Evarist Bartolo | Sunday, 31 January 2010

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Lahmeyer’s shameful record

In July 2008, Lahmeyer International concluded its technical assessment for Enemalta on the bids submitted by BWSC, MAN, Bateman and SOCOIN for the extension of the Delimara Power Station. By then the only two companies that were still really in the running were BWSC and MAN, as they offered Diesel Generator Unit plants operating on heavy fuel oil; while Bateman and SOCOIN offered Combined Cycle Gas Turbine Plants.
These last two had been already eliminated by government and Enemalta when, just over halfway into the tendering process, government changed its Cabinet approved policy in favour of gas-fired power stations, changed the local environmental regulation to allow diesel generator units to operate on heavy fuel oil, and Enemalta changed the technical specifications of the tender and the corresponding formula to adjudicate the bids.
So in July 2008, Lahmeyer International was really choosing between the two bids of BWSC and MAN. Lahmeyer International gave no points to MAN’s bid while it gave three points to BWSC’s. But much more important than the number of points it gave to BWSC, it was Lahmeyer International’s decision to recommend BWSC’s emission abatement equipment as ‘plausible’… even though it is a prototype: the reason government and Enemalta quote continuously to justify why the contract was awarded to BWSC.
As a prototype, as yet untried and untested, BWSC’s abatement equipment to clean up the carcinogenic emissions of the heavy fuel oil, is not the ‘Best Available Technique’ as Enemalta and MEPA are saying, but technology in development.
It is not the first time that Lahmeyer International gave technical reports that look after the interests of contracting companies and not the welfare of the people affected by projects that harm public health and the natural environment. Labour has provided the Auditor General with proof that Lahmeyer International is blacklisted by the World Bank for bribery and corruption; that its exclusive agent in Malta is Joseph Mizzi, the same one of BWSC; and that Lahmeyer International and BWSC have built three power stations together in northern Iraq. Despite these ties between Lahmeyer International and BWSC, government and Enemalta appointed Lahmeyer International to give an “independent” assessment of the bids for the Delimara power station extension, among them one submitted by BWSC.
A document prepared by the adjudication committee in February 2009 says: “A technical assessment was sought from an independent international consulting firm (Lahmeyer International) to verify the plausibility of the proposed airborne emission abatement technologies (offered by BWSC). The report confirms that the proposed plant and the performance data quoted by the bidders were indeed plausible.”
In a letter to the Public Accounts Committee, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance also justified the selection of the BWSC plant on the basis of the Lahmeyer International report prepared in July 2008. Government and Enemalta have defended the appointment of Lahmeyer International as an independent evaluator of the BWSC bid, though both companies are represented in Malta by the same exclusive agent – Joseph Mizzi. Both Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Minister Austin Gatt have quoted the Lahmeyer International technical report, where BWSC is deemed the best plant operating on heavy fuel oil, to defend the decision of government and Enemalta to award the contract to BWSC.
On 20 June 2006, in an Enemalta seminar addressed by Anthony Rizzo, Peter Grima, Alex Tranter and Minister Austin Gatt, it was made clear that a power station powered by medium-speed diesel gensets “does not meet present environmental standards” while power stations powered by combined cycle gas turbines did. One of the recommended solutions to meet the need for 300MW to be generated by 2010 was the building of “a combined cycle gas turbine 130MW plant.”
Yet now minister Gatt is going totally against what he said less than four years ago, and ISspending our taxes on adverts in the local media to defend the choice of the government to choose a plant operating on heavy fuel oil instead of a gas-fired plant, as had been agreed to by Cabinet in the National Plan for the Generation of Electricity 2006-2015.
Lahmeyer International has been more than willing to provide government with a technical report to justify government’s decision to award the tender to its business partner BWSC. As South African MP (not German as I said last Sunday) Manie Van Dyk says, Lahmeyer International has a “shameful record for unethical business practices”. In Malaysia Lahmeyer International has been accused of producing an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Bakun Hydroelectric Project which is “an abuse” and a “farce” with no consideration whatsoever for the hardship and harm caused to thousands of people.
A review carried out by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology found that the EIA carried out by Lahmeyer International for the Merowe Dam in Sudan, the largest hydropower project in Africa, was of poor quality and did not address many of the project’s potential impacts on the environment. The project has displaced 50,000 people from the fertile Nile valley to arid locations in the Nubian Desert. The poverty rate in the affected communities has soared.
When an EIA written by a company hired by Lahmeyer International concluded that a project to replace the Naga Hammadi dam in Egypt would destroy good quality agricultural land, disrupt the water sources for farmer’s wells and increase typhoid contamination, Lahmeyer International re-wrote the EIA and edited out all the unpleasant effects of the project. Lahmeyer International was also involved in the Awash III dam in Ethiopia that displaced 20,000 farmers and their families and reduced them to poverty. Lahmeyer International led the consortium that built the Chixoy dam in Guatemala. In their feasibility study for the dam Lahmeyer International stated: “In the tract of the study … there is almost no population.” The project displaced 3,400 indigenous people who lost their homes and lands and many lost their lives after state backed death squads murdered hundreds of villagers who wanted to stay in the affected area.
When Doug Cross of Global Impacts Ltd. arrived in Lesotho to carry out an EIA for the Highlands Water Development Project, he found it impossible to carry out his work as he wanted also to focus on the impact the dam would have on communities in the area: “Lahmeyer International Project Managers made it impossible for me to work according to the professional requirements of the internationally accepted code of practice for carrying out full-scale environmental impact assessments.”
These are the same people appointed by Dr Gonzi’s government to tell us to proudly embrace the prototype emission abatement equipment of their business partners – BWSC.

Evarist Bartolo is shadow minister for education


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