WorldScan: September 13, 2002

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Ecuadorian Pipeline Fails to Meet Bank Standards

WASHINGTON, DC, September 13, 2002 (ENS) - Environmental groups in Germany and the United States released a new report today showing that the German Bank Westdeutsche Landesbank (WestLB) violated its own policies in loaning US$900 million to the OCP (Oleoducto Crudos Pesasdos—Heavy Crude Pipeline) Consortium building Ecuador’s new heavy crude oil pipeline.

The pipeline is being built to transport heavy crude oil from the rainforest to the Pacific coast, doubling oil production in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It will traverse seven national parks and protected areas, including a World Bank Global Environment Facility biodiversity reserve.

The independent report written by Dr. Robert Goodland, former chief of the Environmental Department of the World Bank, found, “substantial non-compliance with all four applicable WBG [World Bank Group] Social and Environmental Safeguard Policies.”

Goodland is a tropical ecologist who wrote many of the World Bank Social and Environmental Safeguard Policies during his 25 years with the World Bank Group.

After researching the pipeline construction on site in Ecuador in August, Goodland found the project violates World Bank operational policies on environmental assessment, natural habitats, involuntary resettlement, and indigenous peoples.

In his report, Goodland criticizes the findings of a study commissioned by WestLB in May in which consulting firm Stone and Webster gave the project a green light by claiming compliance with World Bank policies.

Atossa Soltani of Amazon Watch says that although the pipeline is already partly constructed, it should be halted immediately. "As far as we are concerned," she told ENS, "it is not too late to stop the project. WestLB can still pull the plug on the OCP project and it should."

"Right now, we are seeing a massive oil drilling operation and several pipelines in the planning stages Yasuni National Park and the Panacocha Protected Forest that would severely threaten a very fragile flooded forest ecosystem and hundreds of indigenous communities," said Soltani.

"Goodland's findings are sufficient grounds for WestLB to stop the remaining loan payments to the OCP," she said. "What we and some of the Bank's major shareholders in Germany want is for the loan to be cancelled and the whole project to be re-evaluated."

WestLB’s financing of the controversial pipeline has prompted public concern in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, which holds a 43 percent stake in the bank. The state has held parliamentary hearings on the project and has sent several delegations to Ecuador to view the pipeline construction.

Industry estimates show that due to delays from environmental and social controversies, the OCP is nearly $200 million over budget.

Kevin Koenig of Amazon Watch says Goodland's findings are of "great significance because WestLB is the lead arranger of $900 million in syndicated loans for the project and has publicly stated that compliance with World Bank environmental guidelines is an ‘indispensable condition for any financial engagement’ with OCP.”

According to government sources, the majority of Amazon crude that will flow through the OCP pipeline is destined for markets on the West coast of the United States.

The OCP Consortium includes: Alberta Energy-ENCANA (Canada), Occidental Petroleum (OXY- USA), AGIP (Italy), Repsol-YPF (Spain), Perez Companc (Argentina), and Techint (Argentina). Citibank and JP Morgan Chase have also taken financial roles in the project.

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Clean Up the World Turns 10

SYDNEY, Australia, September 13, 2002 (ENS) - Every year Clean Up the World, held in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), mobilizes millions of volunteers around the world making it one of the largest community based environment projects in the world. Last year 35 million people from over 120 countries took part.

Clean Up the World is organized from the Sydney headquarters of Clean Up Australia, a community based environmental organization. Clean Up the World 2002 is set for September 20 and 21.

Communities sponsor litter and rubbish cleanups, and Clean Up the World also acts as the vehicle for reforestation projects, environmental education, erosion control, environmental concerts, and the establishment of compost and recycling centres.

The project was the brainchild of Australian yachtsman and builder, Ian Kiernan. "I believe individuals can make a big difference in helping solve the world's environmental problems," he said. "The strength in unity of all the people who participate in this campaign clearly illustrates how deeply people, no matter what their race or religion, care about the environment they are living in."

"The environment knows no boundaries. We share the same oceans and the same air - which is why it is essential we all take action to improve the state of our earth," he said.

Through encouraging people to adopt a hands-on approach to environmental management, Clean Up the World allows communities to take ownership over where they live, says Kiernan.

