The Strømme foundation and The Future in our hands: A public appeal against the Utkal-project
By Morten Rønning
The two organisations have been involved in the work to put pressure on Norsk Hydro and Norwegian authorities in the case. The two organisations have also developed a close collaboration with the local population of Kashipur, who are working against the project, as they believe it will have the effects of ruining their way of life and devastating the environment.
There are several reasons for the appeal. Firstly, the conflict in Kashipur is escalating, and it is obvious that the local population is put under an enormous pressure by the multinational giant Utkal Alumina. (See main story of this newsletter). The project has, even before constructions have started, had large negative impacts for the inhabitants of the area.
Secondly, the dialogue which has been initiated, and the attention which has been given to the problems of the project by the Strømme foundation and FIOH, towards both Norsk Hydro, Norwegian authorities, and the Norwegian public opinion, have not resulted in major changes of the project. The two organisations feel that Norsk Hydro is about to commit serious injustices towards a local population that is practically unprotected by the law, while Norwegian authorities are turning their backs against it. They have not even bothered to answer letters from the local population to the authorities directly.
Time is running out
Thirdly, time is about to run out for the local population's fight to determine their own destiny. The process towards the final investment decisions in the four co-operating companies, Norsk Hydro, Alcan, Indal, and Tata, has been longer and slower than intended, but indications are that such decisions can be made early next year. The organisations feel that there is a need to stop the project as soon as possible, to avoid a deterioration of local people's quality of life as much as possible. Moreover, it is only pure luck that the unrest in the area has not resulted in loss of human lives. Indian authorities have, on the company's request, persistently stationed large police forces in the area to keep protests down.
On the next page you find the appeal against Norsk Hydro's participation in the Utkal project. As the largest shareholder in Utkal Alumina, Norsk Hydro has been a driving force in the project, and the organisations urge the company to work for the termination of the project. Only this can remedy the harms Norsk Hydro's involvement has done to the local population.
The two organisations ask all subscribers of the NorWatch newsletter to bring the appeal to the organisations and associations of which they are members, and work for quick support. The organisations plan to make the appeal public early next year, and hope for as much backing for its demands as possible. More copies of the appeal, and a packet of background information on the Utkal-project, can be obtained from FIOH/NorWatch.
"Hydro violates basic human rights. The situation is critical."
Øystein Garcia de Presno, the Strømme foundation. The newspaper Vårt land 30 June 1997.
Norsk Hydro must withdraw from the Utkal project in India!
Since 1993, Norsk Hydro has participated in the planning of the Utkal project, an alumina project in the Indian state Orissa, to secure raw materials for the company's aluminium production in Norway, among other places. Norsk Hydro is the major shareholder with 40% of the shares. Two large Indian corporations and Canadian Alcan are also shareholders.
Since the beginning, the Utkal project has faced massive opposition from major parts of the local population, in the form of meetings, protest demonstrations, civil disobedience, direct actions and lawsuits against the corporations involved. The situation in the area is now becoming even more critical.
The reason for the great opposition is that the Utkal project, which includes a bauxite mine and an alumina plant, will have the effect of ruining or deteriorating the way of life of indigenous people and pariahs. 3 villages with about 750 people will be forcibly moved. In addition, 12 villages will lose parts of their land. This concerns villages that have title deeds or other proofs of formal proprietary right to the land they are using. This concerns approximately 1750 people. In addition, tens of thousands of people who are not included in Utkal's compensation plans are living in villages which will be affected by pollution or have reduced supplies of water for their farming. The lack of information from the corporations, and the violent reaction of the police against the local population, have not reduced the opposition against the project.
Norsk Hydro has claimed all along that the project will show consideration for the environment and the local population, and that only a minority is sceptical towards the plans. However, a recent opinion poll among 2569 persons from 40 affected villages shows that as many as 92% of the persons asked are opponents of the project, only 6% welcome it. The Norwegian government owns 51% of the shares in Norsk Hydro, and Norwegian authorities have also noticed the opposition against the Utkal project: Both the Brundtland government and the Bondevik government have earlier received letters signed by 5-6000 local people, in which Norwegian authorities are asked to ensure that Norsk Hydro withdraws from the Utkal project.
The final decision on whether Norsk Hydro will participate in the planned start of construction works next year, will probably be taken by the corporation management in early 1999. The local population's fate will hence be determined in the very near future.
The signing organisations and associations find it unacceptable that Norsk Hydro participates in a project which will have these large negative effects on human beings and the environment. We therefore demand the following:
• THAT THE CORPORATION MANAGEMENT OF NORSK HYDRO AND NORWEGIAN AUTHORITIES TAKE THE MASSIVE OPPOSITION OF THE LOCAL POPULATION INTO CONSIDERATION
• AND ENSURE THAT NORSK HYDRO WITHDRAWS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND THAT THE UTKAL PROJECT IS TERMINATED.
Norwatch Newsletter 20/98