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Villagers Celebrate The Historic US Supreme Court’s Verdict Which Ended The Immunity of the IFIs

For Immediate Release

Villagers Celebrate The Historic US Supreme Court’s Verdict Which Ended The Immunity of the IFIs

March 31, 2019, Mundra: The air in Mundra filled with the slogans like Kaun Banata Hai Hindustan, Machuawara, Majdoor, Kisan! (Who makes India? Fishermen, Labourer and Farmers); Ladenge Jeetenge! (We shall fight, we shall win); Aadiwaasi Machhuawara Kisaan Ekta Zindabad! (Long live the unity of tribals, fishermen and farmers), and Poonjipatiyon Ki Dalaai Band karo! Hundreds of people from Navinal and Tagri villages of Kutch and representatives from various social movements and civil society members have gathered to celebrate the historic verdict of the US Supreme Court that ended the absolute immunity enjoyed for long by the International Financial Institutions.
“Is Development only for Tata, Ambani, and Adani? What about the fishermen from Mundra, who live in the open with huts made up of bamboo and gunny bags but feed thousands of people in and outside Gujarat,” asked Medha Patkar, senior activist, Narmada Bachao Andolan and National Alliance for the Peoples’ Movements. “Every citizen has the constitutional right to question anti-people policies,” she asserted. She further said, “We do not have any problem in discharging Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) Dam waters for the benefit of the farmers of Kutch. However, we will fight if it is given to the industries,” referring to the allocation of water for a large number of industries.
She was speaking at the public meeting, organised by the Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MAAS), Mundra, which witnessed the participation of the hundreds of the villagers affected by the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation-funded Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Plant. The meeting was organised to celebrate the historic verdict of the US Supreme Court that ended the absolute immunity enjoyed for long by the International Financial Institutions.
During the occasion, representatives from various social movements and civil society members like  Medha Patkar, senior activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan; Soumya Dutta, Convenor of the Beyond Copenhagen Collective; Nitaben Mahadev, Gujarat Lok Samiti, Sanjeev Danda, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikaar Manch; and Maju Varghese and Anuradha Munshi from the Working Group on International Financial Institutions (WGonIFIs) were also present to extend their solidarity and felicitate the fishermen and villagers who have been at the forefront of this historic struggle.
The petitioners of the case were garlanded and facilitated at the public meeting. Speakers after speakers alluded their courage, encountering hostilities and the broader impact of this victory to the people around the globe, making institutions like World Bank more accountable.
Speaking at the occasion, Soumya Dutta, emphasised that the recent US Supreme Court’s decision to end immunity of the International Financial Institutions is a significant victory of the people fighting to save their dignity, land and livelihood across the world. He stressed that a broader alliance of different sections of the people affected by the project be formed to fight getting justice.
Sanjeev Danda said the US Supreme Court’s verdict is a firm reminder that fishers and poor are not insects that can’t be eliminated easily. He thanked the villagers for their firm resistance against the might of the IFC and Tata.
Nitaben Mahadev expressed solidarity on behalf of organisations in Gujarat and wished the people the best to take the fight to higher heights.
Buddha Ismail Jam, the main petitioner of the case against the ongoing IFC, emphasised the need to stay together. He said, “If we continue to stay strong for the remaining struggle, nobody can snatch justice away from us.”
Gajendra Sinh Jadeja, a co-petitioner of the case and Sarpanch of the Navinal Panchayat in Mundra, listed the problems currently being faced by the fishermen, farmers and pastoralists. He said, “The production of cotton, dates, chikoo has considerably reduced due to the coal-ash, which has also adversely impacted the health of the people. Similarly, the inlet and outlet channel have increased the salinity, thus impacting agriculture. Additionally, the channel has also driven away from the fishes away from the coast, due to which, the fishermen have to travel about 25 kilometres into the sea.”
Bharat Patel, thanked the villagers, civil society and social movements across the country for their solidarity, and the Earth Rights International, for their unflinching support. He asserted that the policies of the IFIs need to be amended and said that they can’t function at the cost of the lives of people. Talking about the further course of action, he said, “We will fight till the ecology is restored; the people who lost their livelihoods are adequately compensated; and the officials of IFC and Tata Power, who conspired to destroy our lives for their greed are criminally charged.”
Background
On February 27, 2019, the Supreme Court of United States, in a historic 7-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Jam v. IFC that international organisations like the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group do not enjoy absolute immunity.
The Court’s decision marks a defining moment for the IFC – the arm of the World Bank Group that lends to the private sector. For years, the IFC has operated as if it were “above the law,” at times pursuing reckless lending projects that inflicted serious human rights abuses on local communities, and then leaving the communities to fend for themselves.
In the case of the Tata Mundra, since the beginning, the IFC recognised that the Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant is a high-risk project that could have significant adverse impacts on local communities and their environment. Despite knowing the risks, the IFC provided a critical Rs 1,800 crore (USD 450 million) loan in 2008, thus enabling the project’s construction. Despite this, the IFC failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the harms it predicted and failed to ensure that the project abided by the environmental and social safeguards.
As predicted, the plant caused significant harm to the communities living in its shadow. Construction of the plant destroyed vital sources of water used for drinking and irrigation. Coal ash has contaminated crops and fish laid out to dry, air pollutants are at levels dangerous to human health, and there has already been a rise in respiratory problems. The enormous quantity of thermal pollution – hot water released from the plant – has destroyed the local marine environment and the fish populations that fishermen rely on to support their families. Although a 2015 law required all plants to install cooling towers to minimise thermal pollution by the end of 2017, the Tata plant has failed to do so.
A nine-mile-long coal conveyor belt, which transports coal from the port to the Plant, runs next to local villages and near fishing grounds. Coal dust from the conveyor and fly ash from the plant frequently contaminate drying fish, reducing their value, damage agricultural production, and cover homes and property.
The IFC’s own internal compliance mechanism, the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), issued a scathing report in 2013 confirming that the IFC had failed to ensure the Tata Mundra project complied with the environmental and social conditions of the IFC’s loan at virtually every stage of the project. The report recommended the IFC to take remedial action. However, the IFC’s management responded to the CAO by rejecting most of its findings and ignoring others. In a follow-up report in early 2017, the CAO observed that the IFC remained out of compliance and had failed to take any meaningful steps to remedy the situation.
The harms suffered by the people are all the more regrettable because the project made no economic sense from the beginning. In 2017, in fact, Tata Power began trying to unload a majority of its shares in the project for one rupee because of the losses it has suffered and will suffer in future. At the moment, the plant is operating much-below capacity in part because India has an oversupply of electricity.
Please visit here for more background and accessing documents related to the case.
About us:
Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MAAS) is a trade union of the fish workers in Mundra and a co-petitioner in the historic Budha Jam vs IFC case.
 
