Gasping for air
The inhabitants of one contaminated mining town in Peru are fighting back.
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2009 06:46 GMT

Watch part two of this episode

The mining town of La Oroya in Peru, home to some 30,000 people, is controlled by Doe Run Peru which runs a metal processing facility there.

La Oroya is also one of the world's most contaminated environmental hotspots. 

Rosa Amaro, the president of Mosao, a health movement in La Oroya, believes the high levels of arsenic and lead are creating a silent epidemic.

Dr Hugo Villa who lives in Oroya recently performed tests that show newborn babies are already contaminated with lead at levels five times greater than those of adults. 

Doe Run claims that lead levels among the plant's workers have been reduced, and toxic lead emissions have dropped by 70 per cent in the last year. It says it has invested millions to modernise the plant and curb emissions.

What it fails to mention is that in Doe Run's lead smelter in its home state of Missouri, emissions are 20 times lower than those at its plant in Peru.

The company argues that when it took over in 1997 the smelter was already 75 years old, and that only now is it beginning to conform to international environmental laws.

But the company lobbied the government and won an extension of an environmental mitigation plan it committed itself to in 1997, promising to implement the plan and a host of additional measures by 2009. 

It got the extension by threatening to pull out if the government did not extend a deadline for it to build a plant to capture sulfur dioxide and convert it to sulfuric acid. So far only 40 per cent of what they promised has been achieved.

People & Power follows the battle local townspeople, health professionals and environmentalists are waging to get La Oroya cleaned up, demanding action from the company and the government.

The search for Mladic

Samah El-Shahat speaks to Haris Silajdzic about the pursuit of justice
People & Power brings you an exclusive interview with Haris Silajdzic, a member of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Following the Bosnian war, which raged between 1992 and 1995, 161 people were indicted.

The most high profile of those were Slobodan Miloševic, the former Serbian president, Radovan Karadzic, the president of Republika Srpska from 1992 to 1996, and his general, Ratko Mladic.

Mladic is the only one who remains at large. He is accused of crimes against humanity, including genocide, extermination and murder - most notably, in relation to the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Samah El-Shahat is joined by Haris Silajdzic and Sonja Biserko, an activist from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Belgrade.

They discuss whether the arrest of war criminals is bringing justice to the former Yugoslavia.

This episode of People & Power aired from Tuesday, November 25, 2008.

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