Fundasaun Mahein, June 27, 2013
Future Installation of FALINTIL-FFDTL Navy Base in Hera: An Analysis of Social, Economic, Environmental, and Military Impacts
The IV Constitutional Government generated the Force Development Plan (Planu Dezenvolvimentu Forsa – PDF), a series of policies to implement important determinations from the “2020 Study” (Estudu 2020). Based upon the Force Development Plan, The Government will construct the Central Navy Base in Hera and support bases in Atauro, Oe-cusse, Palaka, and Com.
This study will focus on the “Future Installation of FALINTIL-FFDTL Navy Base in Hera: An Analysis of Social, Economic, Environmental, and Military Impacts.” Specifically, this report will verify that there are still problems and challenges associated with the future installation and construction of the FALINTIL-FFDTL Navy Base.
Social problems associated with the planned development include the ongoing land disputes with local community members and questions about the Government’s policy to relocate the people who currently live in the Navy Base area. Yet the relocation issue raised some different perspectives even among the local community. Furthermore, Hera has also been designated as a future campus location of the UNTL (National University of Timor-Leste), which will be located close to FALINTIL-FFDTL Navy Base. This study indicates that the proposed development will have an impact on religions activities of the Nuns and Priests of the nearby Church and Convent, which worries religious authorities. Relatedly, the development’s impact on the local community’s cultural and ritual land will have some implication for community activities.
Based on Fundasaun Mahein’s study, there will also be economic problems from the planned development. The local fisherman community raised concerns about the development’s implications for local fishing activities, particularly with relocation, and they hope these plans will not negatively impact their fishing activities. The local community is also concerned that they will lose their agricultural land, which they have been using to grow crops, plant rice, and support their livelihoods. These concerns incude losing the land that they currently use for animal husbandary.
The other issue with the Hera location of the Navy Base is the existence of a river that flows around the Navy Base. Every year, this river causes flooding around that area. The river and floods bring mud and soil to the bay of the Navy Base. The problem is made worse by the dredging activities in the nearby Hera hills by an industrial contractor.
The existence of a national road adjacent to the Navy Base, and the plans to further develop this road into a national highway, may have implications for the Navy Base. The movement of traffic could be crowded in this area, which connects Dili the eastern districts of Timor-Leste. FM also noted the installation of Hera Power Plant Center adjacent to the Navy Base. FM is concerned that the power plant is very risky for the Navy Base in case of an accident. For example, if a tank explosion occurred in the Central Power Plant, the fire could spread to the Navy Base which serves as a storage area for sensitive equipment.
Finally, other issues concern the Navy Base itself – specifically the infrastructure of the Navy Base and its inevitable military activities. There must be further questions asked and answered: How should the site and construction be designed? Whould a feasibility study of the site be conducted? What is the ultimate purpose of Hera, and will Hera only serve as a base? Will Military Training be conducted in Hera or elsewhere (because it is also necessary to consider the impact on the community as a result of the military activities)? And ultimately, where should a permanent Naval Base be located?
1. Recommendation to the Government to revise the Force Development Plan that has decided to set up a permanent Navy Base at Hera. Additionally, FM requests that the Government conduct an in-depth study of the impact of such a base on aspects of local geology, society, economy, culture – among others – before beginning construction of the Navy Base, so it does not cause additional problems.
2. Recommendation to the Government to conduct an in-depth study of the natural effects that cause deterioration to the Navy Base itself. FM asks the Government to publish the results of this study so the public can understand, and then give feedback to the Government.
3. Recommendation to the Government to establish an inter-ministerial team consisting of Secretary of State for Land and Property, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Secretariat of State for Defense to conduct a dialogue with the public about the planned Navy Base development at Hera, with particular attention to the opinions of the landlords in the Navy Base area to resolve land conflicts.
4. Recommendation to the Government to appreciate the cultural sites such as the four sacred springs in the Navy Base location so that such sites can be used as capital for the country in future conservation, tourism, and culture development.
5. Recommendation to the National Defense Institute to conduct a study on the future instalation of Navy Base, dealing with issues of economic, social, cultural, and environmental significance, to determine precisely the role of the Military Base itself.
For more information please see the following:
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Director Fundasaun Mahein
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