Founded in 1998, the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) is an environmental law organization that protects threatened ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them. Learn about some of their most important work.
La Oroya is one of the most contaminated cities on the planet. Doe Run Peru’s smelter emits such enormous quantities of pollution that many residents suffer from chronic respiratory illnesses and nearly all the children in the city have lead poisoning.
Since 1998, AIDA has brought a request for precautionary measures before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, participated in media work, and has provided technical and legal information to local organizations and government agencies.
Workers must frequently clean La Oroya’s streets due to the unfettered contamination and pollution by Doe Run Peru’s smelter.
In an effort to compel the Peruvian government to resolve the health crisis in La Oroya, AIDA appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in 2005, requesting that the Commission take urgent “precautionary measures” to safeguard human rights.
AIDA represents more than 65 community members from La Oroya that suffer from health problems believed to be related to the smelter’s pollution.
Despite a 2009 IACHR ruling that Peru provide precautionary measures, the State’s response has been woefully inadequate.
Nearly all the children in the city have lead poisoning and respiratory problems.
If internationally accepted health standards were enforced, many of these children would immediately receive medical attention or be hospitalized.
In 2002, AIDA published La Oroya Cannot Wait, which highlights the severe health problems and risks suffered by the local population of La Oroya.
This 80-year-old metal smelter marks the center of La Oroya.
Despite the fact that children over the age of ten have blood lead levels more than three times grater than the World Health Organization’s maximum acceptable concentration, efforts to clean up the city have been lethargic.
AIDA is committed to continuing its efforts to protect the human rights to health, life, and a healthy environment in La Oroya until the crisis is resolved.
A new law, dubbed the “Sausage Law” in Panama threatens disaster for the country’s environment and its citizens’ human rights. Most egregious is its elimination of the requirement for environmental impact assessments in certain development cases.
AIDA is providing international legal council to bolster local groups’ arguments against the law.
The Panamanian government is promoting extensive mining, hydroelectric, and tourism-related development throughout the country while simultaneously attempting to weaken laws protecting the environment and human rights.
AIDA is working closely with its Panamanian partners to halt this trend and defend Panama’s natural riches and its citizens’ human rights.
The Xingu River flows for 1,700 miles through the heart of Brazil. The Belo Monte Dam Project would divert nearly all of the Xingu’s water flow, and flood 932 square miles of rainforest and agricultural land.
In November of 2010, AIDA and other human rights and environmental organizations submitted a formal petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), denouncing imminent human rights violations and calling for the Commission to adopt precautionary measures which would compel the Brazilian government to halt plans to build the dam.
The Belo Monte Dam project threatens to displace at least 20,000 indigenous peoples.
AIDA is working with International Rivers and other organizations to help affected communities assess their legal options in combating the development of the dam.
Such a massive diversion of water would destroy traditional fishing grounds, diminish access to river transport, submerge rain forests, and threaten the livelihoods, homes, and cultures of thousands of people.
In addition to its efforts against the Belo Monte Dam, AIDA has published a report entitled Large Dams in the Americas: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?, which explores the grave impacts of dams and explains the existing international standards that should be applied to protect the environment and human rights.
In the year 2000, the United States and Colombian governments together launched an intensive and expanded aerial spraying operation, part of Plan Colombia, to destroy the coca and poppy crops used to make cocaine and heroin. Between 2000 and 2008, over 1 million hectares (2.7 million acres) were sprayed.
AIDA has educated U.S. and Colombian authorities about the program’s potential ecological and social impacts, urged authorities to conduct more rigorous environmental and health analysis, advocated against herbicide spraying, and documented alternative development projects effective in stemming illicit crop production.
More than 3,000 families have lodged claims regarding the health impacts of Plan Colombia’s aerial spraying, of which only about 2% have been processed.
As part of its efforts, AIDA has done extensive work to insure that the U.S. and Colombian governments comply with laws intended to protect the environment and human health.
AIDA opposes the widespread use of chemicals to eradicate coca, poppy, and other crops grown for illicit use.
The spraying has been criticized for being ineffective and for causing significant environmental, social, and economic damage in Colombia.
Illegal artisanal dredge mining destroys rivers throughout the Amazon.
The combination of large-scale and artisanal mining in the Americas poses a significant threat to the environment.
AIDA has published a Mining Resources section on its website that serves as a repository for information regarding the mining industry, mines, and their environmental, economic, and social impacts.
The current gold rush has brought on an onslaught of new proposed mines in the Americas.
Open-pit gold mining can have devastating impacts including acid mine drainage, cyanide contamination of watersheds, and the depletion of freshwater.
AIDA has been asked to help counter mining projects in Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama.
Despite expert testimony from AIDA staff highlighting the risks of the development of a mine in Miramar, Costa Rica, the Glencarin mining company created the Bellavista gold mine.
Less than two years after the mine began operating, it was forced to close when high levels of rainfall combined with the geological conditions of the site led to the movement and cracking of the mine’s cyanide heap leach pad.
Shortly after the closure, landslides on the site only confirmed that the mine should never have been opened in the first place.
Global warming is the most systematic and long-range threat to environmental health.
AIDA is working on climate change by developing tools and regulatory frameworks that will help move societies toward energy sustainability and protect those most harmed by the inevitable environmental changes.
AIDA uses legal advocacy to ensure that marine resources are being harvested sustainably, and that threatened ecosystems and marine species are being adequately protected.
AIDA helped promote the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC), which focuses on protecting on protecting sea turtles and their habitats.
The treaty went into force in 2001. Fifteen countries have signed the treaty, with thirteen of them also ratifying it.
With the legal support of AIDA, two rulings in May 2008 bolstered protection for leatherback sea turtles in Costa Rica.
First, AIDA successfully defended the Leatherback National Marine Park against a municipal zoning regulation that would have authorized construction in part of the Park.
A second court ruling required that the government expropriate the private lands within the Park, protecting them from tourist development.