Friday, April 24, 2015

Gujarat fishermen "sue" World Bank Group in US Federal Court for loss of livelihood, adverse impact on health

By Our Representative
Gujarat's fishing communities and farmers of Mundra, "represented" through Earth Rights International (ERI), have filed a suit against the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-lending arm of the World Bank Group, in federal court in Washington, DC, alleging that the IFC has caused the "loss" of their livelihoods, "destroyed" their lands and water, and "created threats" to their health.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for harm to property and economic livelihoods, and asks the court order the IFC to enforce the provisions of the loan agreement which were intended to protect local communities and the environment to minimize future harm. IFC is known to have funded one of the mega power plants, run by Tatas, at Mundra, which is said to be the reason behind the litigation.
According to the court complaint, there has been a "dramatic" impact on :the lives of the people who live in in Mundra says a statement issued by the ERI, claiming, "The thermal pollution discharged from the plant’s cooling system has led to a dramatic decline in the fish populations that local fishing communities depend on."
The statement quotes plaintiff Budha Ismail Jam as saying, “The fish catch has been declining since 2011.” Jam is a local fisherman who lives in a seasonal fishing village known as a bunder most of the year, the statement says. “I don’t know what other profession I could do to support my family,” Jan added.
ERI says, "The substantial coal dust and fly ash coming from the plant and its coal conveyor belt is also harming local farms, the quality of fish and salt from the region, and the health of local people", quoting another plaintiff, Sidik Kasam Jam, as explaining: “When the conveyor belt runs, the coal dust blows towards the bunder. People have respiratory problems now. The elderly are the worst affected. You can see the dust on the fish we lay out to dry.”
“The IFC failed on all counts,” says Rick Herz, ERI’s litigation coordinator. “While the IFC purports to support poverty reduction and development, its impacts fall hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable communities.”
"From the outset, the IFC recognized the significant risks to local communities and their environment" because of industrial activities in Mundra, says ERI statement, adding, despite this, ERI claims, "The IFC failed to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to nearby communities and failed to ensure the required environmental and social conditions" are taken care of.
"Even the IFC’s own accountability mechanism – the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) - agreed. In 2013, the CAO said that IFC had failed to secure Environmental and Social Standards", the statement says.
“While the IFC is likely to argue that it is immune from suit, no institution should be above the law in a case where the risks were so obvious from the start, and the failure to act so damaging,” says Herz.

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