Tuesday, November 19, 2013

MASS writes to World Bank chief, may agitate if livelihood, environmental concerns are not addressed

Dr Kim
By Our Representative
In a letter to World Bank president Dr Jim YongW Kim, Dr Bharat Patel, general secretary of the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS), writing on behalf of the “affected communities” of the Tata’ Mundra ultra mega power plant (UMPP) in Kutch, Gujarat, has said, even “almost three weeks” after the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) published its report there is no action on the Tata plant from the Bank’s arm, International Finance Corporation, which is part-funding the project. The letter comes close on the heels of a protest to Dr Kim by several US and European NGOs expressing concern over his failure to act despite CAO raising serious environmental and livelihood issues (click HERE).
Dr Patel said, “As complainants to CAO we invested a lot in the process – when the company and the IFC were refusing to divulge information about the project and its impacts, we dug them up and brought it to the notice of CAO. As fishing communities, our access to information which was only in English and not in our local language, were curtailed and we had to seek the help of many different organizations and individuals to understand them. We do not have researchers, but we got all basic data to back up our concerns about the project. We put complete faith in the process. We trusted the independence of the CAO and hoped that the findings of the CAO will help addressing our concerns.”
MASS’ problem has gone complicated because the CAO, in its report, while taking objection to the IFC’s failure to take “cumulative impact” of the UMPP, the Adani Power’s 4,620 MW plant (being implemented not far away), and the Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone (MPSEZ), has said it is “reluctant to review IFC management decisions on project selection.” Instead of recommending any punitive steps, such as suspension of loan on environmental or livelihood grounds, the report rejects the view that the project is not feasible to “not finance new business activity that cannot be expected to meet the Performance Standards.”
The CAO submitted its audit report on August 22, which was made public on October 23. The refusal came despite the CAO report’s reference to how Tata Power has overlooked the need to take a detailed view of environmental destruction of the region and adverse impact on the marginalized communities, especially fisher people. It stated to how MPSEZ, which is “a major industrial development”, and its owners, the Adani Group, “have been the subject of multiple allegations of environmental wrongdoing in recent years, particularly in relation to the destruction of mangroves around MPSEZ”.
Dr Patel in his letter said, “To our utter disappointment, there wasn’t even a whimper from the IFC, or from you as head of the institution, on the CAO findings, than rejecting it outrightly”, wondering, “In hindsight, Dr Kim, would you have counseled us not to put faith in the CAO? That the CAO process is not more than a farce?” It added, “The CAO confirmed all our concerns. It confirmed that the environmental and social risks and impacts of the project were not considered and addressed; there is no social baseline data; IFC’s policies for land acquisition not applied, despite physical and economic displacement, Inadequate attention was paid to the requirement of biodiversity conservation; IFC failed in its review and supervision of the impacts on airshed and marine environment and IFC failed to examine the cumulative impact of Tata Mundra.”
The letter further said, “Dr Kim, by deciding to stand by IFC and company, you have chosen to be with the violators, both of human rights as well as that of environment norms and policies. Rejecting the findings based on scientific research and thorough investigation, and opting to support narrow political interests of IFC has betrayed all that we have heard from you so far – right from your climate concerns to accountability and shared prosperity. How could you, Dr Kim, with your background and exposure, burry your own head and buy the falsehood and propaganda of IFC and the company?”
Demanding “appropriate actions” to address the findings of the CAO, “starting with a remedial action plan to mitigate the impacts already shown on the ground and the withdrawal of IFC financing from the Tata Mundra coal project”, the letter said, “You and your advisors might have thought that we will take this lying down, and this may vanish from the public memory soon and our supporters will move on with their priorities and our concerns may get a silent burial.”
However, he threatened, MASS and its supporters will “move on”, adding, “We do not have an option than to keep fighting this project. This project is hitting us hard where it hurts the most – our livelihood and our health, especially that of the children and elderly. We would not stop our efforts of seeking justice and making you and your IFC accountable. Your apathy and your betrayal of our trust have only firmed up our resolve to intensify our fight.”

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