Contact:
Dr Bharat Patel (Mundra, Gujarat, India)
General Secretary, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan
+ 91 94264 69803
bharatp1977@gmail.com

Symposium on India’s Engagements and Experiences with Accountability Mechanisms of Multilateral Development Banks

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The Inspection Panel is completing 25 years in its role, as an accountability mechanism of the World Bank. As you are aware, the Bank’s failure to comply with its operating policies was seen by the entire world in the Bank’s financing with the Sardar Sarovar Dam project on River Narmada. The tenacity of massive grass-roots uprisings from our communities in the 80’s and the sustained hard work of our social movements along with our resoluteness to link it with international coalitions to question the hegemony of the Bank, subsequently led the Bank, for the first time, to commission an independent review of its project. The Independent Review Committee (Morse Committee) constituted by the Bank in 1991 to review the social and environmental costs and benefits of the dam, after years of consistent struggle by Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement) and its allies led to a demand from the civil society around the globe for the creation of a grievance redressal system for project-affected communities, which ultimately pressurized the Bank to constitute the Inspection Panel in 1993. We expected this might be a crucial backstop and an opportunity for us to raise our issues of livelihoods, economic loss, displacement from our lands, alienation from natural resources, destruction of environment and threat to our biodiversity and cultural hotspots, where Bank invested in large, supposedly ‘development’ projects like mega dams, energy and other infrastructure projects. Yet, the outcome we expected rarely delivered sufficient remedy for the harm and losses people have experienced over the years.

