Jun 23 2013, 5:12am CDT | by Luigi Lugmayr
Monrovia (Liberia), June 23 — An Indian infrastructure major has asserted that its proposed greenfield thermal project in Liberia to address the country's crippling power shortage is perfectly safe, countering charges of an opposition party that it would lead to severe environmental problems, including respiratory diseases that could cause thousands of deaths. Experts agree with the company.
"A state-of-the-art power station (whose capacity is yet to be decided) with the latest technology will ensure efficiency of the highest order and compliance with environmental emission standards set forth by international agencies like the World Bank. The technology adopted will be similar to what is being followed in advanced European nations," Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) said in response to an IANS query on the charges levelled by the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party.
Noting that CDC has no basis for its claims, JSPL said it believes in the freedom of speech and respects all opinions, adding: "The views expressed by CDC have been driven by lack of credible information about coal-based power projects. We would endeavour to explain the facts transparently to anyone who has doubts and wishes to engage in a discussion with us."
"We have thermal power projects in the world's largest democracy, India, and the facts demonstrate that the risk factors mentioned are not supported by credible information," the company added.
The company said it was ready to engage "the concerned persons and entities about a noble cause taken up by a world renowned company to help jump-start the Liberian economy and thus create value and prosperity for the Liberian economy".
Jindal's response has been confirmed by noted Liberian engineer Mark Sawyer, who told IANS: "In this day and age, no company will be allowed to just build a facility that will lead to the death of thousands. The CDC is just against the government decision to improve the country's power supply."
The company is promoted by millionaire Indian parliamentarian Naveen Jindal. The Liberian plant is one of five such planned by JSPL in Africa, the others being in countries like Senegal and Mozambique.
The company has also stated that "it is a commonly conceived misconception that coal-fired power stations are not environment friendly", adding: "Globally, the majority of power generation is from coal-based technology in countries like the US, Australia and South Africa, to name a few."
The company said it "uses state-of-the-art clean coal technology in all its plants. It not only meets the environmental regulations but, in fact, exceeds the requirements including the requirements of an internationally-respected authority such as the World Bank".
The company would not say how much it is investing in the project except that "it is committed to create shareholders and is open for investments to expand business in Africa. Liberia is one of the favourable countries due to factors like political stability, maintaining high GDP growth and a strong political will and leadership led by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf."
It said it had been evaluating the power needs of the country and would suggest an appropriate plant capacity based on a final assessment of technical parameters and future projections. "The investment would be commensurate with the size of the power plant that is eventually agreed upon with requisite investment protection".
The company said it is in the initial stage of discussions and cannot set a start date for construction. "If the project is found feasible and the government provides support and speedy clearances, the company has the expertise to execute the project is less than 30 months."
The CDC has also levelled corruption charges against JSPL which the company has dismissed. "Jindal is a globally respected company with strong ethics. We do not engage in any discussions where there is a requirement to bribe officials or engage in any type of corrupt or unethical activities," the company said.
"Our endeavour is to create value and provide necessary infrastructure for countries to prosper while creating value for our stakeholders in the most transparent manner. The reputation of Nobel Laureate Her Excellency the President of Liberia and our chairman, Mr Naveen Jindal's vision are the key driving factors for us to consider Liberia as a country for investments," it added.
(Francis Kokutse can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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