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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Battersea Power Station Pop-Up Park ‘pops off’

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Last May, the Battersea Power Station developers opened what they announced as a Pop-Up Park, that would receive visitors from all over the world every weekend and host several events. The so called public park, that was even added to Google Maps, ( how did that happen?) soon ‘popped off’ and in late September closed its doors.

The Power Station is one of the few obstacles preventing walkers from strolling along the south side of the Thames Path. For years this path has been blocked– a fading sign claimed it was a “construction site” even though really it was a very agreeable and exclusive river front office for construction company Berkeley Homes. The Berkeley Group (Berkeley, St James, St George, St Edward ) are responsible for ”delivering” many of the ugly and soulless developments despoiling the south bank.

IMG_9990In a new sign hanging on the now closed door, the developers claim the reason why they are shutting access to the park is related to the beginning of restoration works of the Power Station. In fact phase 1, which has barely started, is the building of monstrous flats in the slither of land along the rail track, forever obscuring the wonderful views from the west. “Restoration” (or desecration depending on your view of art deco architecture) of the power station is phase 2.

The sign also states that they have had “a great time hosting over 55,000 guests” in the pop up park. Are they are including in that number the more than 30,000 people that visited the building during the London Open House weekend? If so the pop up park was already closed then. Or do they count those attending the numerous events they have hosted, regardless of the alleged danger of the chimneys falling, on the south side of the site?

Finally it suggests you write to zkelly@bpsdc.co.uk if you would like to discuss putting on an event- It would seem danger from the chimneys only affects the non-paying public but not private, paying guests.

Perhaps “PR Park” would be a more appropriate name than “pop-up Park”.

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Battersea Power Station -masters of spin

The new owners of Battersea Power Station may not know much about property development, but they do have excellent PR. The hugely successful Open House London day attracted tens of thousands of visitors who queued for hours to catch a brief glimpse of this much loved building.

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However, in PR terms, it was a bit of an own goal. As only a few days later, the World Monuments Fund listed Battersea Power Station as an endangered world heritage site. See our blog on this.

This very significant listing was hardly commented on in the media. Despite its big PR it was’nt even mentioned in the very slick newsletter of the owners. The inclusion was only visible in some mainstream media:

”Battersea Power Station ‘at risk’ says the heading of an article in the Times. And according to the the Express:

”The Grade II listed London landmark is among 67 heritage

sites that are at risk from natural, economic, social and political forces according to The World Monuments Fund (WMF). The decommissioned coal-fired power station was joined on the list by the beautiful Italian city of Venice and the little known Hong Kong village of Pokfulam.”

The Local Guardian on the inclusion:

”WMF have said they aim to keep a spotlight on the current redevelopment plans for the station, particularly focusing on the re-building of it’s four chimneys.”

Noticeably, they claim it to be one of the best-loved landmarks of the capital.

The Evening standard did not mention this embarassing listing either. Since they recently made Battersea Power Station a front cover image as part of their association with “The Power 1000 – London’s most Influential People” critical reporting of Battersea Power Station from the Standard, which was always weak, has been significantly lacking.

See our full article about the owners’ pro – active approach to media management.

Interestingly, the owners were unable to provide visitors with updated information about the new phasing of the demolishing of the chimneys. This was left to a small group of local volunteers of the Battersea Power Station Community Group.

Watch our video about the demonstration against these plans during London open house.

The owners have also not mentioned their plans to make a bio fuel power station. If you think bio fuels sounds good, look at this chart. And then there’s the PR problem with main partner Sime Darby’s significant role in deforestation and the extinction of the Orang u Tang.

Despite these obstacles, they are still winning the PR – war as many people believe they are going to start to renovate the Power Station “at last”. However, phase 1 is only building ugly greedy soulless flats for investors that will block most of the views. And phase 2 involves demolishing the chimneys and, they claim, replacing them with replicas.

