-6907-7217,