Skip to main content

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.
The “briefing note” on the involvement NIIF with AIIB says that the relationship between is riddled with “lack of information” on environment and social impact assessment on any of the projects that are sought to be funded in India. An expanding multilateral institution, AIIB has under its fold 70, and another 27 in the waiting in the wings. Already, it is being seen as “a potential rival” to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Pointing towards how what havoc such lack of transparency can create, the briefing note, authored by Anuradha Munshi and Kate Geary for the Centre for Financial Accountability and Bank Information Centre (BIC), Europe, respectively, gives the example of GMR Kamalanga, a coal-based power plant project, proposed in Kamalanga village of Odisha, which the World Bank’s private lending arm, Infrastructure Finance Corporation (IFC) had decided to fund.
Calling GMR Kamalanga a “disastrous project”, the briefing note points to how local project-affected communities with the support of two NGOs had to complain with IFC ombudsman saying that the project posed a threat to their health, livelihoods and human rights. In its investigation, the ombudsman found that IFC “had breached its standards”, especially IFC’s “pre-investment environment and social due diligence.”
Pointing out that the first phase of AIIB’s investment through NIIF was approved in June 2018, and yet, even after more than a year, there is “complete lack of transparency” on the details of any of the projects, the note states, this is happening despite the fact that AIIB’s core principles say that it stands for “openness, transparency, independence and accountability”, with the mode of operation being “Clean, Lean, and Green.”
Hinting that the Government of India (GoI) should primarily take the blame for such lack of transparency, the note says, NIIF has been set up “as an alternative investment fund (AIF) with a planned corpus of Rs 40,000 crore (USD 6 billion)”, with GoI deciding to “commit up to 49 per cent of NIIF’s target capitalization, with the balance 51 per cent of commitments expected to be raised from institutional investors like AIIB.
Pointing out that, already, funds worth USD 1,100 million are proposed to be invested through NIIF, the note states, of this USD 200 million are proposed to come from AIIB, but so far little is known about how the envisaged projects would comply by investment guidelines will reflect the AIIB’s Environmental and Social Exclusion List, and the Environmental and Social Standards.
According to the note, the most significant risk associated with funding NIIF projects is the mandate to restart ‘stalled’ infrastructure projects, something that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “vowed” to do, “especially in the coal, power, petroleum, railways and road sectors. It underlines, “Raising finance to restart stalled projects brings with it high social and environmental risks. The reason many projects are stalled often relate to land, and environmental and social restrictions in place.”
Stating that it is local resistance that stalled projects these – mainly in coal mines and power plants sectors – because of their potential impacts like threat to displace and impoverish communities, destroy forests or pollute rivers, the note says, “Restarting such projects brings with it a host of risks, not least the reputational risk to any financier involved.”
The note quotes an authoritative study to say that, “Almost 80 per cent of land conflicts arise out of development and industrialisation processes, with infrastructure being the single largest cause”, adding, “Detailed investigation of 21 projects involved in disputes related to the possession and acquiring of land revealed the major reasons to be land disputes and resistance by local communities to the projects.”
Significant risks are associated with funding ‘stalled’ infrastructure projects mandated by Prime Minister Modi, especially in the coal, power, petroleum, railways and road sectors
Insisting that these are “these are serious concerns”, the note says, it is essential for AIIB to “publicly disclose its investments so that the affected communities and other stakeholders are aware about the projects and of their impacts. This will help affected communities to approach AIIB’s accountability mechanism or its board to ensure that the subprojects comply with its environmental and social standards.”
The note says, even renewable energy projects may become problematic, the note says, “The vast majority of solar power in India comes not from decentralised rooftop panels but expansive parks. Indian authorities have enticed developers by acquiring large tracts of land, building transmission links and offering up buyers for the new power, usually state-owned companies with low default risk.”
It adds, “These mega-projects necessitate the acquisition of enormous land areas. There are already three recorded conflicts related to land acquisition for renewable energy projects, one of them being the ultra-mega solar park, with a capacity of 500 MW in Anantapur district in western Andhra Pradesh.
“Even with renewable energy projects, there are concerns around the scale of environmental and social impacts as they resemble other mega projects in their impacts on local communities and require the same transparency and risk management”, the note says.
It continues, “It is essential that at a time when investments in the renewable energy sector are rightly being called for, we do not fall in the same trap of fossil fuel-based projects, which required massive land acquisitions, displacement resulting in land conflicts, loss of the livelihoods and destruction of ecosystems.”
Demanding that AIIB, while investing in such projects, should follow “environmental and social framework stringently”, note says, this is particularly important because AIIB is an AAA credit-rated bank, and its investment in NIIF would help make NIIF a more attractive investment vehicle for others. “This raises questions about how the AIIB can help to influence the wider portfolio of NIIF towards more sustainable infrastructure”, it wonders.

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Dalit scholar's comment on Lord Shiva 'harming' Muslims, 'damaging' secular cause

Shahid Siddiqui, Bobby Naqvi By Our Representative   Bobby Naqvi, who is with the "Gulf News", and is a well-known name among Muslim intellectuals, strongly objecting to the social media post of Prof Ratan Lal, has said that "a big reason for majoritarian hatred against Muslims is irresponsible remarks by people like Prof Ratan Lal of Delhi University." In a Facebook comment , which has attracted paise, among others, from journaliat-politician Shahid Siddiqui, Naqvi said, "Their commentary on Hinduism and icons of Hinduism (while angering religious and liberal Hindus alike) also triggers a massive backlash against Muslims. When the likes of Prof Lal criticize Hinduism on social media, Hindus bring Islam and Islamic practices and ask 'what about this' or 'what about that'." Naqvi insists, "Muslims (without their fault) and Islam get caught in this crossfire between the so called Hindu liberal class and the religious Hindus. And the ult

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

Why there's strong likelihood India may resurrect its presence in Afghan capital

By Anand K Sahay* Since India evacuated its mission in Afghanistan once the Taliban re-took Kabul last August practically under American aegis, following what came to be called the Taliban’s Doha “negotiations” with the US, New Delhi is evidently doing a re-think. It is considered likely that an Indian representation will soon be restored in Kabul, even if this will be small and not at the level of ambassador. This is reflective of realistic thinking. Of course, there can be no question at present of according recognition to the Taliban regime. That is likely to happen when a broad consensus amongst the leading powers emerges. Currently the Taliban government is not helping its own cause of gaining world recognition- which will help it access overseas funds at a time when the country is in dire straits- by imposing severe restrictions on women and girls in serious violation of human rights. More basic is the issue that the Taliban regime is not considered r