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Statkraft threatens their subcontractors in Nepal with breach of contract in order to bring an end to the use of child workers at the state-owned company's hydroelectric power project Khimti Khola in Nepal. For the first time in Statkraft's history, the company may resort to economic sanctions to implement its ethical principles.
In the previous issue of NorWatch newsletter, we reported on Statoil's activities in the Timor Strait. This is the story of the two faces of the Norwegian State in the East Timor conflict, about Norway recognizing the struggle for independence of East Timor, and at the same time recognizing Indonesia's annexation of the country.
With reference to the report "Towards a Sustainable Paper Cycle", Minister of Environment Torbjørn Berntsen and Erling Lorentzen reject the criticism which was raised against the cellulose giant Aracruz in an interview in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. However, the report does not mention Aracruz at all, and the authors of the report feel that they have been abused. Lorentzen and the Minister of Environment's use of the report, which was financed by among others Erling Lorentzen with more than 800,000 kroner, was a cunning bluff towards the Norwegian public opinion.
In 1993, the Stromme Foundation was asked by Norwegian authorities to carry out organisational development and education in Orissa, India. Secretary General Øistein Garcia de Presno has visited the area, and is shocked to experience that Hydro's bauxite project in the area represents the precise contrary interests of those the Stromme Foundation was asked to encourage. The tribals whom the Stromme Foundation was supposed to help, are threatened by devastation of their entire livelihood and culture. Below, NorWatch makes a mention of the report.
The shocking information in this issue that Borregaard's carbofuran factory in China involves use of the very toxic gas methyl isocyanate (MIC) must have immediate consequences.
Borregaard's pesticide factory in China has since its establishment in 1995 kept secret that the company uses the highly toxic MIC gas in its production process. The same gas killed over 10,000 people in the Indian town of Bhopal after a leak from Union Carbide's pesticide factory in 1984. Borregaard is now applying for support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) to install a safety system for monitoring the gas, but NorWatch has obtained a memorandum from NORAD showing that Borregaard's planned safety system might not be so safe.
With support from the government's INTSOK plan (program for cooperation between the Norwegian government and the oil industry regarding foreign investments), Statoil and Hydro obtained licenses in the controversial priority area of Venezuela in June. In the middle of the Orionoco belt in Venezuela, Hydro and Statoil plan to recover heavy oil. Statoil will also drill in freshwater. The local population and fishermen are getting ready for massive demonstrations.
The leaders of the Himba-people in Namibia were recently in Oslo in order to have talks with the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and Norconsult, both involved in a dam construction project at the Epupa falls. It became clear that this dam will threaten the existence of this self-sufficient people, and that the only way for them to react to this project is to risk their own lives. Norconsult has hoped all along for the development to take place, at the same time as the company is assessing the impact with support from NORAD.
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.