The effects of palm oil-plantations has on Orangutans

Oil_palm_plantation_in_Cigudeg-04

As we have written before, one of the new owners of Battersea Power Station, Sime Darby, is one of the worlds largest producers of Palm Oil and has been accused of illegal logging in the rain forest of Borneo and Sumatra as well as destroying the habitat of the endangered Orangutan.

The UK government has voted to offer subsides to power stations for the burning of large portions of palm oil and other biofuels. An increased demand for palm oil poses a big threat to rain forest and the Orangutans habitat.

Famous British author of fantasy novels, Terry Pratchett, visited Borneo in 1994 and fell in love with the Orangutans. Recently he returned for a BBC-documentary, Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction, to see how the orangutans turned out.

To see what effects palm oil-plantations have on these endangered animals, please watch Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction.

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Palm oil biofuel is endangering the homes of Orangutans

The UK Government are proposing to support the burning of 500,000 tonnes of bio liquid per year in power stations. The largest part of this fuel will be palm oil, since it is the cheapest vegetable oil. One such Combined Heat and Power Station is planned for the Battersea Power Station site.

Even though some bio liquids can be good and environmentally friendly, the use of palm oil ruins the rainforest and the home of orangutan, an animal that today is nearly extinct.

We have written before how Sime Darby, new owners of Battersea Power Station, have carried out illegal logging in rain forests and endangered the homes of orangutans. So Sime Darby, with their production of palm oil,  is not only a threat for Battersea Power Station, but also for orangutans, the rainforest and in the end our environment.

 

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Should We Trust Sime Darby with Battersea Power Station?

The Malasian company Sime Darby is one of the worlds largest producers of Palm Oil. They also make up 40% of the comglomerate which now owns and is redeveloping the Batersea Power station and surounding area.

The company has been surrounded by controversy over its ethical practices. According to a recent Friends of the Earth report Sime Darby has carried out illegal logging in the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra, home to endangerd speicies such as the Orangutan, to make way for palm oil plantations.
Sime Darbys Palm Oil opperations in Liberia are equally dubious with the company accused of swallowing up farmlands and forests used by local communities to sustain their livelihoods.
The company has been exposed for running an aggressive Greenwash campaign to try and “counter the negative perceptions surrounding the Palm Oil Industry”. The campaign involved the funding of a series of TV shows which were shown on CNBC and the BBC. The films where presented as current affairs when in fact the company which produced them; the FBC Group (ironically standing for Fact Based Media), where in the pay of Sime Darby and the Malaysian government.

Sime Darbys track record show it to be a company with little concern for local communities or the environment. They are driven only by profit and to this end will spend millions to appear “ethical” and “Sustainable” whilst continuing with business as usual. This film asks if we should trust such a company with the redevelopment of one of Britain’s most famous and Iconic buildings.

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Silwood Soil Contamination: Higgins’ response

Once they were gardens

Based on residents’ concerns about the mysterious and unspecified “soil contamination” of the back gardens of dwellings in phase 3A of the Silwood estate we put together our own “Frequently asked Questions” and put them to Higgins, the contractor:

9th July 2010

Re: Removal of topsoil on Silwood Estate SE16

Given the confusion among residents over this issue, we are contacting you formally to ask several questions about the topsoil, the contamination, and the ongoing digging works. Our questions are:

From where was the topsoil currently being removed brought?

Have soil tests been conducted on the contaminated soil, and if so, what did the results of these tests reveal?

What are the health consequences related to this soil contamination?

How is any contamination thought to have arisen?

For how long has Higgins Construction known about any contamination present in the topsoil?

Will any contamination have affected the fruit and vegetables grown in some residents’ gardens in such a way as might adversely affect the health of anyone who might eat them?

On what basis was the £250 compensation for each affected garden calculated?
How long will these works (removing contaminated topsoil, replacing it with new topsoil, and repairing residents’ gardens) take?

How much will these works (removing contaminated topsoil, replacing it with new topsoil, and repairing residents’ gardens) cost?

In addition, we were informed during a conversation on Silwood Estate with a Higgins Construction employee that some paperwork related to the contaminated topsoil had been lost. We would therefore also like to know:

Of what nature was this lost paperwork?

How was this paperwork lost?

If this lost paperwork was in connection with the contamination of the topsoil, why is the issue only being addressed now, several years after the topsoil was bought and laid in residents’ gardens?

As I am sure you will agree, it is manifestly in the public interest to have these question answered, since any environmental contamination constitutes a matter of public health and safety.

At first there was  silence, we sent the letter again and then we got a phone call from Keith Briggs Director for Preconstruction at Higgins Construction PLC. He wanted to know if we were an “elected representative body ” because if the Silwood Video Group were not elected Higgins did not need to answer our questions. I asked him to put his response in writing, here is an edited version below:

15th July

our Ref:C2292/KB/as

Dear Sirs,

[…] As we established in our [phone] discussion your organisation is not an elected representative body to speak on behalf of the residents […]
It is not appropriate for Higgins Construction PLC to enter into discussion with any party not forming part of our contractual obligation.

In other words Higgins was refusing to answer the questions, many of which only they could answer, on the spurious grounds that only an elected body was entitled to ask questions.

Dear Keith,

Thank you for your reply.I understand that Higgins are refusing to answer our legitimate questions regarding the soil contamination at the Silwood. In a democracy residents do not need to ask questions via an elected body. Indeed there is no such elected body on the estate. To use this as grounds for refusing to answer legitimate questions goes against accepted notions of freedom of speech and accountability.

I would like to draw your attention to your own website:

Corporate Social Responsibility

When it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Higgins believes in going beyond the minimum requirements. [….] we have developed a CSR policy that’s based on 6 core principles:

1 Environment – taking responsibility for the mark we make on the environment

If Keith had not been so keen to jump on the fact that the Silwood Video Group was not an elected representative body I could have told him that almost uniquely I  was in fact democratically elected by resident members as  Chair of the SVG. But he thought he had his excuse to ignore us and got off the phone in haste.

As Higgins suggested we did write to the two Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) London and Quadrant and Presentation (now part of Notting Hill Housing Association ). We await their reply…

Those few residents who have now had their gardens put back as they were have received their compensation cheques for £250, interestingly not from  the RSLs but from Higgins.

Meanwhile residents sweat it out (indoors) worrying about their health.

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