: Dam building in Lesotho :
Multinationals judged for corruption
It takes two to tango when it comes to corruption
Sunday Times Editorial
A LANDMARK case against international corruption
begins in the Maseru High Court this week, with a number of huge
companies in the dock on charges of bribery.
These multinational companies have all been involved
in building or tendering for aspects of the massive hydroelectric
dam project in the mountains of Lesotho. They are charged with improperly
paying millions of rands in foreign currency to intermediaries who,
after taking a cut, deposited the balance into a secret Swiss bank
account held in the name of the top executive of the dam project.
The consortiums have not yet been asked to plead,
and we carefully avoid prejudging the question of whether they are
guilty of the crimes with which they are to be charged.
But the trial raises several important legal issues
likely to be significant for any subsequent case of this kind.
One is the difficulty of proving bribery if it means
showing exactly what favours were exchanged for what payments.
Suppose the prosecution has evidence of money paid
secretly by big business into the pockets of someone in a position
to influence decisions in their favour; suppose the executive concerned
takes the money without declaring it to the authorities; that all
this takes place at the very time that tenders and contracts are
being considered and awarded; and that no one involved offers any
satisfactory explanation. Would this be sufficient for a conviction?
Another problem is the question of jurisdiction.
Would the court of any country be entitled to charge and sentence
companies whose head offices and chief executives are based on the
other side of the world?
But the case also illustrates that there is another
side to the popular view of the Third World as almost inherently
corrupt and corruptible. It takes two to tango. If influential government
officials in a developing country are offered enormous bribes and
succumb to the temptation, the fault must be shared equally by those
who offer the funds to secure some considerable unfair advantage
Often those with the cash to spend on tempting officials
come from the wealthier parts of the world, and from those very
countries whose governments and business communities complain about
the corrupt practices of the Third World.
African delegates to the AfricaEurope summit in
Cairo earlier this month made this point strongly: when donors and
investors complain about corruption in Africa, they neglect to consider
the inevitable partners in crime - those First World conglomerates
which offer huge and illegal financial incentives to secure business
They corrupt officials and whole societies with
offers of unimaginable wealth, and then, when their contract is
complete, they pull out and return to Europe or the US, leaving
widespread moral and financial contamination in their wake.
It is a serious problem which must be urgently
addressed to ensure that blame is properly apportioned, that corruption
is stamped out and that development funds are properly spent so
that the poorest nations of the world can finally experience some
improvements in their lives. Many governments have complained about
international corruption and its impact on their societies; many
say they have committed themselves to taking tough action against
But so far, only Lesotho has actually done anything
to charge those it suspects of such cross-border crimes. Last year,
the Maseru government passed the Prevention of Corruption and Economic
Offences Act, making it easier to deal with future corruption of
this kind. Now it is fighting a determined battle to expose the
truth behind allegations of large-scale bribery associated with
its hydroelectric dam project.
It is a nice irony that this small, isolated country
should be setting an example to the rest of the world.
27.04.00 : New dams report
criticises the track record of European firms
European firms are violating people's rights, ruining
local environments and enriching themselves by building dams overseas,
despite a litany of failures and abuses examined in a report published
The report 'Dams Incorporated: The Record of Twelve
European Dam Building Companies', by Dorset-based group The Corner
House, calls for laws to curtail the industry's "power to oppress",
including holding them to the same environmental, social and economic
standards when working overseas to which they are at home.
The report is to be submitted for consideration
to the World Commission on Dams. The twelve firms - ABB (UK-based,
Swiss), Balfour Beatty (UK), Coyne et Bellier (Fra), Electrowatt
(Swiss), Impregilo (Ita), Knight Piesold (UK), Kvaerner (Swed),
Lahmeyer (Ger), Siemens (Ger), Skanska (Swed), Sogreah (Fra) and
VA Tech (Austria) - have built, or are building, some of the most
destructive dams in the world.
These dams include* Ilisu - a Turkish dam project
that opponents say is being used to eradicate the Kurds as an ethnic
group;* Lesotho Highlands - where a $2m case of dam bribery involving
20 or more foreign firms is now being prosecuted in a local court;
* Itaipu and Yacyreta - the most infamous examples of hydro-corruption,
on the border of Paraguay and Argentina. The combined cost of the
two dams was more than $30 billion - it should have been a little
over $7 billion; * Chixoy - where Guatemalan armed forces massacred
more than 400 Maya Achi indigenous people; * Pangue and Ralco -
in Chile, where local people were not consulted before the projects
were started; * Three Gorges - where 1.3 million Chinese people
will be forced from their homes.
