E Timor counts costs of Chinese power plants
December 15, 2010
DARWIN: The construction of two second-hand Chinese power plants in East Timor is an escalating environmental and safety disaster that has been hit by delays and cost blow-outs, the project's supervisors say.
The government in Dili has removed the Beijing-owned Chinese Nuclear Industry 22nd Construction Company from responsibility for building the plants and has hired an Indonesian company to finish the work.
Puri Akraya Engineering Limited was registered with the Hong Kong Companies Register only five weeks before it was secretly given a contract expected to multiply the cost of building the plants from US$91 million to US$353 million.
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A confidential report in September by the Italian joint-venture company Electroconsult and Bonifica, which was hired last year to supervise the project, estimates the project will now cost at least $US629 million, almost double the original price.
The report, obtained by the non-government organisation La'o Hamutuk in Dili, revealed a deteriorating quality of work, safety practices that were ''far below regulations'' and acts of ''environmental negligence'' at the plant sites.
The report listed 14 serious ''issues of concern'' and eight more ''problems/issues'' but said the supervisor's recommendations to the Chinese company were rarely implemented.
Although being removed from responsibility for the plants at Hera and Betano, the Chinese company is still believed to be responsible for building high-voltage transmission lines and other parts of the project.
The government in Dili has been criticised for buying the 20-year-old plants from China, which commits the gas-rich country to three decades of importing expensive heavy oil and using outdated technology that is banned in many countries.
Environmental groups say the plants will create acid rain, water pollution, toxic solid waste, particulate air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
While government leaders claimed the project would provide 20,000 jobs for Timorese, the Chinese company had hired only 155 Timorese workers by May this year.
Dili residents say that hundreds of Chinese workers brought to Timor to work in electricity and other projects have caused social tensions among impoverished Timorese, particularly in Dili, where Chinese have fought local gangs on the city's streets.
The supervisors' report said the Chinese company had not prepared a single monthly environmental report, although it has been required to do so since January this year.
The report said the Chinese company had no formal process for complaints, had not replanted cleared areas, had no solid waste management plan, had not established buffer zones between residential and project areas and had not complied with requirements for silt containment, oil and grease traps, sanitation facilities or waste treatment. And the company was working below the level required to finish the plants by December next year.
Most routes for the transmission lines had not been surveyed and land disputes were causing problems.
In a website posting, La'o Hamutuk said it was distressed that its predictions about the project were being fulfilled while Timorese became increasingly frustrated about power shortages and public officials concealed the extent of the problem.
source: The Sydney Morning Herald