The "ground up" approach of Clean Up the World has been recognized by environmental bodies such as UNEP as an effective initiative to get people involved in issues affecting their environment.

"Clean Up the World raises awareness about the wider impacts of modern-day lifestyles, motivating people to not only fight rubbish and litter, but to evaluate their more invisible impact on the environment," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. "The collective efforts of so many clearly illustrate that solutions to the many pressing issues facing our planet can begin with action by each and every one of us."

As part of Clean Up the World 2002, thousands of people are expected to help clean up the polluted waterway Estero Salado, which forms part of the Gulf of Guayaquil, the largest embayment of the Pacific Ocean on the South American coast.

Clean Up the World organizers expect participant numbers for 2002 to rise in countries all over South America including Peru, Venezuela and Uruguay with a particular concentration on youth group involvement.

Kiernan has been recognized internationally for his work with the environment. In 1998 he was awarded the United Nations Sasakawa Environment Prize. He is also a UNEP Global 500 Laureate.

Globally, the campaign's major sponsor is Duskin, the Global Media Partner is National Geographic Channels International and Supporting Sponsors are KPMG, Qantas and the Australian government through its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Groups can still register as organizing committees for Clean Up the World 2002 with registration details now available at:

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Court Permits Lucas Heights Reactor to Go Ahead

SYDNEY, Australia, September 13, 2002 (ENS) - Greenpeace activists protested outside the Federal Court building this afternoon, in response to the court's decision to uphold the granting of the construction licence for a second nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of Sydney.

Radiopharmaceuticals and industrial isotopes are still produced by the 43 year old High Flux Australian Reactor at Lucas Heights. The replacement research reactor now being constructed by an Argentinian company will also produce radiopharmaceuticals and isotopes. It is scheduled to come online by 2006.

Greenpeace had challenged the granting of the license issued by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ANSTO) on the grounds that world’s best practice on nuclear waste management was not considered.

Activists dressed in mock nuclear waste barrels’ held up placards outside the court saying “77% Say No.” The slogan refers to the latest opinion poll which found that 77 percent of Australians are opposed to the building of another reactor while there is no solution to the nuclear waste problem.

“The Federal court has held that the management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste are not required to be taken into account deciding to construct this nuclear reactor,” said Greenpeace nuclear campaigner Stephen Campbell. “The fact remains that there is still no solution to the nuclear waste being generated by reactors at Lucas Heights – and the people of Australia want this problem addressed before any reactor is built. Australia’s so-called nuclear waste strategy is a farce.”

Greenpeace points out that all state premiers are opposed to the siting of a nuclear waste dump in their state, and the process of establishing a range of sites for the medium-level nuclear waste dump has not begun.

It is illegal for Argentina to import nuclear waste, and Science Minister Peter McGauran’s trip to Argentina last week has so far not resulted in the signing of the controversial Nuclear Cooperation Treaty which would require Argentina to accept Australian spent fuel rods.

To date none of the 668 spent fuel rods from the current Lucas Heights reactor sent to France have been reprocessed. They are sitting in limbo awaiting a legal decision because the French company Cogema does not have the correct licenses in place to reprocess Australian spent fuel.

ANSTO exports radiopharmaceuticals to more than 10 other countries, including New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, and China. Revenue from radiopharmaceuticals produced by ANSTO for the year to June 30 was more than A$19.7 million, up more than 10 percent over the previous year.

Professor Helen Garnett, ANSTO CEO, says the new Lucas Heights reactor will have "enormous potential for unlocking knowledge associated with biotechnology, engineering, materials, physics, chemistry, and environmental science."

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UK Coal Miners Paid a Billion Pounds

LONDON, UK, September 13, 2002 (ENS) - One billion British pounds have now been paid out under miners' health compensation schemes which compensate miners for damage done to their health from working in the coal industry. The Blair government says they are the largest compensation payments of their kind anywhere in the world.

More than half of the £1 billion has been paid out since the beginning of this year, and more payments are forthcoming. The government says it will make "full and final offers" to 50,000 lung disease claimants by the end of the year.

