Power Games on India’s Coast

Report on IFC, ADB financed Tata Mundra Power Project finds Gross Violations

New Delhi, July 4 : It is a well known fact that World Bank has been pushing for the water privatisation in various countries by lending to water corporations and prescriptions and recommendations for water sector reforms to governments. The Bank has facilitated water grabbing too by having funded more than 500 dams in 92 countries and with its continued investment in thermal and hydro power plants continues to threaten the right to water of communities. International Finance Corporation, IFC, the private lending arm of the World Bank has been involved in direct and indirect funding of a number of the power plants in past few years. One such project is being developed by Tata Power in Mundra, on the coast of Kutch, Gujarat inside the Mundra Special Economic Zone (SEZ) developed by Adani. Machimaar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS), a fish workers group, has been struggling to defend their livelihood sources and save the coasts from complete destruction by construction of nearly 22,000 MW capacity power plants in a 70 km stretch.

An independent fact finding headed by Retd. Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court, S N Bhargava investigated the claims made by MASS of gross social and environmental violations by the Tata Power. The team’s report titled as ‘the Real cost of Power‘ heavily criticised the role of the company and the financial insitutions backing the project. It said “the (Tata Mundra Ultra Mega) project has disproportionately high social, environmental, and economic costs. The company, the licensing agencies of the Government of Gujarat and India, and the national and international financial institutions have either ignored or willfully neglected the high social and environmental costs and did little to mitigate them”. The report further added, “The Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment are misleading and erroneous, having excluded a large number of communities whose loss of livelihood was overlooked. Cumulative impact studies required to understand the overall impacts were not done. The governments and the IFIs are equally complicit in the violations by the company.”

The panel recommends that “International Financial Institutions should undertake an immediate review of the project to examine adherence of their safeguard polices; until such a review is done, their financial assistance to the project should be suspended.” Among the banks in question are the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Apart from the Justice Bhargava, other members of team included Dr. Varadarajan Sampath (former Ministry of Earth Sciences Advisor of the Government of India); distinguished journalist and author Praful Bidwai; Jarjum Ete (former Chairperson of Commission for Women in Arunachal Pradesh), and Soumya Dutta (National Convener of the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha). The team visited Mundra in April and May 2012, met senior company staff including its CEO Mr. KK Sharma, held meetings with affected communities and perused voluminous documents to inform its findings.

It needs to be noted that MASS has already filed a complaint with the ombudsman, CAO of IFC, which is investigating the violations by the company since June 2011.

Tata Mundra Power plant is one amongst the many thermal and nuclear power plants to be set up along side mainland India’s 5700 kms coastline. Nearly 55,000 MW of coal and gas based thermal power plants and 15,800 MW of nuclear power plants are either built or are in different stages if development alongside India’s coast apart from numerous ports, chemical industries, SEZs, refineries, and urbanisation. All these power plants will utilise water from the sea and also the ground water. These plants will release hot water, radioactive material and other industrial pollutants with massive adverse implications for the marine ecology and the coastal eco-system which will in turn threaten the livelihood of millions of the fishworkers, salt pan workers, pastoral and farming communities.

The report in findings also mentioned, “the project has caused drastic reduction in fish catches, destroying the livelihoods of local fisher-folk. Available fish-catch data indicate considerable reduction in fish catch in the past three years since the adjacent Adani plant was commissioned, which has been exacerbated by the partial commissioning of Tata Mundra. Communities fear total loss of aquatic wealth when the project is fully operational, along with their livelihoods as fisher-folk—a clear violation of IFC policies.”

Urging the Government of India and Gujarat to put a moratorium on permission to any more industry/power plants in Mundra / Kutch urged the international financial institutions to undertake an immediate review of the project to examine adherence of their safeguard polices; suspend financial assistance until such a review is done; putting in place an independent monitoring mechanism to ensure strict compliance of their safeguard policies. It added, meanwhile, the national financial institutions should adopt social and environmental policies and implement them scrupulously in this project. The implementation should be monitored by independent agencies, which include the affected people’s representatives.

The report is a timely warning for unplanned growth on India’s coast and a complete disregard for comprehensive environmental and ecological assessment, since the impacts will not remain limited to the coasts itself and will impact life and environment in hinterland too. One can only hope that under the resistance and pressure from people’s movements and various other institutions the governments will pay attention. World Bank and other IFIs and national Banks and FIs, like State Bank of India, India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd., Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd., Oriental Bank of Commerce, Vijaya Bank, State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Indore and ors can’t continue to hide behidn the government laws and regulations. They have to take responsibility for the businesses they fund and support through the public money.

