Subject: Timor stops work on power plants
ETAN List readers --
The article below,"Timor stops work on power plants
is incorrect on many points, including its main one. Work on the
heavy oil power plants has not been suspended, and President
Ramos-Horta has not asked for it to be stopped.
When I asked
journalist Lindsay Murdoch where he got the information in this
article, he replied that it was solely based on President Ramos-Horta's
speech to the RDTL National Parliament (http://www.laohamutuk.org/Oil/Power/JRHtoPN17Mar09En.pdf).
However, the President simply expressed his concerns about
transparency, national consensus, and environmental issues relating
to the heavy oil project. As neither civil society, Parliament nor
the President has been allowed to see the contract between the RDTL
Government and Chinese Nuclear Industry 22nd Construction Company
for this $375 million project, Mr. Ramos-Horta had to speak in
The President's request for "an independent body that will carry
out an environmental impact assessment and a technological
evaluation to determine the risks that the project poses to the
environment" merely underlines what is already required by the
Indonesian law currently in effect in Timor-Leste, although it
appears that the Government was not intending to prepare an
independent, public, EIA prior to proceeding with the project.
Lindsay Murdoch interpreted the President as stating that work
has not yet begun on the project. In fact, land clearing began at
the Hera site in early February, and continues to this day. (See
photos at the bottom of
addition, for a project as large and complex as this one, much is
done before on-site construction starts: research, design, detailed
engineering, subcontracting, hiring, purchasing, etc.
The President correctly pointed out "how important it is to
provide more information and to ensure greater transparency ... [to]
seek to generate the broadest consensus possible." La'o Hamutuk will
continue to research this project and publish information as we
receive it, and we continue to be concerned about the secretive
policies which envelop many aspects of the heavy oil power plant and
national electricity grid project, by far the largest undertaking
ever in Timor-Leste.
24 March 2009
PS: A longer version of Lindsay Murdoch's article, headlined "
Timor stops work on power plants
* Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin
* March 18, 2009
EAST Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta has intervened to delay the
construction of three second-hand and highly polluting electricity plants.
Mr Ramos Horta told parliament yesterday that concerns about the plants
needed to be dealt with, including the way the $US400 million ($A606
million) deal was negotiated with China for their purchase.
He said he had asked the coalition Government to establish an
independent body to carry out an environmental impact assessment and
technological evaluation of the country's largest infrastructure project.
That group would determine any risks that the project posed to the
Environmental groups, non-government organisations in Dili and the
Fretilin opposition have criticised the purchase of the plants amid
secrecy and rumours about irregularities in contracts with the
Beijing-owned Chinese Nuclear Industry 22nd Construction Company.
The deal would oblige gas-rich East Timor to import heavy oil for at
least three decades for plants using difficult-to-manage technology that
has already been phased out in many countries for environmental reasons.
La'o Hamutuk, an independent non-government organisation in Dili, said
the plants that had operated in China for more than two decades would
create acid rain, water pollution, toxic solid waste, particulate air
pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr Ramos Horta told parliament he shared many of the concerns,
including the "technology to be used, its environmental impact, the
costs involved and the reciprocal arrangements that were negotiated with
the company to whom the contract was awarded".
His unusual intervention comes amid growing concern about lack of
transparency in the awarding of government contracts and possible
high-level corruption in Dili.
He said Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao had assured him he would accept
any recommendations from the independent body and that if the plants went
ahead, the Government would be "meticulous and transparent" in
Construction on the first plant near the coast at Hera, a few
kilometres east of Dili, was to begin last month but has been delayed. The
Government has said the power plants and a national power grid would be
operating by the end of the year.
La'o Hamutuk questioned the project after the Finance Ministry gave
only three weeks for expressions of interest in power generation in June
"We believe that the Government already knew who would get the
project and conducted an open tender only as a formality," La'o
Hamutuk said. It described the project as unrealistic, saying the plants
would generate so much electricity that they would make alternative energy
power sources unnecessary.
The plants would not be able to use oil and gas found in East Timor or
in the Timor Sea.
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