Who are Battersea Power Station co-owners Sime Darby?

Producing palm oil is already a bad thing on its own (see our previous blog ), but Malaysia-based multinational conglomerate Sime Darby (a.k.a co-owner of the Battersea Power Station) also violates numerous contracts and even acts in an illegal way, according to Friends of the Earth.

Continue reading for a summary on Darby’s careless actions, all based on reports by Friends of the Earth, which are attached at the bottom of this article.

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The multinational conglomerate is developing palm oil plantations in Liberia, swallowing up farmlands and forests used by local communities to sustain their livelihoods. The contracts for land concessions signed by Sime Darby and the Liberian government violate several Liberian laws and regulations as exposed by a government agency report released a few months ago. They also violate several human rights principles in conventions ratified by the Liberian government as well as principles enshrined in Liberian Law.

Sime Darby’s plantations in the Ketapang district in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, are unlikely to achieve RSPO certification in the near future. The company has allegedly illegally deforested protected forest at Ketapang and is producing palm oil on this land. Sime Darby’s 100 – per – cent owned subsidiary PT BAL has cleared 2,600 ha of concessions that overlap with Protected Forest. This is what a Forestry Department team discovered in 2003.  Another wholly-owned subsidiary, called PT SNP, has a 1300 ha concession that overlaps protected forest. Parts of this have again been cleared and planted without permission. Indonesia was one of their victims as well. More than 2 million hectares of forest, including protected forest and conservation areas, have been illegally converted to palm oil plantations.

The Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) has found that contract award process between Sime Darby and the Liberian government did not comply with local land laws, failed to conduct public consultations or produce due diligence reports as required by Liberian rules.

To sum up some of Sime Darby’s deeds, which highly affect the local communities in Liberia:

– No compensation has been paid to communities for land taken over by the company
– Forest areas used for various cultural practices had also been destroyed and planted with oil palm
-Sime Darby operations could lead to a loss of biodiversity, particularly the Upper Guinean Forest Ecosystem, which includes globally endangered and vulnerable bird species
-There could be land clearance of substantial areas of closed forest (more than 40 per cent tree cover) resulting in reductions in carbon storage and sequestration capacity
– There are risks of loss of livelihoods, food insecurity and the potential for chronic poverty
– Increased risk of conflict and rural to urban migration
– Increase in gender inequalities

According to Sime Darby’s own High Conservation Value Assessment report, one of the concession areas (Garwula District, Grand Cape Mount County) is comprised of
wetlands, agricultural lands, and mainly intact natural forested areas. This area houses a variety of animal species including Water Chevrotain and African Buffalo, both of which are protected under Liberian laws. Various species of forest and lowland birds, as well as reptiles including crocodiles are found in the area as well. Another concession area (Bopolu District,Gbarpolu County) also has significant forest cover.

To give you a list of violated Liberian regulations:

-By having no protection for communities’ rights in respect of customary land and natural resources;
-By not guaranteeing the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC);
-By allowing involuntary resettlement of communities if they are deemed to impede the companies’ activities;
-By allowing the degradation of food security by not mandating that the company find alternative nutrition sources for community members who lose farmland to the plantations.

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As if Sime Darby has not caused enough harm already, local communities accuse them of violating their human rights as well, in a way of:

-Providing inadequate information about the concession areas;
-Not providing communities copies of the concession agreement;
-Giving little or no time to consider their response;
-Providing inadequate or no compensation;
-Not giving communities the opportunity to say ‘no’.

After these findings, the Friends of the Earth have given Sime Darby the following demands:

– The concession agreements or contracts must be renegotiated in order to enshrine the responsibility to conduct FPIC negotiations, to invalidate the resettlement clause, and acknowledge customary community land rights regarding the concession land;
– Only after the communities have given their free, prior and informed consent can the company operate on their land;
– Communities should not be displaced against their will by the activities of Sime Darby;
– All community members should benefit from the plantations and the benefits shall be laid out clearly to the communities before they enter into any agreement;
– Employment rights must be respected;
– Compensation rates must be agreed with the communities before entering into any contractual agreement;
– No further deforestation and other environmental degradation should take place by Sime Darby in any of the concession areas.