The report hopefully will feed in to the CAO process and MASS members will have respite from the destruction unleashed on their shores by the corporations like Adani, Tata and others.

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Storyteller’s or my tale

Honey,
I finished reading this book today by Omar Ahmad titled ‘the storyteller’s tale’ http://www.amazon.com/The-Storytellers-Tale-Omair-Ahmad/dp/0143063138.
As I read it I remembered you many a times and here are some of the quotes from the same on love…
what are words. they are  just a sort of flower. they will wither and after i am gone, but they will be beautiful when I gift them.
“And isn’t that the sum of all love ? The whole story e ? something that takes you by surprise something that is seen from a distance, and yet recognised instantly and clearly ? Something you are scared your whole life long, and yet, when faced by it, reach for with open arms ?
And isn’t that the story folly, the sum of it? Fools who see mirages in the desert and convince themselves they are real, who fall in love with ideas and illusions, give their whole hearts  them, and blame really when it intrudes, who strive for that which can never be theirs ?
And isn’t that the tragedy of love, it’s  and complete deceit, that you can only be true in it, that you only wish to reveal your full truth to the one you love, with no frills and no lies, that you want to be loved as are ? you wish to be loved for your truth, and not your ability to hide it ? What was it that Mirza Jaan-e-Jaan had written ? Yeh dil kabhq ke qabil raha hai/ kahaan isko dimaag-o-dil raa hai ? When has this heart been capable of capable of loving?/ When has it had the intelligence [to playe] of love, this heart of mine?
“And isn’t that love, the sum of of all love, that u are so stunned by it that you can’t stretch your hand hand out to sp it, even as it slips away ?”
After the leave-taking (the story teller said) there is the leaving. And once you have left, you discover the ten thousand things that you still carry – memories of touch, scent and sight.
It is only after leaving that you discover the city within you has changed, and  roads wind now to different destinations. After the end of love there is the unloving, when you can engage in the ceaseless hunt for all those things to be taken out, and somehow discarded; when you can fight against the new roads and try, futilely, to return to what you were before.
There is,  though, another choice. Half the story of love is the discovery of it as put it behind you. And with that discovery  comes the knowledge that your own journey is still incomplete. The maps have changed, the continents have shifted, and the horizons are not the ones you remember. However, the road is still open and there is much to see, but only if you have the courage to see that the first step is always a departure.
Nothing more dear at the moment. There was a time when I used to write on my own the verses of love (http://nishantkesahyatri.blogspot.com/) but such is life now I take refuge in words of others…
Love and miss you lots..
M

Protests Against Water Privatisation in Khandwa Gathers Steam

New Delhi, April 19 : Khandwa, located in Western Madhya Pradesh, Central India, has been witness to many big rallies, demonstrations and protests by Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement) for more than a decade now against the construction of big dams like Maheshwar, Indira Sagar, Narmada Sagar, Mann and ors on the Narmada river. However, in past few months another movement against water privatisation is taking shape in Khandwa. India’s first such project ‘Khandwa Water Supply Augmentation Project’ has been awarded to Vishwa Infrastructure and Services Private Ltd., a Hyderabad based company under Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) on PPP basis for water supply augmentation to the town for 25 years under the concession.

The project has been under execution since October 2009. The private concessionaire would supply water to the town @ Rs 11.95 per KL. The raw water for this would be pumped from a reservoir 51 Kms away from the town. The project’s construction phase is expected to complete by September 2012, delayed by almost 1 year. The project has been show cased in various circles including at the Planning Commission level as being a successful model of executing PPPs in water sector and will pave the way for such projects in other cities.

The construction has been going on since 2009 but now only the details and conditionalities of the projects have started coming out. Since then in last six months local Bar Association, Pensioner’s Association, Traders Associations, Media groups, Citizen Forums, Political Representatives, local organisations and other community groups have started coming together and discussing the issues. Narmada Jal Vitran Sangharsh Samiti (Narmada Water Distribution Struggle Committee) has been formed which is strongly campaigning against the project and the severe impacts it would have on the lives of the local residents. As reported by the Times of India on April 18thResidents of Khandwa apart from holding protests and demonstrations are also holding an opinion poll against the project. Devendra Singh Yadav of Narmada Jal Vitran Sangharsh Samiti, carrying out the survey says, “We will complete the referendum in a month and hand it over to the chief minister and the Supreme Court to let them know people’s opinion.”