The current agreement is that they have permission to take down one, and that is including the art deco brickwork on the top. They will rebuild the first one to 25 meters, which is about halfway. When they have reached that point, they can take the other three chimneys down and then they will continue rebuilding the first.
So it’s essentially one plus three. Now at some point down that route, if there’s a default, the developer either refuses, or claim they ‘cannot put them back up’ or they run out of money, the chimneys, like the roof, will not be put back. The cost of putting back three and a half chimneys is massive- far more than the “bond” being asked.

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They are also not keen to draw attention to their recent request to dismantle the two listed cranes that are disgracefully being allowed to rust away, in order to provide a jetty for taking underground extension tunnel soil out via the river. They have a very long water front it is typical that they should insist it can only work by demolishing the cranes.

To us and any one interested, except English Heritage and Wandsworth council who collude in the hidden master plan, the owners are pursuing a policy of demolition by stealth.

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Data Leak Reveals the Truth About Palm Oil

Owners of Battersea Power Station,  Palm Oil giants Sime Darby, want to build a bio-fuel power station at the site to power the massive development. To side step criticism they claim not have decided what bio-fuel it will use ( yeah right. Maybe Palm Oil?)

This blog has been sourced from an article by David Carrington, for The Guardian.     Click here if you would prefer to view the full article.

A new data leak has revealed how certain bio-fuels can have a worse impact upon the environment then fossil fuels. Although some bio-fuels can be advantageous in preventing climate change, others such as palm oil are quite the opposite due to the large carbon footprint that they generate.

In distinguishing the good bio-fuels from the bad ones it is also important to account for factors such as deforestation and other man made sources of pollution that are involved in harvesting bio-fuels.

A diagram displaying the individual carbon footprint of bio-fuels in comparison to that of crude oil from tar sands, puts Palm oil just beneath that of the crude oil:

Biofuels

Second generation fuels (SG), particularly those that are land-using such as Biodiesel and Ethanol produce the least CO2. While sugar cane and corn maize are thankfully less harmful then crude oil, however their carbon footprint could still be considered a cause for concern.

Recently, the US environmental protection agency stated that Palm oil failed to meet the US requirement of emitting a minimum  of 20% less carbon then the diesel produced from crude oil. Furthermore, bio-fuels campaigner Robbie Blake for Friends of the Earth Europe further condemned the use of Palm Oil (speaking to David Carrington):

“It’s getting quite indisputable that the use of soy or palm oil to fuel our cars is even dirtier than conventional fossil fuels. Forests in Asia and South America are being destroyed by the expansion of plantations to meet the European market. It’s a delusion for politicians to think that biodiesel will solve climate change.”

An important factor that helps assess how beneficial or environmentally unfriendly bio-fuels are is sourced from research into more sustainably advancements, with the latest examples in sourcing low carbon bio-fuel come from seaweed and algae.

An EU target has been made to ensure transport fuels incorporate 10% of bio-fuels by 2020. However the production of certain bio-fuels has been named ‘unethical’ in relation to the environment and to human rights. Research groups meanwhile have branded it ‘immoral’ to not look for an alternative to using fossil fuels.

For more information on this topic view the full article here, or try these related links:

Issues surrounding the production of second generation fuels, how the EU brands fuel sustainability, other recent studies into bio-fuel carbon footprints.

https://www.facebook.com/BatterseaAgainstBiofuels

http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/2013/battersea-biofuels/

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Will the chimneys be demolished all at once?

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There is a growing worry about the survival of the chimneys on Battersea Power Station. While expert opinion says they could be repaired the developers insist they have to be demolished and replaced with replicas. To avoid a repeat of the roof situation – ( see Demolition by Stealth)  where Bloom, a previous owner, took the roof off and then claimed he could not afford to replace it- planning permission was only given to demolish and rebuild the chimneys one by one, but now it seems like it is going to be a different story.

South London Press wrote an article in their newspaper this week about the fact that Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) are pushing towards knocking all the chimneys down at once. This action is something that English Heritage has warned about, since it might result in the chimneys never being rebuilt. Now on the other hand are Battersea Power Station Development Company, English Heritage and Wandsworth council in discussion about removing the clause in the building contract that requires the chimneys being removed and rebuilt one by one. English Heritage have not been able to reassure Battersea Power Station Community Group that they are not willing to change their view on the demolition of the chimneys.