But the following terrifying quote from Sime Darby Plantation managing director Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamidi shows that they’re not taking these demands very seriously:

”Later on, when the opportunity arises, we may open estates in Brazil or in any South American country near the equator where oil palm grows well.”

Sime Darby’s expansion into Liberia is part of the company’s ambition to reach 1 million hectares of plantation land in the next five years. This would very nearly double its current palm oil plantations area and would inevitably involve large scale deforestation to create new land. But unfortunately, it is not alone. IOI and Cargill, are also expanding their operations into new land including forest. Let’s hope these ’’opportunities’’ won’t arise at all.

The most incredible part of the story is that European banks, pension funds and private equity funds have given out loans to Sime Darby with a total value of 280 million
euro and assisted with issuing new bonds with a total value of 250 million euro. The company is highly supported in their destruction, so it seems.

Furthermore, the largest European shareholders of Sime Darby are the Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global, the British asset manager Schroder Investment Management, the Dutch pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PfZW) and the German Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank is also the largest European bondholder together with AXA Group (France). HSBC and Standard Chartered (both from the United Kingdom) are the only European financial institutions that have assisted Sime Darby to issue new bonds.

To conclude with, EU biofuels targets are driving deforestation of tropical rainforests as Sime Darby’s operations in Indonesia and Liberia reveal. They will continue to expand elsewhere to meet the extra demand for palm oil, therefore causing indirect greenhouse gas emissions. The EU must account for the emissions caused by the new demand stemming from its targets.

See the full PDF’s on this, reports by Friends of the Earth.
Palm_oil_driving_deforestation_Aug_2010 Sime_Darby_and_land_grabs_in_Liberia_June_2013

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Elephant & Castle Regeneration: The Heygate Diaspora

The Heygate Diaspora June 8th, 2013

“There is a huge silent majority of people that have been moved out of the Heygate that are happy in their new homes.”
Cllr Fiona Colley Cabinet Member for Regeneration

“I could no longer afford to stay in the area and, in the end, the offer I was made plus £45,000 of my life savings bought me a terraced property 15 miles out of London. I have, I feel, given up my home to accommodate the building of homes for overseas investors.”
Terry Redpath Former Heygate Leaseholder

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Property Week Magazine – 17/05/13
In our last blog post we corrected some of the more fanciful claims that council leader Peter John made about the rehousing of Heygate tenants. We showed that only 45 Heygate tenants have actually been rehoused in new homes. We now also know that only around 1 in 5 Heygate secure tenants actually remain in the SE17 postcode (216 tenants out of 1034). This information comes from a response to an FOI request. The rest have been scattered to the outer corners of the borough and beyond:

Around half have relocated to SE postcodes (including Woolwich, Thamesmead and Welling), most of the rest have had to move to suburbs such as Sidcup, St. Albans, Chelmsford, Croydon, Bexley Heath, Ilford, Romford, Dartford, Cheshunt, Mitcham and West Thurrock. The reason for this is clear: the very low levels of compensation leaseholders have received for their Heygate homes. This link has a full list of the amounts paid to Heygate leaseholders. It is compiled from information received through Freedom of Information requests, and includes an indexed column showing today’s value of the settlements.

The average compensation paid for a 1 bed flat is £108,164 (indexed to today’s value). Owners of 2 bed flats received on average £122,140, 3 bed maisonettes £185,070 and 4 bed maisonettes £209,440. Some home owners got particularly poor deals: one leaseholder received just £32,000 for a 1 bed flat in 2008.

Compare this to the cost of the new Heygate homes as advertised by Lend Lease. These start at £330k for a 1 Bed flat, £455k for a 2 Bed flat and £590k for a 3 Bed – (www.trafalgarplace.com)

All in all not many residents – whether a secure tenant, an insecure tenant or a leaseholder – will get either a new home or a home in Elephant and Castle through this regeneration.