Europe's dam builders are exporting technology that
has been discredited at home. They are increasingly looking to private
sector funding, often underwritten by export credit guarantees.
"Not only have the companies continued to remain involved in projects
where human rights abuses have been demonstrated or where resettlement
plans have been inadequate," the report says, "they have in many
cases actively promoted such projects against local opposition and
often in contravention of their own corporate >>environmental guidelines."
"It is hoped that the report will provide local
communities, host governments and potential investors with information
to help assess the probity, reliability and ethical standards of
the companies involved."
"Many dam-affected communities are now calling
for reparations. It is time to hold Europe's dam building companies
accountable for their past. Documenting their record is key to that
process," the report says. "It is also hoped that a knowledge of
the record of European dam builders could help European citizens
who are demanding that the companies which operate from their countries,
often with the backing of their tax-payers' money, and certainly
with their governments' blessing, are held accountable for >>their
The introduction to the report calls for a range
of policy changes that should be made if the European dam building
industry's power to oppress is to be curtailed.
For further media inquiries, please contact: Nick
Hildyard +44 (0)1258-473795, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Matthew
Grainger +44 (0)1865-249392, email email@example.com
: Design, weather caused Romanian cyanide spill - UN
ROMANIA: April 26, 2000
GENEVA - A U.N. report has blamed technical problems
and bad weather for a spill of slurry containing cyanide from a
Romanian gold mine in January. The spill from a mine in northwest
Romania on January 30 killed large numbers of fish in the Tisza
and Danube rivers in Hungary and Yugoslavia.
The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) report cited
"a combination of inherent design deficiencies in the industrial
processes involved, inadequate operating conditions and bad weather"
as probable causes for the accident at the mine near Baia Mare.
The mine's proprietor, Aurul SA, is half-owned by Australia's Esmeralda
Exploration Ltd. Romanian environment officials suspended Aurul's
operating licence and launched a criminal investigation after a
tailings dam at the mine broke, releasing the toxic slurry. The
governments of Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia had asked for an
independent report on the spill. The report warned of possible "chronic
health impacts" from the spill, given that it had occurred in an
area "already contaminated with heavy metals due to a long history
of mining and metal processing". "The region's large number of poorly
maintained and operated plants and flotation ponds containing dangerous
substances - many of which continue to leak - are the source of
a chronic pollution problem," it said. UNEP experts recommended
that Romania weigh the benefits of mining operations inherited from
the communist era against environmental risks. They also called
on countries in the region to draft a joint strategy on mining and
related industries, as well as tourism and fishing, which suffered
losses after the spill.
Source : ENS : http://ens.lycos.com/ens/apr2000/2000L-04-26-02.html
For furher information as well as the complete UNEP
report : http://www.natural-resources.org/environment/baiamare/
27.04.00 : International
River-Film Festival in Spain (June 30 to July 6, 2000)
The River Film-Festival aims to be a meeting and
reference point from which to consider many rivers as a source of
richness, and as a cultural tie between people who know of their
strengths and as a point of attraction to all kinds of activities
related to their environment and riverbed. The rivers, and their
changing valleys, are the veins that water the Earth. The Festival
hopes to gather, every year, the worldwide concern for the vitality
and pertinence of this water (riverwater?) and for all rivers’s
health that must nourish us for many centuries. For these reasons,
the Festival intends to be a showcase of audiovisual productions
divided into three different categories:
A. River is life River’s human and geological history.
Population and traditions. Traditional fluvial activities. Fluvial
industries and transports. Pollution and cleaning.
B. River’s strength Taking benefit from a river’s
water. Channels and straits. Water mills. Hydroelectrical industries.
Conservation of the fluvial industry patrimony. Natural disasters:
overflows and floods.
C. Rivers and adventures Trips and descents. Expeditions.
The heroes of the river. River sports: fishing, kayaking, rafting,
canyoning, ... Paths, tracks and roads by the riverbed.