Battersea Power Station Development Company was claiming in an exhibition last week that replacing the chimneys one by one would be too time consuming and would delay the rebuilding and restoration of the power station.

Wandsworth council claims that Battersea Power Station Development Company are examining different ways to rebuild the chimneys, but if there would be a change in the rebuilding strategy, it would have to be approved from the council in consultation with English Heritage.

Is there still not a risk that the chimneys will not be rebuilt if they are taken down all at once? Since it is cheaper, and possible, to repair them rather then to replace them, why would a company who are driven by profit decide to do something that is more expensive? Is it not proof enough to suspect that if the chimneys are gone all at once, there will be a great risk that they are never rebuilt, and rendered historically worthless the power station will be demolished as well.

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The new development in Battersea “is not” only for the rich

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The redevelopment of Battersea Power station has started and as we have written many times before, we are very concerned what the impact of the new neighborhood might have on the existing community.

30-40 percent of the flats have been sold to foreign investors, said the CEO of the new Battersea Power Station Development Company, Robert Tincknell to the Evening Standard last week. He did also mentioned that even if they were bought up by foreign investors, most of the investors will probably rent the flats to londoners. Something that would contribute to the vibrant community they hope to build. He also believes that the new development will be good for local business and that they are trying to be a part of the existing community.

The question still remains, would not a new development with expensive flats make the rent for existing houses higher? Tincknell says that he does not want Battersea Power Station to only be a place for the rich, but with the building plans they got, does it really sound like a place that is not only for the rich?

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The effects of palm oil-plantations has on Orangutans

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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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Is the new Power Station scheme to change people’s quality of life?

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Rob Tincknell was interviewed in The Standard, Hong Kong’s biggest circulation English daily, about the plans for Battersea Power Station earlier this month. The power station was bought by three Malaysian companies, SP Setia, Sime Darby and Employee’s Provident Fund, in June last year. Tincknell said that the Malaysian’s vision for the site is better and different from the previous schemes, since this one is bigger and it is going to influence people’s quality of life.

Tincknell failed to mention that people’s quality of life is not only going to change for the better. Like we have mentioned before, many in the nearby communities are people on low incomes, and with a luxury estate just across the road from their homes the rents will rise and their quality of life will get worse.

Developers who want to attract really wealthy buyers have to build super-size apartment buildings with flats bigger then 6,000 square feet. The new penthouses in Battersea are planned to be 8,000 square feet, a size aimed to appeal more to the rich rather then the members of the Battersea community.

Tincknell also mentioned that no other plans have had a good solution to the public transport, but this scheme is planning to extend the Northern Line with public money, a 1 billion loan from UK government to Transport for London.

Two things are interesting with this statement. First of all, the previous owners of Battersea Power Station, who Tincknell also worked for, were the one’s who planned the extension of the Northern Line. Second, the owners were also suppose to pay for the extension as a contribution towards section 106- planning gain. Somewhere down the line the private-funding of the underground extension has turned in to a public-funding.

In the end Tincknell said that tourists want to come and see things that are authentic, and he means that the Power Station surrounded by ugly new buildings will give “authenticity” to the place. The only question is, will Battersea Power Station survive after its chimneys have been taken down to be rebuild, and how much of its authenticity will it be able to keep?

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“New” idea to turn Battersea Power Station in to a rollercoaster


The “new” idea of a roller coaster wrapped around the power station.


A similar idea but from 1988

Wired Magazine wrote earlier this week about who the Architecture firm Atelier Zündel Cristea (AZC) had won a competition hosted by ArchTriumph. The competition was to use the Power Station as inspiration to imagine a new Museum of Architecture.

AZC idea was to build a roller coaster around the Power station, add some new floors, have galleries inside and use the roof for exhibitions on architecture.

The idea of turning the Power Station into a roller coaster is not new. It is an old idea from Margaret Thatcher’s eighties that thankfully never happened.

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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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