PEOPLES MOVEMENTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL ACTION GROUPS SLAM WORLD BANK’S SHAM CONSULTATIONS ON ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL SAFEGUARDS POLICIES
New Delhi, April 5 : Activists of the Matu Jan Sangathan, Domestic Workers Union, Delhi Mahila Shahri Kaamgar Sangathan, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Delhi Solidarity Group, SRUTI, Delhi Forum, Programme for Social Action and others today stormed the ‘civil society consultation’ on review and update of the World Bank’s environmental and social safeguard policies organised by World Bank at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Terming these consultations as eyewash activists didn’t allow the consultations to proceed since World Bank continues to hide behind thecentral and state governments in India or other government agencies in different countries and shriek responsibility for any environmental and social damage.
Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangathan – NAPM, said, “the way these consultations are organised are no different from what has been going on for decades. Many such reviews have been conducted, thousands of groups and individuals have participated with the intent of seeing genuine reform of the institution, and possibly its democratization, only to be utterly disappointed. The current exercise, therefore, is nothing but a charade to mask the true intentions of its major ‘shareholders’: France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, who are grappling with serious economic downturns and are conveniently using the Bank to force open global investment opportunities with scant regard to environmental and social impacts. Bank continues to own up to its responsibility for social and environmental damages it did in Narmada Valley, Singapur, East Parej Mines, Allain Duhangan, Rampur, Luhri and Vishungad Pipalkoti. On several occasions these have been brought to the notice of World Bank but they have refused to take notice of and continue to work with criminal companies like Tehri hydro Development Corporation and other consultants. If such is the case then why hold these stake holders consultations ?”
Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM, added that if indeed the World Bank was seriously concerned about the impacts of its investments, then the best test would have been the sensitivity demonstrated in the investments made by its various lending operations. In India, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank’s private sector lending arm, is complicit in massive human rights and environmental violations that form the basis of the super-mega $4 billion Tata-Mundra 4000 MW power project in the ecologically sensitive Kutch region of Gujarat. The World Bank, in its wisdom, has further endorsed such environmental crimes by offering a $1 billion loan to the building of the Fifth Power System Development Project, which essentially is a transmission line for Tata-Mundra and three other large coastal power projects. Participating in such manner, the Bank conveniently escapes any blame for the disaster, and yet benefits from financing such ‘development projects’.”
Umesh Babu, Delhi Forum, said “the Bank’s Policy on piloting the use of borrower systems for Environmental and Social Safeguards has in the past decade been a mantra to pave the way for promoting investment at any cost. Over a decade ago the World Bank funded the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Environmental Management Capacity Building Project. The result was a massive dilution of India’s environmental and social safeguard norms. What’s worse, the processes that resulted lent voice to those within administration and industry who were crying hoarse that the carefully evolved rigour of “forest” and “environmental” clearance standards in India was thwarting economic growth.”
Lakshmi Premkumar, PSA, said, “it took the movement groups and people’s organisations across the globe 30+ years to pressurise the World Bank Group to formulate, re-formulate and have in place mechanisms that would safeguard social-environmental-cultural-traditional interests of communities and people affected by the Group’s financing of so called ‘Development projects’ across the World and in India. However, it took the Bank, in particular International Finance Corporation (IFC), only one stroke of destructive imagination to bring in the new model of ‘Financial Intermediary Lending‘ that wiped out all mandatory requirements posed by environmental and social safeguard principles on lending, as they are not bound by such standards. At a time when the FI model of lending in India by IFC and the World Bank at large are expected to cross the halfway mark of their collective investments, it does not make any sense at all for the World Bank to be holding such reviews of their environmental and social safeguards; they simply do not matter at all to the actual practice of the World Bank and its agencies.”
Activist urged the members of the civil society who had come for the consultation to leave the meeting, if they really felt the pain of the people of this country. World Bank has pushed for policies which have undermined the sovereignty of India and its people, privatised services, opened up market for loot and plunder of natural resources by the private corporations and very fundamentally changed the policies of this country in favour of capitalists forces.
Shouting slogans of “World Bank ! Quit India !”, “World Bank ! Down Down !” activists refused to budge from the venue until the World Bank Country Director Mr. Onno Ruhl, left the hall at 2 pm followed by Stephen F Lintner, Senior Advisor, Sanjay Srivastava, Regional Safeguards Advisor and other Bank officials along with few CSO members and Bank consultants who stayed till last.
Activists warned that these sham consultations will not be tolerated unless Bank owned upto damages, compensated communities and stopped funding the environmentally and socially destructive projects in name of ‘development’. People’s Movements have been struggling across the country against its own governments demanding justice and challenging their nefarious capitalist designs but that doesn’t mean World Bank can hide behind them. They are part of the larger design of the global financial systems and we will continue to challenge it.
The current ‘consultations’ are therefore a sham and must be denounced by anyone deeply concerned about the nature of democracy and are keen to ensure that all peoples of the world benefit from human activity that is based on deep appreciation and adherence to the Principle of Prior and Informed Consent and the Principle of Intergenerational Equity.
Rajendra Ravi, Anita Kapoor, Seela Manaswanee, Sanjeev Kumar, Satyam Srivastava, Sunita Rani, Anil Tharyath Varghese, Nishank, Manisha Lath, Gopal, Santosh Kumar.
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