A number of accountability mechanisms over the next couple of decades in several development finance institutions were formed following the model of World Bank, commonly known as ‘Independent Accountability Mechanisms’[IAMs]. Each year the number of complaints rise which is an indication of the increasing number of grievous projects happening around the world. While IAMs of most MDBs are advertised to provide strong and just processes, many of our experiences imply that the banks are accommodating practices which suit their own needs and their clients, which are borrowing countries and agencies, and not the people for whom the IAMs were built to serve.

Many a time, we have been disappointed by these mechanisms, since these are designed by the banks who are lending for disastrous projects in our lands. And as a result, the already existing narrow mandate of IAMs is further restricted.

In our efforts to hold the lending bank accountable, the communities are always presented with the arduous process of learning the complex formalities and detailed procedures to initially approach the IAMs and get our grievances registered. Our many years’ time and energy then is channelised into seeing through the various cycles of these complaint handling mechanisms, that our entire efforts go into this process, and often our complaint gets dropped off in midst of the procedural rules of the IAMs. People are made to wait many months to clear procedural levels and our cases with the IAMs get highly unpredictable. Further, we face intimidation and reprisals from the state and project agencies for having contacted the IAMs who themselves do not possess any authority to address the violations hurled out to us when we seek dignity, fair treatment and justice from them. There are many of us who feel a loss of morale after long years of struggling with lenders when we fail to see concrete benefits or changes in our circumstances, by which time considerable irreplaceable harm is already done to our lives, environment and livelihoods.

In this manner, our immediate and larger goal of holding banks for their failure to consult with and obtain consent from communities before devising action plans for our lands, water and forests is deflected in the pretext of problem-solving and grievance hearing offered to us in the name of IAMs.

With over 50 registered complaints sent to different IAMS from India in the past 25 years, many more left unregistered due to technical reasons and only a few got investigated, assessed and monitored at different levels, we have a baggage of mixed experiences with the IAMs. A few of the prominent cases from India apart from Narmada project are Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project [WB’s IP], Tata Mega Ultra-01/Mundra and Anjar [IFC’s CAO & ADB’s CRP], India Infrastructure Fund-01/Dhenkanal District [IFC’s CAO], Allain Duhangan Hydro Power Limited-01/Himachal Pradesh [IFC’s CAO] and Mumbai Urban Transport Project (2009) [WB’s IP].

As we now know, what is being witnessed recently is an influx of approved and proposed investments majorly in energy, transport, steel, roads, urban projects, bullet trains, industrial zones/corridors, smart cities, water privatization and other mega projects in India. This has been financed from different multilateral and bilateral sources, foreign corporations, private banks as well as Export-Import Banks (ExIm Banks). It has become a brutal challenge for communities, social movements and CSOs, with lenders and governments constantly shutting their eyes and ears to us who demand accountability for their actions. A compelling and timely need has arisen among diverse groups amongst us to gather together and critically analyze the various trajectories of our engagements with accountability mechanisms of MDBs in order to bring together past 25 years’ learning, insights and reflections of various actors of this accountability process. This urging demand is also an attempt to define the collective experiences in India among our social movements, projected-affected communities and CSOs with IAMs and lending banks, especially appropriating the global political opportunity of Inspection Panel celebrating its 25 years this year.

The schedule and list of speakers will be shared soon.

भारत में जलविद्युत विकास को बड़े पैमाने पर बढ़ावा

इस सेक्टर में निजी क्षत्रे को आकर्षित करने के लिए सरकार ने 2016 में इस पर चर्चा शुरू की कि नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा के क्षत्रे को और विस्तृत किया जाए ताकि 25 मेगावाट क्षमता से अधिक के जलविद्युत स्टेशन भी उसमें शामिल किए जा सके। इससे सरकार को 2022 तक 175 मेगावाट नवीकरणीय ऊर्जा उत्पादित करने के लक्ष्य को हासिल करने में मदद मिलेगी।