Festival showings: place: Sort (Pallars Sobirŕ)
- Lleida - Spain dates: from June 30 to July 6, 2000
Odgen corp. barraged with calls urging company to withdraw from
NY-based Ogden Corporation is today being barraged
with calls, faxes and emails urging the company to withdraw from
the controversial Maheshwar Dam on India's Narmada River. The 400
megawatt Maheshwar hydropower project is fiercely opposed by the
Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement), which represents
tens of thousands of >local people, as well as by other Indian and
international human rights and environment groups because of its
social, environmental and economic impacts.
International Rivers Network (IRN) and Friends
of the Narmada, an international coalition of activists fighting
dams on the NarmadaRiver, have organized "Barrage Ogden Day" as
part of a long-term campaign against foreign involvement in destructive
dams on the Narmada River.
"By supporting the Maheshwar Dam, Ogden is contributing
to human rights abuses and the destruction of the livelihoods of
tens of thousands of people. Both local people and their international
supporters are determined that this dam will not be built. Ogden
should cut its losses and get out now," says Patrick McCully,Campaigns
Director of IRN.
The Maheshwar Dam would affect more than 35,000
farmers, wage laborers, fishers and crafts people in 61 villages
and submerge about 1,100 hectares of rich agricultural land. Independent
investigations have found that resettlement planning for the project
is totally inadequate and that no land is available for resettlement
as required by law. Project opponents claim that power from the
dam will be prohibitively expensive and that Indians will have to
subsidize foreign involvement in the uneconomic project.
People affected by the dam are determined that they
will never let it be built. Over the last two years, thousands of
farming families have occupied the dam site nine times, barricaded
all roads leading to the dam for three months, and held mass demonstrations
and hunger strikes opposing the dam.
On March 23, Ogden signed a Memorandum of Intent
to develop the project, as part of U.S. President Bill Clinton's
state visit to India. Chicago firm Harza Engineering Company of
Chicago has been contracted as a consultant to Ogden. The dam's
serious financial risks and the intense opposition to it caused
U.S. power utility PacifiCorp to back out of the project in 1998,
and German utilities Bayernwerk and VEW Energie to pull out in April
Ogden Corporation is a conglomerate with interests
in the airline services, entertainment, environmental and energy
sectors. The company has no experience with large dam projects.
Its current portfolio contains only six small hydroelectric dams
(four in the US and two in Costa Rica) with an average generating
capacity of about 20 megawatts each.
Some of the company's ventures include the Wet
'n Wild Waterpark in Las Vegas, the Iguazu Grand Hotel Resort &
Casino in Brazil, and the expansion of Bogota's Eldorado International
Airport. Ogden has been embroiled in controversy because of its
promotion of waste incinerators and its blocking of efforts by some
of its food service employees to unionize. Fortune magazine recently
voted Ogden's board of directors as one of America's worst.
When Ogden's interest in the Maheshwar Dam was first
reported in late1999, local people wrote to the company insisting
that Ogden representatives should visit the affected villages before
deciding on their investment. In February 2000, nearly 300 elected
representatives of the affected area sent Ogden a resolution opposing
the project. The only encounter between Ogden and affected people
occurred two days after the Memorandum of Intent was signed. Ogden
Vice President >Kent Burton was helicoptered into the damsite where
he encountered four villagers who had forced their way past security
officials to speak to him. Burton later tried to visit one of the
affected villages and was unable to get out of his car because it
was surrounded by angry villagers.
Despite this hostile reaction, Ogden has said that
the project "offers significant benefits to the people of the region"
who are "voicing their support in increasing numbers and are encouraging
us to move toward completion as rapidly as possible."
For more information, go to www.narmada.org or
www.irn.org or contact
Patrick McCully, International Rivers Network,
California, US, +1 510-848-1155 (w) +1 510-528-2930 (h) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Venu Govindu, Friends of the Narmada, New Jersey,
US, +1 609-799-5907 (h) +1 609-951-2823 (w) or email@example.com
Chittaroopa Palit, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh, +91-272 9022464 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers
and People, India, +91 11 748 4654 or email@example.com
International Rivers Network (IRN) is a US-based
nongovernmental organization which supports local communities working
to protect their rivers and watersheds. IRN works to halt destructive
river development projects, and to encourage equitable and sustainable
methods of meeting needs for water, energy and flood management.
