Norsk Hydro's controversial bauxite project in Orissa, Utkal Alumina, is constantly facing opposition. Investment and commencement of construction work has been postponed a second time, and this time Hydro blames assignments in other parts of the world and difficulties in finding a new, fourth partner for the project. This gives reason to ask: Has the massive, local opposition made Hydro doubt the basis of their own prestige project? Or is the co-operation with the Indian partners about to cool off?
Oceanor's high-technology Seawatch buoys are selling like hot cakes to developing countries with support from NORAD and the Ministy of Foreign Affairs - in the name of environmental protection. But in spite of the fact that Seawatch was tested in Norwegian waters in the period 1989-1995, neither the Ministry of the Environment nor the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority will today approve of using the company's sea buoys in Norway. Instead the two government agencies have appointed one expert committee each to consider what the needs are and what kinds of sea surveillance Norway should go for in the future. Also in this context, Oceanor is sitting at both sides of the negotiating table.
In newsletter 3/96 we mentioned Ticon's unsuccessful fisheries projects in Uganda, Angola, and Benin. We have received interesting information from Erik Blytt Halvorsen in Aksjon slett u-landsgjelda! (Action for debt relief in developing countries, SLUG) which places Ticon's/NORAD's involvement in the fish-processing company Chaine de Froid Regionale in a critical light.
When the Minister of Environment Torbjørn Berntsen recently arrived in New York to take part in the UN's 5 years after Rio-conference on environment and development, he brought with him in his suitcase the government report on what Norway has done in practice to follow up Agenda 21.
Since 1986 public institutions in Norway have supported the development and sale of Oceanor's controversial Seawatch technology with at least 170 million Norwegian kroner. NorWatch can reveal that individuals who have had important positions in Oceanor have later transferred to leading positions within public agencies which have supported Seawatch with large amounts of money. Many professionals are sceptical about this dubious muddling of economic interests, while NorWatch faces secrecy from the public funding agencies.
Storebrand's Environmental Fund has once again invested in a company with a very questionable environment and social record; namely the partly Norwegian-owned Aracruz Cellulose S.A. in Brazil. When confronted with the native indians' demand to recover their traditional lands from Aracruz, the director of the Environmental Fund, Carlos Joly, completely incorrectly claims that the Brazilian Supreme Court has decided the outcome of the land dispute in favor of Aracruz Celulose. In addition, the Environmental Fund bases its environmental appraisal of Aracruz Celulose on a study done by the same consulting company that was responsible for the development of the company's plantation and cellulose factory.
In Dagens Næringsliv (The Norwegian Financial Daily) the 15th of May NorWatch criticizes the Government for not taking ethical considerations into account when planning the investments of the Oil Fund. The same view is being advocated in the same article by Carlos Joly, the director of Storebrand's Environmental Value Fund.
In spite of strong requests from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to stop all trade with the military regime in Burma, the large furniture chain The Norwegian Furniture Center (Det Norske Møbelsenteret, DNM), and IdŠ-Skeidar are now selling garden furniture made of rain-forest teak to the whole country. This import was increased six-fold from 1995 to 1996. The wood has been misrepresented as plantation timber, but the producer admits that the wood comes from the world's last existing teak forest.
At the end of 1996 the Norwegian Parliament granted 50 million kroner (US$ 6,6 million) from the aid budget to establish NORFUND. The fund will invest in businesses in developing countries and will add to today's pot of 476 million kroner for business development in NORAD. In 1996, this meant an addition of more than 11%. In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it is expected that the fund will be given 200-300 million kroner this year. This amount constitutes an addition of up to 63% of today's aid grants for business development. Completely without any debate, the support for the business sector is increased in the aid budget.
In the early 80's, 8 trawlers/purse seiners built at Norwegian shipyards were sold to Ghana. The delivery were a part of the Ship Export campaign, and received a loan of almost 200 million NOK. Initially, NORAD (Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation) would not approve the developing element of the sale, but yielded to strong pressure in order to secure Norwegian jobs. The boats were a financial disaster for the recipient, Ghana, and today the World Bank is in effect paying the loan. The boats are more less all laid up - only one of the boats are partly in activity.
NORAD has paid 45 million kroner for a prefeasibility study for the construction of the controversial hydro power project at Epupa waterfalls in Namibia. Norconsult is one of the four companies carrying out the study. But last month the Namibian Deputy Minister for Mines and Energy stated at a public meeting that the decision had already been made; the dam will be built, and its location, just as good as given. Both Norconsult and NORAD persistently maintain that the prefeasibility study will not be completed till the end of the year, and no decision will be made before that. The Namibian press has asked whether the Norwegian involvement has attired the decision of the Namibian authorities with a scientific concept.
The Chain-store "Ide"'s advertisement for the sale of "English teak garden furniture" came to an abrupt end on the 24th of April. It was after the exposure of the Burmese origin of the teak timber, which took place during a debate on radio "P4" between Future In Our Hands's spokesman Mr. Steinar Lem and "Ide"'s board chairman, Mr. Morten Andresen, that the company announced later that day, to stop all sales of its Burmese furniture in Norway.
Winfried Overbeek from CIMI, the Brazilian catholic church's organisation for indigenous questions, rejects Erling Lorentzen's allegations carried in the Norwegian media in connection to the conflict between his company Aracruz and the Indians. NorWatch sums up CIMI's views:
Future In Our Hands, have on behalf of two representatives of the Tupinikin and Guarani Indians in Brazil, in connection to their May visit, sought the audience of King Harald of Norway. The Indians wish to meet the King to tell about their year long fight to get their traditional land back from the cellulose producer Aracruz. The Indians hope that the King, who is related to Aracruz 's board chairman Erling Lorentzen, can support their demand.
Last newsletter's expose of Norsk Hydro's use of cadmium in its production of plastics in Tamil Nadu has led to reactions. According to Norsk Hydro's petrochemical division head, Håkon Langballe, the company will cease to use cadmium, and he also promises an investigation into the use of chemicals in other countries.