Wednesday, December 18, 2013

World Bank president "evasive" towards environment, livelihood concerns of people in Mundra, Gujarat

By Our Representative
Participating at the national consultation in New Delhi, organized by India's civil society network National Alliance of People's Networks (NAPM), experts and politicians “expressed extreme” concern over World Bank president Dr Jim Yong Kim’s “evasive” attitude towards the environmental and livelihood concerns over the Tatas’ decision to expand the ultra mega power plant at Mundra in Kutch district, Gujarat. Organized jointly with the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangthan (MASS), which has been protesting against the UMPP's alleged environmental damage and adverse impact on people's livelihood, the consultation criticized the World Bank for ignoring its ombudsman’s views on the subject.
“Response of World Bank President Jim Kim is evasive and does not even recognize the finding of the report on Tata Mundra,” noted social activist Medha Patkar said. She was speaking at a discussion yesterday on the World Bank and its accountability in the context of the recent reports on Tata Mundra project. “The current stalemate is that of the president versus the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), as he has not given any heed to the findings of CAO,” she said.
Member of Parliament Mani Shankar Aiyer said, “Development without consideration for environment and people is pointless.” He decried government policies which give big corporations tax concessions, which is glorified in the name of stimulus, while the same done to the farmers and marginalised is called subsidies.” The meeting was held in the context of the recent report by World Bank’s accountability mechanism, which reported Bank’s own policy violations by its private sector arm, IFC, which is part-funding the UMPP, being implemented under the banner of Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (CGPL – Tata Mundra) project.
CAO in its report had said that environmental and social risks and impacts of the project were not considered and addressed. There was no social baseline data. IFC’s policies for land acquisition were not applied, despite physical and economic displacement. Inadequate attention was paid to the requirement of biodiversity conservation. The IFC failed in its review and supervision of the impacts on airshed and marine environment. And, the IFC failed to examine the cumulative impact of projects around Tata Mundra.
Earlier speaking about the inequity which is promoted by the World Bank, noted economist Prof Arun Kumar said, “World Bank does not have one line of operation but have one underlying principle, i.e., marketization of natural resources.” He added, “The notion that private efficient and hence market needs preference puts the question of equity secondary. The questions of efficiency and equity are opposing. Rationality is dominated by profits and greed is justified.” Energy expert Soumya Dutta, local community leaders Ayub Haji and Bharat Patel also spoke at the meeting.
MASS distributed a letter sent to the World Bank president which said, “By not standing firm behind your accountability mechanisms and their findings, you are undermining their legitimacy and playing into the hands of the ones inside the Bank and outside who find these mechanisms to be a distraction for their smooth running of business.” Drawing parallels between the Morse Committee Report on Narmada dam (Sardar Sarovar) and of CAO on Tata Mundra, the letter said the president is “following the same strategy which the then President Lewis Preston, who constituted Morse Committee followed – pretending that you have not seen the findings.”
In a separate statement, MASS said, “Not once but twice now, the IFC has shown leniency in coming to terms with CAO audit report on Tata Mundra. After the CAO pointed that IFC has violated its social and environmental guidelines in its financing the project, the private arm of the World Bank rejected the audit report findings. The rejection was subsequently endorsed by the World Bank Group President, Dr Jim Yong Kim, who did not prescribe any remedial action for IFC to take.”
It added, “When the pressure started to mount with international and national organizations coming together to question this inaction on Dr Kim’s part, the president instructed his senior staff to have a forward looking statement from the IFC on the issue. This statement turned out to be a damp squib, a non-starter, non-committal, and non-serious. Written in an evasive language, it only breeds confusion, keeping the community’s concerns at bay and undermining CAO’s findings.”
The statement said, “What is striking in the statement is the noticeable absence of IFC’s roles and responsibilities, with the major chunk of these delegated to Coastal Gujarat Power Limited, the Tata subsidiary running the project”, adding, “Silence of the president of the World Bank group goes on to prove that he is either helping IFC absolve itself from responsibilities, or is unable to do anything more than undermine the credibility of internal mechanisms like the CAO.
It concluded, “Either ways, the legitimacy of his tall claims of renewable energy could be jeopardized if he continues to remain silent on a thermal project that is not only environmentally fragile, but financially in woes.”

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