In the previous newsletter, we mentioned the latest events in the Utkal case. The project will move three villages by use of force, seize land from 12 villages, and cause negative consequences for other tens of villages. This, in addition to use of violence from the company's side, and extensive retention of information, has led to strong opposition from the local population. The NGO LEAD recently carried out an opinion poll which showed that 92% were against the construction plans. The majority of the local population are indigenous people.
Framtiden i våre hender (The Future In Our Hands), along with the Christian aid organisation the Stromme Foundation, initiated a protest appeal, in which the two organisations ask Norwegian organisations to join the demand that Norsk Hydro must withdraw and contribute to the shelving of the Utkal project. The protest appeal, which was printed in the previous newsletter, says that investment decision and commencement of construction works are planned around the New Year. This is the point of time which was made public by the company earlier.
However, now it seems that the investment decision and commencement of construction works have been postponed once again, and will not take place until the year 2000. NorWatch has not been able to find out what is the reason for the postponement. Hydro informs that technical work still remains, and that the company has not yet completed the rehabilitation plan. However, the company rejects that the postponement has anything to do with the latest events, and claims that this time schedule has existed for a long time.
The time schedule was not made public until recently, shortly after three Hydro employees were detained by the local population during a visit in Kashipur, and the local head of project was physically attacked by about fifty activists.
In the wake of the violence, Krushna Saunta from the village Kucheipadar lost his job as office assistant with the local authorities. Santa has been elected leader of PSSP, the local organisation working against the construction plans of Hydro and their partners. Even though local NGOs have a different version, Norsk Hydro accused him of carrying the main responsibility for the attack on the head of the project on 16 November. (Krushna Santa was interviewed in NorWatch newsletter 4/98).
Greenpeace picked up our story on toys produced in China by calling attention to the health hazard which the chemical components phtalates may represent for users of toys, among other things liver damages, liver cancer, and hormone disorders.
The Teletubbies dolls are among the toys that contain phtalates, and Greenpeace Scandinavia has demanded the dolls removed from the toy store shelves. Phtalates are used to soften PVC plastics. According to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, this information made the toy chain Edwis, among others, remove the Teletubbies dolls from their stores, until the matter has been clarified. Brio, the importer of Teletubbies, has informed all their stores that the phtalate content is far below the maximum limit.
Yngve Hågensen, head of the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions (LO), will lead a LO delegation to China in December. Leif Lauvsund in the international division of LO says to NorWatch that the working conditions within the Chinese toy industry will be addressed during the visit.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) encouraged an international boycott of Chinese toys already in 1995, based on the unjustifiable working conditions, according to NTB (the Norwegian News Agency).
Tourism in Burma
Tore Ring in the travel agency NaturEventyr informs NorWatch that his agency, which has specialized in scuba diving vacations, after an evaluation of the arrangements of vacations to the Mergui archipelago in Burma, now has decided to end the co-operation with Freddy Storheil. (See newsletter 18/98).
Ring says that NaturEventyr now rejects Norwegians who approach the company to go to Burma on vacation.
Norwatch Newsletter 21/98