Slovenian MPs on their way to work this morning were greeted by 1,320 of these sullen clay doll-like things in front of parliament, each representing one person who protesters say will die due to environmental contaminants over the next 40 years if construction of a new generator at the coal-fired Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant is carried out.
The protest, organized by a coalition of organizations which includes Greenpeace Slovenia and the sustainable development NGO Focus, coincided with today’s meeting when a decision was expected to be handed down by Parliament’s Finance and Monetary Policy Committee on whether a €440 million loan guarantee should be approved by the government for the project, known as TEŠ 6. However, a decision wasn’t reached. The meeting was adjourned after five hours and will resume next Thursday, breathing a few puffs of life into the opposition’s slogan, Še je čas – There’s still time.
Opponents have long criticized the upgrading plan for its lack of transparency, while proponents are emphasizing long-term savings in the cost of power as well as job creation in the Šaleška valley near Velenje, Slovenia’s fifth largest city. In reality, few citizens seem to know much about a project that will have a significant bearing, both financially and ecologically, on the country’s energy production for most of the next four decades. Cost estimates of the project have already doubled from €600 million to €1.2 billion. That’s not pocket change for a country of just over 2 million.
How does public oversight tend to work in Slovenia? Searching for some background info, I found this report, TES 6: Slovenian Future?: New development vision of Slovenia, EU climate policy and the project of Unit 6 of Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant, which is telling. Umanotera, a sustainable development NGO, brought together all the key players for an open forum on the plan back in January 2010. What was one of the primary conclusions? That public debate should have begun at least five years earlier.
A few more pics:
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