News in brief

Berlin approves Germany's largest water privatisation ---- EIB funds environmental projects in Tunisia, Prague ---- UK Govt witholds info on Turkish dam impact.

BERLIN: The Berlin Senate has voted to approve Germany’s largest ever water privatisation contract, covering the sale of 49.9% of the Berliner Wasserbetrieber (BWB), the city’s state-owned water and sewerage company. BWB is largest municipal water management company in Europe, with a turnover of 1.25 billion Euros (£832 million) and 6,300 employees. Under the 1.69 billion Euro (£1.13 billion) contract, a consortium formed by the French water gian Vivendi (45%) and German firms RWE (45%) and Allianz (10%) will acquire 49.9% of a new holding company BWB Holding AG, responsible for water supply and wastewater treatment for Berlin for 30 years.

TUNISIA: The EIB has announced loans totalling EUR 50.6 million (£33.7 million) to the “Groupe Chimique Tunisien” (GCT) for the landfill disposal of phospatic gypsum, a waste produced in the manufacture of phosphate-based fertilisers at GCT’s plant in Gabès.

The funds are being advanced to GCT, the borrower and project promoter, as follows: EUR 45 million is being lent directly and a further EUR 5.6 million indirectly via the Industrial Pollution Abatement Fund, FODEP, under an earlier loan concluded with the Republic of Tunisia for in the form of a credit line for financing environmental protection schemes undertaken by manufacturing firms. GCT is an export-orientated enterprise which processes 6.2 million tonnes of phosphate rock per annum (i.e. more than 80% of the rock mined in Tunisia) to produce phosphoric acid, a number of chemical fertilisers and other phosphate derivatives. Wholly owned by the Republic of Tunisia and commanding a workforce of 4 200, GCT is one of the most important industrial concerns in the country.

The project is designed to safeguard the environment by putting an end to the discharge of 4.4 million tonnes of gypsum a year into the Mediterranean on the Gulf of Gabès. It involves the design, development and commissioning of a landfill site, as well as the construction of a 15 km pipeline system together with a pumping station for transporting to the site gypsum waste currently discharged into the sea.

UK: The Department of Trade and Industry has refused to release documents on the environmental impact of Ilisu dam in Turkey. Friends of the Earth was preparing a legal challenge against the DTI after it failed to respond to its request for key documents within the 2 month statutory deadline. The DTI has now responded, saying it will continue to withold the documents, but that a second study will be carried out. FoE says it is now considering if it will take its legal challenge forward on revised grounds under further provisions of freedom of information laws. In the meantime, it is leafleting DTI staff today at their headquarters in London during a demonstration supported by British Kurdish groups.

PRAGUE: The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term credit institution, is financing environmental and urban development projects in Prague. The 50 million Euro (£33.3 million) loan for 15 years to the City of Prague will be used for improving the water and sewerage networks including treatment plants for both fresh and used water. The investments will relieve pressure on a number of infrastructure bottlenecks and improve the urban environment. The improvements to the water network should sharply reduce distribution losses and improve the efficiency and profitability to the treatment plants.

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