New Ford Manufacturing Plant Will Spoil Czech Farmland, Say Environmentalists

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Pavel Franc, Environmental Law Service,

Czech Republic, Tel: + 420 (0) 5 45 57 52 29,

Cell: + 420 (0) 608 719 535, E-mail: eps.brno@ecn.cz

or Pavel Pribyl, Friends of the Earth Czech Republic,

Tel: + 420 (0) 2251 3859, E-mail: pavel.pribyl@ecn.cz,

Web Site: http://www.i-eps.cz/eng/index.html

MOST DISTRICT, Czech Republic (April 10, 2002) -- Thirteen Czech environmental groups sent a letter to Ford Motor Company today demanding that it stop placement of a manufacturing plant on prime agricultural land in the Czech Republic. Ford is founder and 25 percent owner of NEMAK Co., which recently broke ground on the facility with an expected annual output of 1,600,000 engine heads.

The facility's operations are expected to release toxic substances such as heavy metals and dioxins in the middle of the last remaining farmland in this part of North Bohemia -- one of the most environmentally devastated regions in both the Czech Republic and Europe overall.

According to the Czech National Health Institute, Czechs are exposed to substances with dioxin-like effects at a rate several times higher than limits set by the World Health Organization, bringing the risk of several hundred new cancer cases yearly. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems aluminum processing plants such as the planned NEMAK facility a significant source of dioxin pollution. By locating a dioxin source in the heart of tilled land, NEMAK's facility would make a bad situation worse, creating an additional contamination risk for farm soil and products, and as a result, for food.

NEMAK chose a greenfield site despite the availability of nearby brownfields in the district where the environmental impact would be much lower. ''Investors like greenfields. There are brownfields [in the district], but why would we build a factory in the middle of a former coal pit?'' NEMAK spokesman Pavel Kucera told the media. ''They would have to pave the roads with gold for us to go there.''

''Ford claims that it wants to be the world's most environmentally responsible automaker, and yet they own 25 percent of NEMAK's shares,'' says Pavel Pribyl from Friends of the Earth Czech Republic. Ford's assets from its joint venture with NEMAK exceed $140 million. ''Ford's potential profit from this NEMAK deal will come at the expense of the Czech environment and public health.''

Eight legal actions have been brought against NEMAK's project, and more are in preparation. ''The former East-bloc states are racing to the bottom in their efforts to attract foreign investors,'' says Pavel Franc from the Environmental Law Service, a Czech public interest law organization, ''and thus these investors dictate the terms. Disregarding or circumventing national legislation is among their typical behaviorand NEMAK is an example of this.''

A detailed overview of the project's procedural problems and the letter to Ford Motor Company are available at: http://www.i-eps.cz/eng/index.html

SOURCE: Environmental Media Services

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AMP Section Name:Environment
  • 193 Transportation

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