Prolonged breathing of coal mine dust causes black lung disease, also called miner's asthma, silicosis, or coal workers' pneumoconiosis, all dust diseases with the same symptoms - spitting, coughing, and breathlessness. The particles of fine coal dust, which a miner breathes in the mines cannot be destroyed within the lungs or removed from them, so they build up, causing thickening and scarring, and making the lungs less efficient in supplying oxygen to the blood.

Over 200,000 claims have now been registered with the government under the lung disease scheme, with 800 new claims being made each week. In addition, over 150,000 claims are being under the compensation scheme for vibration white finger. The scheme to compensate miners for vibration white finger, from handling vibratory mining tools, closes on October 31.

Energy Minister Brian Wilson said, "The complexity of the court rulings on which the schemes are based meant that there were long negotiations with solicitors representing the claimants before the compensation payments could flow freely."

"However, I hope that this landmark announcement today of £1 billion paid out in hard cash will demonstrate both our determination to meet this commitment and also the progress that has been made in recent months," Wilson said.

Wilson outlined measures which have been put in place to speed up payments. The oldest and sickest claimants get priority, and a further 15 lung disease medical assessment centers have been set up. Claims handling staff has been increased, a fourth Claims Handling Office has been opened, and information technology has been upgraded to reduce paper flow and delay.

"We will meet our obligations to the full in every case," said Wilson, including those where, sadly, the miner has died and the claim passes to his widow or estate."

From the miners' viewpoint see Miner's Advice at:

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Anger Flares over Sellafield Nuclear Releases

OSLO, Norway, September 13, 2002 (ENS) - Norway is putting intense pressure on Britain to drastically cut radioactive releases from the Sellafield nuclear plant ahead of an official decision on discharge limits for the isotope technetium-99.

Norwegian anger has risen to new heights following news that Sellafield operator British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. (BNFL) is planning to release in one batch a third of its total annual permitted amount of technetium.

BNFL is currently authorised to discharge up to 90 terabecquerels (Tb) of technetium per year. The UK government is due to rule shortly on a proposal from the Anglo-Welsh environment agency to cut the limit to 10 Tb from 2006.

The Norwegian government insists that Britain should immediately slash or halt discharges. Environment minister Børge Brende has been raising the issue in recent weeks, after Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik discussed it with his British counterpart Tony Blair in May and June.

Brende told reporters that he had reasonable hopes that the UK government would impose strong cuts in technetium releases. "Our impression is that the government is taking Norwegian input very seriously," he said.

In this context, BNFL's planned release was "insensitive and disrespectful to the British government," Brende said, adding, "We're not angered by the British government - we are glad they are looking into it. But if the decision confirms [the agency's recommendation], then the reaction in Norway will be unbelievable."

{This Norwegian report published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news.}

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Austrians Find Bears Fascinating

VIENNA, Austria, September 13, 2002 (ENS) - An Austrian survey to guage human attitudes towards the brown bear has found that most people view the animal as a source of fascination.

The telephone survey of 500 people, randomly selected by their phone numbers, aimed to compare the attitudes of people living in rural bear areas with those of people from cities. The results published by the Brown Bear LIFE-Project showed little significant difference between the views of rural residents of Lower Austria and Styria and inhabitants of the cities of Graz and St. Pölten.

A majority, 72 percent of those surveyed, told interviewers that they find the animal fascinating and regard the bear with respect. Still, 25 percent also mentioned fear when asked about their feelings towards the bear. Only 13 percent said they would actually like to meet a bear during a walk through the forest.

The main difference between rural and urban residents was highlighted in a question about the amount of habitat available for large carnivores. Only 18 percent of rural people believe there is not enough living space for bears compared to a much larger 34 percent of city folk.

The survey revealed that an overwhelming 89 percent of respondents said the protection of the brown bear was very important or rather important to them.

A repeat survey is planned at the end of the LIFE-project in order to evaluate the success of a public relations program on bear conservation over the next three years.

The eight bear species of the world currently live in more than 65 countries or autonomous regions on four continents.

While Austrian brown bears are not considered endangered, the IUCN-World Conservation Union says that all bear species have declined in numbers and distribution due to the impacts of human activities.

Habitat alteration and destruction resulting from forest conversion to agriculture, and human settlement in bear habitat have caused their decline. Unregulated killing of bears for sport, sale of their parts in medicinal products, protection of crops or livestock, and fear of bears has led to their decline.