Thursday, November 28, 2013

World Bank arm gives clean chit to Tata Mundra project, says it is "committed" to work as partners

Jin-Yong Cai
By Our Representative
The international financiers of the Tatas’ Ultra Mega Power Plant at Mundra, Gujarat coast, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank arm, has declared that it will not act against the project, as it falls within the World Bank Group’s 2013 Energy Sector Directions Paper on “sustainable energy”. Signed by Jin-Yong Cai, executive vice-president and CEO of the IFC, in the wake of the IFC ombudsman’s adverse audit report on the Tata Mundra project, it claims, the World Bank paper “reflects the latest thinking on global energy needs, climate change, and low-carbon economic development”, which is “forward-looking and not meant to be applied retroactively to projects such as Tata Mundra.”
Saying that it is taking into account the concerns of the ombudsman on the Tata project regarding environmental damage and impact on livelihood, the statement says that the IFC will “is committed” to working with its partners, even as working for “clean, sustainable energy for the poor, and to create economic opportunity and improve people’s lives.” It adds, “The World Bank Group's Environment and Social Policies lie at the core of our twin goals – ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. IFC will work closely with the Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (CGPL – the Tata project’s name) drawing upon experts, to review the studies referenced in the action plan and develop mitigation, compensation and/or offset options to be implemented.”
Pointing out that the IFC will “closely monitor CGPL's progress and adherence to the IFC Performance Standards, as it does with all clients, and refine our approach as necessary”, it gives clean chit to the CGPL saying it “is committed to IFC’s Performance Standards and is taking steps to respond to and address the concerns of affected communities, including the migrant fishing communities.” Already, the CGPL has in place “an ongoing comprehensive management and monitoring programme, which it is in the process of reviewing and updating in light of the full commissioning of the plant and proposed expansion.”
The CGPL, the IFC points out, will look into the “inputs it has received as part of its ongoing engagement with affected communities including fishing communities and its extensive corporate social responsibility work”, get “feedback from its lenders, including IFC”, and take into account “concerns expressed by various stakeholders including civil society organizations and the IFC ombudsman”. Already, the company has “contracted with a third party to undertake household level socio-economic survey of 21 villages/hamlets including seasonal settlements in CGPL’s influence area.”
Pointing out that the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), an expert government organization, has been asked to “undertake model confirmation studies”, the statement says, the company “will get this study validated by another independent/government agency subsequently.” Further, the company has “contracted with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to undertake turtle monitoring.” Additionally, the BNHS will do a follow up of its “biodiversity assessment study with broader biodiversity monitoring (mangroves, lobster breeding areas and other key relevant habitats and species) in the area impacted by elevated temperature of the thermal plume.”
The statement says, the CGPL will collect fish catch data from the authorities, there will be ambient air quality monitoring at seven locations in villages around the plant, and establishment of an air quality monitoring station in the fish drying areas used by the seasonally resident fishing communities. Further, the CGPL will “implement an inspection programme to assess the coal and ash dust deposition in neighboring communities.” Then, issues of village Vandh and the seasonal settlement of migrant fisher folk on the coast within CGPL’s influence area will be taken care of by carrying out “appropriate laboratory analysis of dried fish samples to assess ash and coal dust contamination.”
Already, plans have been worked to contract a third party to “undertake health status and needs survey in the neighboring communities of villages Tunda, Vandh, Kandagara, Nana Bhadia, Tragadi, Modhava and the seasonal settlement of fisher folk on the coast near CGPL”, the statement says, adding, there will also be ”testing of ash residue for radioactivity and heavy metals”, validation of “selected ambient air quality monitoring parameters that have changed significantly from the baseline”, and there will an “environment and social impact assessment for the expansion project.”
“In addition to ensuring that relevant stakeholders including fishing communities are appropriately consulted in accordance with the provisions of IFC Performance Standards, the company will, in consultation with domain experts from NIO, BNHS, IFC, Lender’s E&S Advisors and/or relevant government agencies, ensure that these studies and monitoring are undertaken in accordance with IFC Performance Standards”, the statement says, adding, in case there is an indication of “adverse impact, appropriate mitigation measures will be developed in consultation with these experts.”

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