They have been regularly petitioning the local municipal corporation officials and the state government agencies for clarifications on various issues related to the project like privatisation, no investment by the private company, private ownership of new water supply system, neglecting existing water sources, mortgaging water rights of the people for 25 years, raising of water tariffs, non-use of local water resources like handpumps, dug-wells, etc. Apart from this the group has also petitioned the government agencies and the municipal corporation to cancel the project and the municipal corporation to take the responsibility of water supply in its own hands.

Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, which has been studying the project since last 3-4 years has brought out startling conditionalities based on which the Khandwa Municipal Corporation (KMC) signed the concession agreement with Vishwa Utilities Pvt. Ltd. The studies Manthan has done in this regard has been public domain for quite sometime and are available on its website http://www.manthan-india.org/spip.php?rubrique41. These studies provide the details about the water supply issues in the town as well as what is wrong with the PPP contract and has aided the struggle against the privatisation.

It remains to be seen how the resistance against the water privatisation will pan out since this will be a test case for future projects in other cities. There is active opposition to water privatisation in Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi and other cities of the country. PPP has been termed as the loot of natural resources and only benefits the private corporations on the public money, like in this case 80% of the project cot will be borne by Centre, 10% by State government and it is the rest 10% for which the agreement between the KMC and Vishwa has been signed by which Vishwa will corner all the profit and establish its monopoly over the distribution and make public taps a history in Khandwa.

Securing Right to Water in India : Perspectives and Challenges

India’s immense population growth and commitment to development, with the resulting expansion of the energy sector and mega hydro electrical projects, are at odds with growing water scarcity in the country and the realization of the human right to water for all. This report, written by Madhuresh Kumar and Mark Furlong, volunteers with National Alliance of People’s Movements, calls for a progressive people-centred development strategy and water sector reforms designed to meet the development objectives of international financial institutions.

A Disastrous Prescription : Interlinking of Rivers Revived Again

New Delhi, february 28 : The Hindu today reported that Supreme Court of India on February 27 directed the Union government to constitute a ‘special committee’ forthwith for inter-linking of rivers for the benefit of the entire nation. A Bench of Chief Justice S.J. Kapadia and Justices A.K. Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar, in its judgment in a 2002 case relating to networking of rivers, said the committee should submit a bi-annual report to the Union Cabinet, which must consider the report and take decisions.1

Former President A P J Abdul Kalam has also been an advocate of the inter-linking of rivers as a possible way to check flood, draught and erosion. He has advocated that on many occasions beginning from his Presidential speech on September 30th 2002 and since then at wherever he has been speaking, most recently while addressing Chamber of Indian Insutries (CII) Agricon, Chennai and suggested creation of National Water Grid Management. It was after his speech that Supreme Court took up the project for monitoring.

The proposal for river linking was made in 20th century by Arthur Cotton, which had in mind developing land linkages across rivers for navigation purposes. National Democratic Alliance government led by Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) had it in its election Manisfesto in 1997 – 98. Once in power in light of the consecutive drought conditions a Task Force under the Chairmanship of Suresh Prabhu was set up to report on the inter-linking of rivers (ILR) in 2000 – 2002, which suggested 30 links in all total comprising of Himalayan and Peninsular components and a cost of 5600000 Million INR. On December 13, 2011 Supreme Court had expressed concern over the escalating cost, financial liability and displacement, but that seems not be a concern now. While pronouncing the judgement SC said It is clear that primarily there is unanimity among all authorities concerned, including the Centre and a majority of the State governments — with the exception of one or two — that implementation of river- linking will be very beneficial. In fact, the expert opinions convincingly dispel all other impressions. There shall be greater growth in the agricultural and allied sectors2, prosperity and stimulus to the economy, potentially causing [an] increase in per capita income, in addition to the short- and long-term benefits…”3

India is already witness to a large number of inter state water sharing conflicts and many of the rivers said to be water surplus due to excessive exploitation by dams, farming, thermal power plants and climatic change are no more water surplus.

It met with stiff resistance when first brought in public domain and once NDA lost the General Elections in 2004, it was put on back burner by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. In a volume edited by renowned social activist Medha Patkar, titled, River Linking : A Millennium Folly ? Former Union Water Secretary Ramaswamy Aiyer said that the project without looking at the need of a region, options and alternatives starts with the proposition that the rivers of India must be linked, and then proceeds to consider possibilities of storages, links, transfers, etc. What is the basis of it and how did one arrive at the conclusion that all the rivers of India – or the major ones – must be linked ?

