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In the last edition of NorWatch we highlighted Norwegian companies' secrecy with regard to their Chinese subcontractors within the shoes and sports-clothing industry. Well recognised manufacturers such as Helly Hansen and Gresvig refused to give out information for «reasons of competition». This is the policy in spite of the existence of extensive documentation that working conditions in this industry are far from satisfactory.
Norconsult has finished the negotiations, and is about to sign a contract for the construction of a highly controversial waste disposal site in Barbados. The dump will be situated within the Scotland District National Park, which is claimed by environmentalists and opponents to the construction to be the last green lung on the densely populated Caribbean island. Norconsult has told NorWatch that the existence of a national park in the area is unknown to them, but that it does not make a difference in terms of signing the contract.
The Norwegian consultant and planning company Norplan AS is responsible for the communication between the developers and the people living in the area that are affected by the Hidrovia development in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia. The massive project affects the natives and threatens fauna and flora in the area. Changes made to the course of the river, in order to give ships access to the inner regions, may cause dry-out of the world's largest wetland, as well as floods. There is a strong resistance among the natives in the area, which Norplan, with NORAD (Nowegian Agency for Development Co-operation) financing, has the responsibility to inform. Thus, Norplan and NORAD are contributing to the opening up of untouched areas for commercial exploitation.
Foreign investments explode in China - including Norwegian. However, not all companies see it as beneficial to move to China. Instead, they make use of subcontractors.
More than 9000 natives of the Dejak people, which counts 26 tribes, are forced to move as a result of the Bakun dam construction in the East Malaysian province Sarawak on the Borneo Island. Their traditional way of living; hunting and gathering, farming and fishing, must yield - instead they are offered work at an oil palm plantation. The indigenous people strongly oppose the plans, which will flood more than 690 square kilometres of valuable rainforest. Both companies, Dyno and Alcatel STK, wish to be involved in the project. Neither have any second thoughts regarding the consequences.
Norwegian manufacturers of clothes and shoes have their products made by cheap Chinese subcontractors. The working conditions in this branch have been strongly criticised recently. Norwegian manufacturers such as Gresvig and Helly Hansen, owned by among others Resource Group International (RGI) and Orkla, and RGI subsidiary Brooks Sports refuses to give NorWatch names of the subcontractors they use. What are they trying to hide?
In April, two members of the organisation Agragamee were arrested and accused of provoking the local population to turn to violence against the Utkal project in Orissa, India. Hydro Aluminium owns 33% of the planned bauxite operation, which faces resistance from the native population in the area.
- We have thought everything was well, and have got the impression that our fish processing project in Uganda was a positive contribution. But then we have not evaluated the consequences of the project on the resource situation - this was done by NORAD before we were invited to participate. Now we have come in a situation where we will do all we can to put pressure on the leadership we are co-operating with in Uganda, says division head Rolf Borge-Aaserud in UNITOR.
The third newsletter from NorWatch deals entirely with Norwegian fisheries interests in Africa. In two of the projects the Norwegian interests are out, whereas the third project still ongoing seems to have the opposite effect of what was initially intended.
The export oriented fishery of Nile-perch in Africa's largest lake, Lake Victoria, is strongly criticised by experts who have been monitoring the development for years. Only crumbs are left to the poor, whereas both fish and profits go the West. NorWatch can reveal that the Norwegian company UNITOR, supported by around 10 million NOK (1 USD is app. 7.5 NOK) from NORAD, is one of the largest players in the doubtful fight for the fishery resources in Uganda.
6-7 years ago, Ticon Isolering entered three fishery projects in Africa. Apart from the previously mentioned project in Uganda, which UNITOR now has taken over, the Norwegian company had ownership interests in companies in Angola and Benin. In Benin things went so bad that NORAD considers to file the company for bankruptcy, whereas in Angola, the state confiscated Ticon's plant a few years ago.
This last week indigenous people on the Indonesian island of West Papua have rebelled against the Freeport mine. The police has given up the fight, and military forces are put on alert. The indigenous people have been subjected to killings and torture in their yearlong struggle against the mine, which has led to vast environmental damage. NorWatch has learned that this conflict also affects Norwegian interests. Dyno Wesfarmers Ltd in Australia, owned 50% by Dyno Industrier, has a big contract to supply explosives for the mine.