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World Bank, India together "working" to weaken environmental, social safeguard policies: Indian groups

By Our Representative
As World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, on a two day visit to India, meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 24 groups working on environmental, labour and human rights have asked the executive directors of the World Bank ensure that the Bank should ensure that “environmental and social safeguards are not diluted”, as desired by the Government of India.
The groups, in their letter to the Bank's executive directors, say, this is particularly important because Government of India has been advocating “for weakening of the policies claiming that these safeguard policies are too costly and time-consuming to implement; inefficient when national systems could more quickly and easily be applied; and undermine national authority and sovereignty by putting harsh conditions on Bank lending.”
Pointing out that the groups “do not share this view with our government”, the letter says, their opposition is on different grounds and it is not to weaken the policies.
It adds, “We believe that unless there are genuine efforts to learn from past experiences, the consultations are more inclusive and participatory, and keeping people and environment in the core of any planning, these policies will only further disempower the people, rob them off their natural resources and push them to destitution.”
Visiting India to explore new financing opportunities, Kim has been told that this framework is particularly important as “India has been the largest recipient of World Bank loans in the history of World Bank”, adding, “This also means that many of the World Bank projects caused severe displacement, environmental destruction and social fragmentation.”
The groups say, the projects to which the World Bank has funded India include the “much debated” Sardar Sarovar Project on the Narmada river, the Mumbai Urban Transport Project, and very recently the Tata Mundra mega power coal project.
Commenting on the two drafts of the safeguard polices, which the World Bank has released recently, the Indian groups say, “The drafts clearly demonstrated all that the intentions are wrong, the process flawed and the purpose of this is to fool people, giving them a false sense of participation.”
They add, “The end result remains the same – to push investments in all possible sectors, with scant regard for social and environmental impacts and without any democratic and participatory processes”, adding, “The World Bank projects are not only a contributor to climate change situation, the projects are also destroying the capacity of the people to adapt to changing climate.”
Prominent among the signatories are National Alliance of People’s Movements, International Rivers, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, North East Peoples Alliance, All India Union of Forest Working People, National Domestic Workers Union and Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The letter reiterates its earlier objection, that “the so-called environmental and social safeguards of the Bank are nothing more than a veneer of protection to mask the real impacts of this dangerous financial institution which works only to increase profitability of its shareholders and furthering the cause of the extractive-accumulative large capital - at any cost.”
According to them, “Despite many voices of opposition and concern from different parts of the globe, the Bank continued it process of consultations, without addressing the issues we collectively raised, and brought out two drafts of it. The drafts clearly demonstrated that the intentions are wrong, the process flawed and the purpose of this is to fool people, giving them a false sense of participation.”

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