In the same volume Medha Patkar questioned the scientific basis and environmental studies and assessments which gave the project its sanctity. She further added that the estimated costs of Rs, 5600000 million INR in 2002 will escalate atleast 5 times by the time it reaches its completion as has been our experience. This will only fuel large acquisitions of land, water and forests and a great rush of capital from World Bank, IMF and other big water companies and dam building agencies.

Situation after nearly a decade since the ILR idea was mooted is not much different, the studies for all the links have not been completed even then many of the state governments have planned their own river links (Bihar 6, Puducherry 1, Rajasthan 2, Maharashtra 15, Gujarat 1, Orissa 2). These will put extra financial burden and will divert funds from other important and low cost water initiatives to these big gigantic projects. It will not only have extreme financial strain but will add to the number of ever growing development displaced population in the country. It is going to be an ecological disaster as feared by many and will mean death of many of the rivers and communities. The cost for these are nowhere calculated and not even paid attention to.

The idea needs to be abandoned even now and a more realistic, holistic and decentralised plan for meeting the water crisis facing India needs to be developed in consultation with the communities, movements and consultations across the country.

2It is supposed to irrigate 30 million hactares of land and generate between 20-25,000 MW of power.

The Visible Foreign Hand

PM SHOULD COME CLEAN ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT THAN TARGET NGOs
Author:  Madhuresh Kumar
Published in Millennium Post
IN 2006, V K Saxena, the president of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court alleging the routing of foreign funds by the Narmada Bachao Andolan(NBA) and its associated organisations. He alleged that these organisations utilised the foreign funds for anti-national, seditious activities which were directed against smooth implementation of the projects of national importance. The project in question was the Sardar Sarovar Project on the Narmada river, which would displace 2,00,000 people and from which the World Bank had to withdraw in 1993 after it admitted major irregularities, problems with the design of the project and massive environmental and human damage it would cause.The Supreme Court issued notices to Medha Patkar, the NBA and others on 7 July 2006. The bench of Justice C K Thakker and Justice Altamas Kabir deemed it a case of ‘personnel grudge harboured by NCCL President V K Saxena against Ms. Patkar’ and dismissed the public-interest litigation, terming it as ‘Private-Interest Litigation’ to discredit and diffuse the agitation undertaken by the respondent No. 5 (the NBA). The court also imposed a cost of Rs 5,000 on the complainant. During the course of the case, it also became clear that the home ministry under L K Advani in 2000 and 2002 had conducted investigation for the violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act and written to Narendra Modi that after investigations under the provisions of the act, no specific instances of any violation of the FCRA, 1976, was detected. So, there was no case but an attempt to malign, harass and deligitimise the genuine people’s movements.Is this what is happening again?

The allegations of foreign hand behind non-violent movements have been a known strategy to demotivate them to discredit, as noted in the above mentioned judgement. This time, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has alleged that the American and Scandinavian NGOs are behind these agitations. Earlier Shri Prithviraj Chavan, the chief minister of Maharashtra, had said that foreign hand was behind the protests against the Jaitapur nuclear power plant. Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Assam, has alleged that the protests against the Lower Subansiri Dam is done at the behest and support of China. Is there any truth in it?

Allegations like these need to be seriously engaged with. Many questions arise out of it. It completely belies the fact that people on their own are incapable of protesting against projects which threaten their lives and livelihood. Across the country today there are major agitations going against thermal power plants, steel plants, mining, dams, highways and major infrastructure projects. We have witnessed death of farmers in police firing: 16 in Kalinganagar, 14 in Nandigram, three in Sompeta, four in Bhatta-Parsaul and many others. Are these people protesting and dying because some American or other foreign-funded NGOs paid them to do this? It is a complete mockery of the genuine grievances of the people who are aggrieved by the unplanned infrastructure projects being carried out in the country today. These are political issues and need political engagement.

