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2015-04-27 | Antecedentes | Indoamericano

Defending Lake Vättern to the last breath, and beyond

"If they can do it to us - they can do it to you". Quote by Dineh Matriarch and resistance leader Roberta Blackgoat, when she visited us in Sweden in May 2001, to tell us about her Dineh ( Navajo) Peoples long struggle against forced relocation and the huge open pit coalmine that is on their beautiful Mountain Black Mesa, in northeastern Arizona. I never thought I would experience the day when this Beautiful lake would face such serious threats, as is reality today.


Photo: Lake Vättern; Sweden
As long back in time as we know, my ancestors have depended upon and cherished lake Vättern. My Grandmothers family have lived on the small island Visingsö, for countless generations. My great grandfather sailed his own cargo ships, back and forth on lake Vättern and out to the Atlantic ocean along the west, south and east coasts of Sweden, through Göta canal, carrying different cargos.
Growing up at the shores of lake Vättern, has taught me a deep respect for the lake, as well as a deep love and appreciation for her beauty, strength and at times; fury. There have always been a certain sense of magic, surrounding this deep, rather narrow lake. The old ones used to tell tales about the lake, out on the island, in the evenings by candle light. I remember going to bed at my grandmothers family’s farm, scared from listening to frightening tales, of a large "monster" living at the bottom of the lake, and occasionally coming up to the surface. Come morning, and watching the sunrays glittering on the water surface at sunrise, the fear was quickly forgotten and replaced by joy. Life on the little island went by at a slow pace, following the seasonal duties of small farming. The farmers exchanged goods and food between each other. One farm for instance, would have a lot of hens and produced enough eggs to trade for milk, grain/flour aso, with the farm next door, while another farm would specialize in growing potatoes, and so on. The islanders were industrious and inventive in finding ways to survive. In summertime many of the farmers took to the tourist business, as they pulled out the old horse carriage with two long sofas on it and two of their sturdy horses (ardenner or the north Swedish horse) and trotted down to the harbor to meet the ferries that came from the little town Gränna, loaded with tourists, schoolchildren on outings and locals that had to go to the mainland for some reason.
These horse carriages, called remmalag, are still in full swing today, giving tourists a sightseeing ride on the beautiful, pastoral island, that has an amazing and exciting history.
Fishing was of course, also an important way of making a living, on the island. Still today the old practice of keeping village boats, are kept alive, and every early summer, these village boats are sailed to the western shores of lake Vättern, carrying potatoes, strawberries and many other local produce from the island Visingsö, to be sold in the small town harbor of the little town Hjo, West Gothia.
I am so very grateful to have had the chance to experience and see the kind of lifestyle that existed on the island, growing up. It worked for a very long time....thousands of years.
The water in the lake is crystal clear and cold spring water. It takes approximately 60 years for the water to turn over/renew, and thus the lake is very sensitive to pollution.
Today, app 300 000 people get their drinking water from lake Vättern. As the world increasingly lacks clean drinking water, we are truly blessed to have such good water. Many more people hopes to get their drinking water from lake Vättern in near future, for instance the town Örebro and possibly other large cities/heavily populated areas.

