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Activists insist, World Bank president must act on eco-concerns on Gujarat power project

By Our Representative
Over a hundred prominent organisations and activists have expressed "shock" over World Bank President Dr Jim Kim’s "inaction" on the audit report on the Tatas Mundra ultra mega power project in Gujarat, adding, they condemn such a move and demand that the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) withdraw from the project. In a letter sent to Dr Kim, they said, “People’s movements and their allies in India are shocked that you have cleared the IFC management’s response to the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) Audit Report on Tata Mundra Project”.
The activists and NGOs said, the findings by the CAO, which is the independent recourse mechanism for the World Bank group's IFC, "warrant nothing less than IFC’s withdrawal from the project.” Ironically, the activists and NGOs have said this despite the fact that the CAO has refused to recommend withdrawal of the IFC's funding, even as saying that the Tatas' power project has failed to take into account environmental and livelihood concerns of the region around Mundra.
In fact, the CAO report concluded in its report that it was “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 CAO report rejects the view that it is not feasible to “not finance new business activity that cannot be expected to meet the Performance Standards over a reasonable period of time”. Instead, the IFC is allowed to take its own decisions on merit, and whether to “move forward with the investment”. 
Even then, the activists and NGOs told in their letter to Dr Kim, “Your endorsement of IFC’s response to CAO findings and thus letting IFC and the company continue the violations merits nothing less than condemnation.” The CAO released their findings on October 24, after a year-long investigation into the financing of IFC to the project. CAO had found IFC made "serious lapses" in funding the Tatas' coal-fired plant, the letter said.
The letter was issued in support of the local organisation, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS),a nd signedm among others, by the National Alliance of People’s Movements, which the apex body of several people's organisations, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, the All India Union of Forest Working People, the India Climate Justice, the National Fishworkers Forum, and the All India Forum of Forest Movements, among others.
Taking "serious note" of the inaction of the President, the letter said, “By your decision to keep your eyes closed to the damning findings of the CAO, you are complicit in the human rights violations, livelihood loss, impacts of air pollution, water contamination, and perilous marine ecological disaster in the wake of the IFC-funded project.” It found in the inaction a "larger malice" of the World Bank, regretting, “The World Bank’s compliance mechanisms like CAO and Inspection Panel are increasingly becoming a farce, while the Bank continues aiding projects – whether hydro or coal projects, infrastructure projects, or meddling with policies and legal system.” 
"World Bank Group has currently 386 active projects in India with a committed portfolio of $29.5 billion", the letter declares, adding, concluding, “We will continue our struggles against the Bank, its policies and its blatant disrespect of human rights. We will strengthen the struggle of MASS and would challenge you and your Bank at every possible avenue.”
The 4000 MW Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (Tata Mundra) is finance by International Finance Corporation (IFC), Asian Development Bank, Korean ExIm Bank and other national Banks. A complaint by the local organisation MASS to the recourse mechanism of IFC, the CAO, led to a full investigation into the financing of the project. The CAO validated major MASS complaints. It found the IFC committed serious supervision failures and significant policy breaches, but refused to recommend withdrawal of loan.
"The CAO confirmed  that the environmental and social risks and impacts of the project were not considered and addressed; there was no social baseline data; the 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 Tata Mundra", the NAPM said in a statement.

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