The allegations of foreign money being given to protesters seems nothing more than a discrediting ploy against genuine protests, since the government and so many of its flagship programmes are running on borrowed ‘foreign’ money from the World Bank and other sources. Every government is clamouring for huge foreign investment. An RTI query in early 2011 revealed that as of March 2010, India has a total outstanding of Rs 1,43,426 crore at the World Bank and Rs 25,803 crore at the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In the past 10 years, India paid over 1,000 crore rupees to the World Bank and ADB alone as commitment charges. (Commitment fee is charged by the lenders from their borrowers for unused credit.) The funds from World Bank for structural adjustments received in the year 2009-10 amount to Rs 1,248 crore, almost double of the figure in the previous financial year. Also, there are huge funds going to water resource management, energy, agriculture, infrastructure, etc. The country currently has 104 active project loans from the World Bank, amounting to $21 billion.

It is ironic that none of this money is even accounted for or reflected in the Union budget or reported on the floor of Parliament. What does the government have to say about this? During the financial year 2009-10, India paid Rs 1,400 crore as interest to the World Bank. In the same period, the interest paid to the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) was Rs 1,182 crore. Who is deciding these agreements and loans from ‘foreign’ sources and without any accountability to Parliament? The nation needs an answer?The much talked about foreign funds are well regulated by government’s own agencies, and the home ministry has a special section to deal with this flow. NGOs submit annually their audited accounts and meet all other statutory requirements. Then, why raise these non-substantiated charges, when a much larger sum of foreign money remains outside the purview of the Union budget?It is a well-known fact that in 1991, the World Bank influenced India to liberalise its economy, and our current prime minister was the chief architect of the new policy. We all know the ‘foreign’ connections our political class has and the influence these institutions have had on the economy and polity of this country. The nuclear deal was signed under the pressure of the US government inspite of vociferous protests from Left parties in Parliament. The deal is pushing for big business expansion in the name of nuclear power and energy in Jaitapur, Chutkha, Fatehabad and other places. After Fukushima, the fears of nuclear explosion have become real, and the government will do well by addressing these genuine concerns rather than levelling these unsubstantiated allegations.

Madhuresh Kumar is national organsier, National Alliance of People’s Movements.

संघर्षों के स्वर … गिर्दा की आवाज़ में …

गीतों के बोल राजनीति की परिपाटी पर पूरी बात भले ही ना कहें, लेकिन वे वह काम कर जाते हैं जो बड़े बड़े भाषण या बातें नहीं कर पाते | ये गीत गिर्दा, जो हमारे बीच नहीं रहे लेकिन उनके कुछ गाये गीतों ने उत्तराखंड आंदोलन के दौरान किया | प्रेम ने दुबारा उन्हें हमारे बेचा लाने का काम किया | धन्यवाद प्रेम ! ये गीत आज भी हमारे संघर्षों में गाये जाते हैं और हमें प्रेरणा देते हैंजिंदाबाद !

Kick you get out of things :)

Ok, so I am really kicked about the fact that I can blog and create things. Just started http://www.jansansad.tumblr.com for keeping uptodate with the day to day organising of Jan Sansad from now on to March. What a fabulous team we made today and hope everything falls in place. Cheers !

Jan Sansad Again, New Delhi, March 19 – 23

People’s Parliament or Jan Sansad is the new idea with which NAPM has been experimenting with for sometime. I have been involved with it since July 25, 2009 when Medha Patkar talked about it and we had oru first meeting at Indian Social Institute, New Delhi. It was also the day when Dr. Binayak Sen was visitng Delhi first time after his release from prison in Chattisgarh and we had all organised a welcome gathering for him. I think it was the right occaions to talk about it since there we were welcoming a man who was incarcerated for no reason in the jail. We worked hard and so much of our movements energy went in to campaigning for him to be released. He was released, rearrested and then finally released again. It did teach us a lot of things – innovating new ideas for campaign, which found reflection in  Save Sharmila campaign and other campaigns. Anyway, coming back to Jan Sansad, we kept talking about it and then finally at a meeting in Allahabad attened by nearly 200 people from different organisations this idea found some takers and we all started with the process of Jan Sansad.

But to like the name Jan Sansad and then to understand the spirit is two different things. Jan Sansad name was liked so it was hapahazardly  organised  at Almora, Bhadrawati was little improvement over it and then came Mumbai, which was to some extent much much better than earlier two ones. We have had two more Jan Sansads after that in Nellore and Multai but they were more like public meetings or day long conventions. Very good meetings but nothing near to Jan Sansad. We have taken the challenge now and hopefully this time we will do much much better and ake it truly a Jan Sansad. Janta ka Janta ke Liye. Follow more details and update from everyday at http://www.jansansad.tumblr.com

Dissent Overdose, Really !

<a href="” title=”Dissent Overdose, Really !”>Dissent Overdose, Really !

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