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Norplan reaps criticism for poor work: - Pure cosmetic job for the client

The consultancy company Norplan has the responsibility for information and public participation concerning the gigantic Hidrovia project in South America (see newsletter 5/96). Now Norplan reaps criticism from affected groups and environmental organisations. The opponents to the project describe Norplan's work as pure cosmetic work aimed at improving the reputation of the intergovernmental committee behind the job. Norplan does not understand the criticism, though they are not entirely satisfied with the job themselves. The last summary of the environmental impact assessment made by Norplan was censored by the client.

Artikkelen er mer enn to år gammel. Ting kan ha endret seg.

The consultancy company Norplan has the responsibility for information and public participation concerning the gigantic Hidrovia project in South America (see newsletter 5/96). Now Norplan reaps criticism from affected groups and environmental organisations. The opponents to the project describe Norplan's work as pure cosmetic work aimed at improving the reputation of the intergovernmental committee behind the job. Norplan does not understand the criticism, though they are not entirely satisfied with the job themselves. The last summary of the environmental impact assessment made by Norplan was censored by the client.


By Morten Rønning,
Norwatch

The affected groups have repeatedly asked the intergovernmental committee which is responsible for the project, to hold off the development until a thorough review of the project has been carried out, including all parties.

The water way project, which penetrates Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay, opens partly untouched inland areas for ships up to 50.000 tons.

A total of 16 indigenous groups live along the 3.400 km long waterway. The wetland area of Pantanal is also affected, which environmental groups fear will threaten several species.

Norplan's work has been criticised by affected groups from the very beginning, at Eastertime this year. Norplan is responsible for holding information meetings, as well as ensuring that affected groups is reimbursed with the travel costs associated with such meetings. Such compensation has so far not been forthcoming to any degree.

As a consequence, the local population has been scarcely represented at the information meetings that have been held. Orlando San Martin, responsible for this project in Norplan points out that it is not they who are responsible for such compensation.

- Still, we financed a meeting between the indigenous people's leaders and the developers in Buenos Aires in August, and the travel for two people to the third open meeting in Brazil the 30th November, he says to NorWatch.

Improves the reputation
The indigenous people also claims that Norplan has used 90% of their time to improve the reputation of the developers, and less than 5% to carry through the activities which are actually needed to obtain influence for the affected groups.

- A part of our job was to improve the information coming from the developers, and to improve transparency of the process. If you call this improving the reputation of the developers, well OK, says San Martin.

In a letter to the intergovernmental committee, the Inter-American Development Bank and UNEP, dated 19th November this year, Rios Vivos, an umbrella organisation for 300 groups which work to reduce the impact of the development, makes clear that the work on the project has already started.

In this letter, Silvio Ribeiro refers to previous guarantees that such work would not start «before the information of and the assessment by the public have been performed according to previous agreements.»

Norplan censored
Norplan has not succeeded with all measures.

- The last bulletin we made, containing the summaries of the last environmental assessment impact reports, was censored by the developers, because it did not improve their reputation, says San Martin.

Norplan's work is being financed by the Inter-American Development bank, supplied with money from NORAD (The Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation). Norplan's budget is a little less than one million NOK (140.000 $), and is scheduled to be completed by the new year.

According to Glenn Switches in Rios Vivos, all Norplan has done is to lift the Intergovernmental Committee from being a corrupt group working behind closed doors to become a homepage on the Internet.

Not satisfied
Norplan is about to complete a final report for the work.

- Though we may be able to agree that there are no reason to be satisfied, I would like to emphasise two things, San Martin says. - First of all, there have been many improvements since we started this work, and we have received much praise from other groups. And secondly, the part of the work which involves increasing transparency and ensure participation from affected groups - work still outstanding - is more up to political forces in the area than the developers to ensure, Orlando San Martin concludes.

Norwatch Newsletter 1/97

- Annonse -