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China-based multilateral bank keeps out people's groups from urban consultation ahead of Mumbai annual meet

Proposed smart city Dholera off Ahmedabad:
No space for urban poor
By Our Representative
Gujarat's civil society groups have strongly protested against their exclusion during consultations, currently being held in different parts of the country as part of preparations of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank's (AIIB's) second Annual Governors' Meeting in Mumbai on June 25-26 in Mumbai. The consultations in Gujarat are to be held in a top Ahmedabad hotel on April 19-20.
Formed outside the Bretton Woods framework, which led to the formation of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, AIIB mainly seeks to fund infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region. China has 26% stakes in AIIB, followed by India, 7.5%. Headquartered in Beijing, in all, it has 64 members, while another 20 are its prospctive mmbers. The United States is not an AIIB member.
Talking with mediapersons in Ahmedabad, Krishankant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) said, the exclusion of urban poor groups and civil society in consultations "shows a trend of opacity, non-transparency and indifference to the concerns of various sections of society which inhabit a city."
"India, as host country, is holding a number seminars across the country, of which the seminar on urban development is being organised in Ahmedabad on April 19 and 20. The organisers of the conference have not extended invitations to civil society organisations or social movements who are actively working for equitable, inclusive and sustainable cities", he said.
The proposed bullet train
Pointing out that this type of approach is in line with the new Government of India thinking, of not involving people who might be affects because or major infrastructure projects, senior farmers' leader Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Samaj Gujarat said, "Farmers of Gujarat and Maharashtra to be affected by the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project are not being consulted for acquiring land."
To be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the bullet train project, said Ashok Shrimali of the mines, minerals & People (mm&P), is being implemented when the Maharashtra government has come up with a notification that no social impact assessment (SIA) is needed for acquiring land for project, the Gujarat government has declared no SIA is required for it.
Krishnakant informed media, "It was only after JICA said it's terms of funding require strict social and environmental impact assessment, a private consultant, Arcadis, was appointed for holding consultations, which were held in Vadodara, Nadiad and Bharuch, but without the participation of stakeholders. Even government officials were not present."
Regretting that AIIB does not even have this requirement, Krishnakant said, those holding its consultations in Ahmedabad should remember that "the issue of urban development is not about creating investment opportunities for corporates but about securing the rights and livelihoods of people who are living in those cities whose voices are not being considered in the planning of city development."
The proposed Andhra capital Amravati
"A large number of questions are being raised by various groups across the country regarding massive investments which at one hand will create huge public debt and on the other hand does not ease living for the masses living in those cities and to the contrary, displace, disposes and derecognise their genuine voices", he insisted.
Thus, Krishnakant said, "The support to Amravati state capital for Andhra Pradesh by AIIB without considering the effects of such massive development project on the environment and livelihoods of the people or addressing their problems is a case in the point. It could not put together a comprehensive complaints mechanism of its own and policies that will guide their investments and have started funding projects."
Against this backdrop, ahead of the AIIB's Annual Governors' Meeting in Mumbai on June 25-26 in Mumbai, he said, civil society groups across the country will "assemble in Mumbai on June 21-23 demanding accountability and reiterate their vision of an equitable society differing from the versions of international financial institutions which opens the planet and people for further destruction."
Rabari added, "Finance driven unequitable and unsustainable projects have posed in many problems to society and the government. Gujarat is no exception to this. Its people's groups have resisted undemocratic consultant-driven urban development, whether it was Mandal-Bhechraji Special Investment Region (SIR) or Dholera SIR, or city development in Surat, Navsari, Bardoli and Morbi. We propose to be part of the protest in Mumbai."

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