Heavy Oil is coming to Hera. It is a Blight Upon the Planet, not just Timor-Leste. Work has NOT stopped on the power plants. Despite, legal challenges being levelled against the Government's plans to use Chinese heavy Oil power plants to power the country, the Xanana Adminstration is pushing ahead. This is also in spite of President Horta's calls for a reasonable environmental impact assessement to be made.
Incredibly, the Chinese Nuclear Industry 22nd Construction Company has broken ground on the first Heavy Oil Power plant within metres of the main Dili - Baucau road artery in Hera. It is also very close to ecologically senstive mangrove forests, and tghe very population of Hera itself. One can only surmise that mangrove forests will posssibly die, the levels of cancer in Hera will rise sharply in coming decades, and the price of real estate will plummet. Additionally, everyone who wants to drive to the east - or alternatively to Dili from the east, will have to weather a bilious cloud of Heavy Oil pollutants.
One local NGO has called this Mega Project and Mega Problem. They are right. One assessment describes the impact as being:
Heavy Oil power plants are renowned for their high levels of air pollution including the release of extremely toxic PCDD and PCDF, otherwise known as dioxin and furans. These chemicals are known to deposit in soils for kilometres around the emission source (i.e., the power plants) as well as drifting through the atmosphere for thousands of kilometres to contaminate other countries. The transboundary nature of the pollution impacts from dioxin has led to global restrictions on activities which produce them.
In addition to dioxin contamination, heavy oil power plants contribute heavily to atmospheric acidification, heavy metal contamination and a significant risk to marine and coastal environments due to oil contamination of cooling water effluent discharge. Moreover as developed countries race to de-carbonise their economies in the face of accelerating climate change, Timor-Leste will be committed to decades of energy production with one of the highest carbon footprints. While heavy oil may currently appear to be a ‘cheap’ fuel for energy production, international carbon accounting and trading may soon place a heavy price tag on such dirty fuel.
Interestingly, there are a number of Timorese and Timorese-"connected" business interests who are spending more and more time in China looking to establish the necessary links to be able to obtain the heavy oil supply contract for these power plants. Another sole source job?
This is largest project ever undertaken in Timor - ever. Yet no one is allowed to see the contracts. The Government stubs its nose at the President when he calls for an assessment - and just digs, digs and digs. Turn the lights on in time for the 2012 election - and win the election.