The Threats
Today, lake Vättern faces several threats and its very hard to come to terms with the facts that what many of us thought could not happen, actually are in the process of manifesting!
- The Swedish air force wants to expand their low flying military exercises over the lake, dumping ammunition into the lake. The increase of military activity as applied to the Swedish environment court, is from today’s 1000 fired shots per year, to nearly 80 000 fired shots per year. Alot of the ammunition used contains lead.
- The British company Gripen gas, have applied for permission to extract natural gas from shale underneath the lake. This is a fracking enterprise....and it will require that equipment and operation be carried out into the lake/water. This is a very risky business.
- Third threat is the Canadian REE mining company Tasman metals Ltd, far staged plans of starting up a open pit Rare Earth Elements mine, very close to the eastern shore of lake Vättern, and close to the beautiful little town Gränna. This area is very rich in cultural history and recieves a huge amount of tourists on an annual basis. It is an extremely beautiful area with a unique environment that in fact is protected as nature reserves, UNESCO biosphere area, ÉU Natura 2000 area aso. But in spite of all these protective measures, the mining industry have been granted permission to test drill, test mine and have been given permission for exlusive rights to these minerals. There are just a few steps left in the application process, before Tasman Ltd out of Vancouver Canada, will start up their industrial mining project, blasting up huge amounts of bedrock and releasing a lot of substances that has been safely embedded in the mountain for billions of years. REE mines are very hazardous and poses a great health risk to people and surrounding environment and with special emphasis for contamination of water. The company gives different information on their Swedish website versus on the Canadian web for investors, when it comes to the amount/concentration of uranium and thorium in the bedrock.
Outside the eastern shore, very close to the planned open pit mine, in the bottom of the lake, runs a fault line that played a big role in the creation of this lake, a long time ago. Geologists and seismologists have estimated that an event occurred here, long ago, when the inland ice had melted and the ice water lake/sea parted from this area and flowed out toward the Atlantic Ocean. When that water disappeared, the weight that was lifted off the land, caused an earthquake of the size 7.5 on the Richter scale, along this fault line.
The fault line is still active, but have not produced such a large event as the 7.5 since that time, but it has produced noticeable events in our time.
In the area where the mining company plans to start up their business, many people have their homes. Some of these families have called this area home for generations....upon generations. Now they face seeing their homes destroyed forever. Some may accept compensation or being bought out, and be ok with it, others are heartbroken. Some feel like they have betrayed friends, neighbors and family, and some feel betrayed. Some feel they can make a profit on this debacle, while others will lose everything. It sure is a recipe for disaster when it comes to human relations in what has been a beautiful rural living home area...and extremely special place.
In this area, that lies high above and very close to lake Vättern, there will be an open pit mine, clearings ponds and tailings ponds, milling buildings and several waste storage areas, it will cover a large area. The natural way for rainwater to run off the mountain is down...and that means down into lake Vättern. The mining company says they will turn the wastewater around so it will flow the other direction, meaning eastward. In that direction are also several protected rivers, lakes and waterways that now face the same threat of being contaminated. Never mind that runoff water then have to flow uphill, also....natural gravity might just win this one Extracting these rare earth minerals, produces huge amounts of waste, as the concentration of the desired minerals within the bedrock, is very low.
In the extraction/milling process, we have learned that large amounts of sulfuric acid will be used on site.
All of this has created a lot of concern and worries. Recently i called a representative of the mining industry. He ask in a very condescending tone; - Who are you? Well, I told him, I’m a concerned citizen and I’m calling to see if you can give me some answers and make me less concerned. I can tell you that he could not give me the answers i needed to be less concerned.
I figured...my mandate is, to stand with Honor for the Ancestors....for Future Generations. I am here, because of them and this lake.
Working nonprofit together with Indigenous friends over the years, have taught me, that not much good comes from big corporations that are on a mission to exploit what they call natural resources, to fill up their bank accounts. Very often they exploit resources on other peoples land bases, and most of the time, it is the people who’s land base and often water that are being exploited/destroyed, that pays the heaviest price.
You all know that too well, my relatives, friends, sisters and brothers in Sapmi, Big Mountain/Black Mesa, Oak Flat, Four Corners area, Pine Ridge and Rosebud in South Dakota, Canada and Alaska - in so many places on Turtle Island and Abya Yala, on Hawaii, in Australia and New Zeeland. all over the Earth, so many caring and responsible People fight greed of the worst kind. Thank You, Dear Ones! Our Prayers continue to join yours for the children, for all our relations and for coming generations!
In Solidarity Always
By Carina Gustafsson. Sweden, 2015-04-12

Fuente: Centro de Documentación Mapuche, Ñuke Mapu

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