: New currents in the Narmada river dam situation
IN 1979, the government of India cleared plans for
the building of 30 large, 135 medium and 3,000 small dams on the
Narmada river. The Narmada project will rob hundreds of thousands
of people living along the river's banks of their homes and cultivable
lands and forests. For the last fifteen years, the Narmada Bachao
Andolan (NBA), or the Save the Narmada Movement, an organization
of the dam-affected people, has struggled against the powerful entities
that have backed the construction of these dams.
The Maheshwar dam will dam the Namada river in the
state ofMadhya Pradesh and submerge the homes, villages and means
of livelihood of over 35,000 people. On the 23rd of March, 2000,the
Ogden Energy Group, a power utility from the U.S., signed a Memorandum
of Intent to invest 49% of the equity of Maheshwar dam. Primarily
because the government of Madhya Pradesh appears completely unable
to provide the dam-displaced people with equivalent land, the NBA
is opposing Ogden's decision to start generating electricity at
We will be discussing these issues with U.S. based
environmentalists and South Asian community activists whosupport
the NBA's stand, as well as a spokesperson from Ogden Corporation.
Our guests will include:Sheila Ghose Narmada: Solidarity
Coalition of New York Venu Govindu: Friends of the Narmada Patrick
McCully: International Rivers Network Kent Burton: Senior Vice President,
Policy and Communications, the Ogden Corporation
The program is co-hosted by Chandana Mathur and
Aniruddha Das of APF (Asia Pacific Forum) and the SAMAR collectiveAsia
Pacific Forum is New York's pan-Asian radio program, broadcast each
Wednesday night at 9-10 pm on WBAI-FM, 99.5, New York City, and
live on the Web at wbaifree.org. For more information on APF and
to get more information about this evening's program, or other programs,
please contact us viaemail: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: (212) 209-2991;
fax (WBAI): (212) 747-1698; or mail: Asian Pacific Forum, WBAI 99.5
FM, 120 Wall St., 10th Floor, NY, NY 10005.
: Thailand / Pak Moon Dam: Let river run
free, village leaders say "Open the gates and the fish will return"
(Sanitsuda Ekachai in Ubon Ratchathani, Bangkoko
Post, April 21, 2000)
People who lost their land and livelihood to the
Pak Moon dam will petitionthe Electricity Generating Authority next
month to halt operations and open the gates to let the river run
free. Thongjaroen Sihadham, leader of the villagers, said it would
become clear in just a year if fish would return to a free-flowing
Moon from the Mekong.
Villagers say the dam, at the confluence of the
rivers, obstructs fish migration and has decimated stocks and diversity
in the Moon, which had fed many provinces in the Northeast.
They say the dam, with a capacity to generate 136
megawatts, produces an average of 40 and nothing during the rainy
season. Nor does it provide the irrigation benefits that had been
Calls for the demolition of the dam were made at
the site yesterday as reformers gathered to discuss development
projects that work against the interests of ordinary people.
Sulak Sivaraksa, the social critic, strongly supported
the call to demolish the dam given its failure to meet its initial
goals in generation and irrigation.
"The villagers want their livelihood back," he said.
Anand Panyarachun, former prime minister, and Prawase
Wasi, reform activist, called for dialogue between villagers and
Mr Anand said the government should put the villagers
on an equal footing to consider if the dam had its goals. And if
not, it should admit mistakes.
Villagers should set aside old grudges and enter
into negotiations on the understanding that neither side will emerge
They agreed, however, that the misery of the dam
victims testified to the country's development failure. Pak Moon
villagers were among countless rural people made poor by an unequal
power structure and mainstream development policies which destroy
nature and rural communities to support industrial growth and urban
Discussing the solutions for the poor, Prof Saneh
Chamarik urged people's movements to join forces to push for land
reform. Rather than follow state thinking that bases reform on private
ownership and chemical farming, he said the goal should be to revive
communal ownership, bonding and the ecology.
By doing so, villagers can preserve the country's
biodiversity and local knowledge that are essential to survival
at the community and national levels, he said.
Mr Anand and Prof Prawase urged the governments
to switch development strategies from creating wealth to tackling
poverty directly. Thetrickle-down theory had never worked and wealth
ended up in the hands of the few. Prof Prawase also urged the media
to be more sympathetic to the poor.
Southeast Asia Rivers Network (SEARIN) 25/5 Moo
2 Soi Sukhapiban 27 Changkhien-Jed yod Rd. Chang Phuek Muang Chiang
Mai 50300 Thailand Tel&Fax (66) 53-221157 Email: email@example.com