Swedish town moves to avoid collapse

Updated 15 December 2012

Swedish town moves to avoid collapse

Perched on a hill by the iron ore mine it was once built around, the sleepy northerly Swedish town of Kiruna is in the process of reinventing itself. It has to: in four years, it will have moved somewhere else.
At the turn of the 19th century the area consisted of a handful of ramshackle buildings and traditional “lavoo,” the dwellings of the indigenous Sami population that are similar to the teepee used by American Indians.
But with large-scale mining came wealth and the town prospered, climbing further up the slope as new workers arrived and older neighborhoods were abandoned when the mine began to encroach on them.
The fortunes of the 23,000-strong town are still tied to what is now the largest iron ore mine in the world, extracting enough in a day to build more than six Eiffel Towers, together with neighboring Malmberget.
As LKAB’s extraction moves deeper — it’s now at a depth of four kilometers (2.5 miles) — and closer to the town, cracks have begun to appear underground.
In 2004, state-controlled owner LKAB gave local politicians an ultimatum: move the parts of the city center that could collapse if the company’s underground expansion plans went ahead, or risk stifling Kiruna’s largest employer.
“There was an uproar when we found out,” Ulrika Isaksson, a spokeswoman for the municipality, told AFP. “A press release went out saying that the whole town had to move.”
It turned out that only the buildings within a one-kilometer (half-mile) radius from the mine were affected, but that included most of the town center.
“It’s only 35 percent of the town’s total area,” said deputy mayor Niklas Siren of the Left Party.
Most buildings will simply be torn down, forcing their inhabitants to relocate, but some of those seen as being Kiruna landmarks will be dismantled and reassembled in their entirety at new locations.
“The town center will shift around three kilometers to the northeast,” Isaksson said.
“In four years, things could become very sentimental” since that is when the move will become visible, she said, referring to when the 1960s-era town hall and the houses around it will be torn down. After that it will be time for the train station and the main town square to relocate, and around 20 years from now the moving of Kiruna’s church will mark the final phase of the project.
The imposing red, wooden building whose exterior is designed to resemble a Sami “lavoo,” has become the pride of Kiruna’s inhabitants. It was a gift from LKAB in 1912, illustrating the company’s central role in the town’s history.
“2,500 apartments will have to move,” Isaksson said, not to mention hotels and commercial properties.
For Siren, the move is not just about recreating Kiruna three kilometers (two miles) up the road, but also about reinventing the town. “We are going to build the best possible town center, vibrant, sustainable and modern,” he said.
Although LKAB is paying for all the land it will use, the municipality is responsible for the urban planning of the new town. Next year it will choose an architect firm.
No detailed timetable is available for the project at the moment. One thing is certain however: In 2018, the new town hall will have been completed and the old one will have given way to a park.
Whereas the demolition of a single building can spark controversy in some towns, the inhabitants of Kiruna seem to be taking things in stride.
People still pull their sleds through the snow-covered streets and there is nothing yet to suggest that in 2035 all of the buildings around them will be gone. “We know too little,” said Anja Jakobsson, 51, without sounding bitter.
“We are in favor of the transformation of the town. The development of the mine means that people in Kiruna will have jobs. But we’re worried about our personal finances,” she added.
“People are afraid of not having the means (to relocate),” Martti Kivimaeki, an assistant deacon, said, but noted dryly that even though people were worried, they weren’t turning to the Church.
LKAB has pledged to buy the affected buildings for 125 percent of their value. “But that’s not enough for a new-built house,” Jakobsson said. The company will offer lower rents in the residential properties it owns for a limited period, but not indefinitely, said a spokeswoman, Ylva Sievertsson.

“When you talk to people in Kiruna, you always hear: ‘No, but we need the mine.’ And with that, the discussion ends,” argued Timo Vilgats, a municipal politician for the Green Party, the only one to question the need to move part of the town.
He points to new iron extraction technologies that would not impact what happens above ground.
Sievertsson denied his claims, saying that either the mine grows toward the town center, or it shuts.
LKAB employs some 2,100 people in Kiruna. Although the company’s profit fell 27 percent in the third quarter to 2.48 billion kronor (287 million euros or $373 million), it plans to grow production volumes by 35 percent by 2015.

Call to ban foreign cooks in Malaysia elicits mixed reactions

Updated 25 June 2018

Call to ban foreign cooks in Malaysia elicits mixed reactions

  • The government has rowed back from Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran’s call saying it was “merely a suggestion,” and it will “consult various stakeholders.”
  • Some 250,000 foreign workers are employed in service industries in Malaysia, including restaurants, hawker stalls and cafes.

KUALA LUMPUR: There are mixed reactions from restaurant and food stall owners across Malaysia to a call by Human Resource Minister M. Kulasegaran to ban foreign cooks by Jan. 1, 2019.

The government has since changed its tone, on Saturday saying the call was “merely a suggestion,” and it will “consult various stakeholders.”

Some 250,000 foreign workers are employed in service industries in Malaysia, including restaurants, hawker stalls and cafes.

Kulasegaran’s call came amid government attempts to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country.

Adrian Pereira, director of the North South Initiative, a non-profit that promotes the rights of migrant workers in Malaysia, wants the government to engage with all stakeholders to ensure rights-based approaches that are backed by market data.

“We mustn’t forget that there’s a huge informal sector that also hires migrants as cooks,” he said.

“We can’t assign nationality to the work. Once we go down this road, in future work will also discriminate against color, religion etc.”

Suhaila owns a food stall that serves local Malay dishes. She hires only Indonesian cooks, who have been working for her family’s stall for more than a decade.

“They already know how to cook the local dishes, and the food tastes good. There’s no difference,” Suhaila told Arab News, adding that she does not mind employing Malaysians as waiters, but not the cooks as they are her “main source of income.”

She disagrees with Kulasegaran’s call, saying not all local cooks can cook local dishes. She said she once hired a local cook, but the dishes were not as tasty as those made by her Indonesian cooks.

Hamid Khalid, owner of the restaurant Nasi Kandar Arraaziq, agrees with a ban, telling Arab News that he does not hire foreign cooks because customers prefer to eat food made by Malaysians.

But Khalid, whose waiters are mostly foreign, complimented foreign workers for their hard work and low labor cost.

Alex Lee owns the Smokehouse Restaurant, which serves mainly British food. He employs mostly Malaysian cooks, and one foreigner who works as a sous chef.

“From a protectionist and job-security point of view, I think it (a ban) is idiotic,” Lee told Arab News, adding that most food business owners constantly face a shortage of workers.

It is the responsibility of restaurant owners, not the government, to preserve local food’s authenticity, said Lee, cautioning the government against “short-sighted, faux-populist” policies.