See more information at http://35percent.org/blog/2013/06/08/the-heygate-diaspora/

Also learn more about the forced housing deplacement here.

 

 

 

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Justice for Bhopal – Stop Dow Chemicals sponsorship for London Olympics

Dow Chemicals is sponsoring millions of dollars to the London Olympics at the cost of the lives of 25,000 people who died inhaling the poisonous gas on the 3rd of December 1984 in Bhopal, India. Union Carbide, the company responsible for the mishandling of the large tanks containing the poisonous pesticide methyl isocyanate, is currently owned by Dow Chemicals. The organizations fighting for justice complained that they have received only 15% of the actual compensation they deserve. Union Carbide paid a part compensation of $470 mn. in 1989 after bowing down to the enormous pressure from activists and partly the Indian Government.

The compensations received then were based on the incorrect numbers presented by the Indian government, which has been constantly pestered by the organizations demanding justice. The official website for Justice in Bhopal mentions that the compensation received considered 5295 deaths but in reality 22,917 deaths have been reported due to the direct effects of the deadly gas. Also only 4902 were listed earlier as permanently disabled which is in complete contrast to the actual number which stands at more than 500,000. No compensation was provided to victims with temporary disability or minor injuries. 

The politicians who have been constantly reminded by the activists to bring the American company to trial have eventually won the attention of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, SS Chauhan joining the protests and asking for a boycott of the Games by India. Bhopal is the provincial capital of Madhya Pradesh. The Indian Government later asked the Indian Olympic Association to raise the issue with the International Olympic Committee. Although the Sports Minister has confirmed that no such action will be taken by the Indian Olympic Association.

Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the London Olympics has insisted that the organisers will go ahead with the sponsorship deal. This statement created a massive hatred for Seb Coe in Bhopal and his effigies were burnt.

This is not the first time Dow Chemicals have been accused of playing dirty games. In its ugly past they produced napalm for the United States government during the Vietnam War and have also been responsible for leaking of poisonous plutonium in America for which they were sued. They have multiple sites in USA which are harmful and are labelled as dangerous owing to Dow Chemicals dirty activities. The 10 year deal with the Olympic Committee means Dow Chemicals will supply its chemical to the organizers for construction raising millions of dollars.

Five leading groups who have been responsible for keeping the fight alive have held numerous rallies across the city and the state capital Delhi. The most recent rally was the ‘Rail Roko Andholan’ (Stop the Trains Movement) which was highly successful when the protesters stopped all trains passing through Bhopal which lies in the heart of the 1.3bn population country.

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L&Q and NHH: No Health Threats to Eating Produce from Contaminated Soil

Photo by thermidor

Spectacle received a response today from L&Q and NHH to a letter sent out on July 9th, seeking answers to questions that weren’t included in Higgin’s FAQ sheet to residents. The good news is that there seems to be no health related threats to residents who have eaten produce from the contaminated soil. To quote the letter: “The marginal nature of the soil classification does not pose a threat to health from eating produce grown in the soil. It is key to note that soil in any garden would have a degree of ‘contamination’ and that the issue is about present day classification.”

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Silwood Residents Discuss the Contaminated Soil

Elaine Martin, Resident of the Silwood Estate

In a new video uploaded on the Spectacle site today, four residents of Silwood Estate discuss Higgins’ questionable actions of digging up their “contaminated” garden soil. Suzanne, Yvonne, Elaine and Mandy raise all the reasonable questions not included in the FAQ sheet sent to residents by Higgins. Why weren’t they given a full breakdown of the contamination? The residents contemplate whether the soil was even contaminated in the first place. And if it was, what health effects will that have on the residents who planted and ate produce from their soil? What stopped Higgins from giving the residents more notice of the works? Is the £250 compensation really going to cover all the damage and inconvenience caused? In Mandy’s words, is there more to the matter than what Higgins is telling the residents?

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