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World Bank Mission Faces Opposition from Local Communities in Vishnugad-Pipalkoti HEP on River Ganga

World Bank investors in big dams faced opposition from local communities on December 22. Credit: Matu Jan Sangathan

New Delhi, December 29 : World Bank funding in water sector have had a turbulent history in India. In 1993, they had to withdraw their funding from Sardar Sarovar Project on Narmada river after stiff opposition from Narmada Bachao Andolan nationally and internationally. For nearly next ten years World Bank didn’t support any major dams but from 2005 onwards Bank has substantially increased its funding to big hydro project once again without a critical evaluation of its funding in Nathpa Jhakri, on River Satluj in Himachal Pradesh or Sardar Sarovar on River Narmada in Gujarat.

World Bank investment in big dams continue to face opposition from local communities People questioned World Bank Funding. On December 22nd when World Bank Mission (WBM) led Mr. Michael Haney, Senior Energy Specialist visited the World Bank sponsored Vishnugad-Pipalkoti HEP (444 MW), they faced stiff opposition from the people. People followed them through out their visit to the project with black flags and shouted slogans. Women told WMB “We are the owners of the river Alaknanda Ganga. You can’t sell our river. World Bank Go Back. World Bank Quit India.”

The proposed HEP on the river Alaknada Ganga, in Chamoli district, by Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) was cleared for the World Bank funding in July 2011.

In a release from local Community Organisation, Matu Jan Sangathan, Brihashraj Tadiyal said, “our movement to save our environment will continue. It seems WB hasn’t learn its lesson from the former projects of THDC. In the history of THDC it has never been able to provide proper rehabilitation to the affected people. We oppose this dam in its entirety. World Bank and THDC should stop destroying people’s lives here. Alakndanda Ganga is the only river flowing through the area covering a distance of 25 kms from Haling to Birahi. This valley inhabits nearly 7,500 families and for them the river has huge cultural and religious significance. Rituals like burying dead bodies is done on the side of the river. THDC has never admitted the cultural and religious significance of the river. THDC and World Bank does the dam construction with the help of the police, suppressing people’s opposition against dams and going against the principles of democracy.”

Stopping World Bank Officials. Credit: Matu Jan Sangathan

Mr. Michael Haney speaking on behalf of WBM said “ This project will not have any effect on environment. THDC is doing good work in the area. For the solution of your problems you should discuss with THDC. Law stands to save your fundamental rights.” Mr. Partho Ghosh, another member of the mission said “ We can’t stop the fund to THDC and we have came here to see the project not to meet the people.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has written about dams in both Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water and Blue Gold: The Battle Against the Corporate Theft of the World’s Water. She writes that more than forty-five thousand large dams (higher than 15 meters) have been built around the world at a cost of around US$2 trillion. Barlow notes that major dams are a source of greenhouse gas emissions, harm Indigenous peoples, cause mercury poisoning, disrupt rivers, disrupt aquatic habitat, displace people, can cause earthquakes, and can lead to water evaporation. She suggests that smaller dams can provide some benefits, but that the construction of any dam should include: transparency of process; exploration of more environmentally sound alternatives; environmental, social and economic impact assessments; accountability to local people who have the right of veto; full financial compensation to displaced persons; ecosystem protection; protection of local food supplies; guarantee of local health protection; and the inclusion of environmental and social costs in any economic forecasts. Her comments are more fully outlined at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=6779.