World Bank lending a catastrophic project which would witness forced Land Pooling Scheme

AP8_2593722g

Civil society organizations and experts write to the Executive Directors, World Bank, Washington DC, objecting to its decision to fund the Amaravati capital city project of Andhra Pradesh:

We, representatives of people’s movements, civil society organisations and concerned citizens write to the Board of World Bank Group to draw your urgent attention to few critical matters surrounding the Bank’s proposed Project PI59808: India-Proposed Amaravati Sustainable Capital City Development Project. We are aware that complaints and requests for inspection were sent to the Inspection Panel during December 2016 and May 2017, and registration of the complaint was notified to the public (IPN-Request No. RQ 17/04).

Developments following the Inspection Panel’s visit

We are perturbed with the couple of recent developments, which took place after the Panel’s visit to India mid-September this year, following the registration of the complaint filed by farmers from Andhra Pradesh. This project has garnered much attention in the country owing to the massive land acquisition and ‘voluntary land pooling’ scheme [LPS]. The farmers allege harm to their livelihoods, environment, and food security, along with lack of consultation and participation of affected people.

The Inspection Panel visited Amaravati during 13-15 September 2017 and has heard various representations from the project-affected villages. Soon after, in the first week of October, the Bank’s websitepublished the Inspection Panel’s report — which was taken down within few days — with recommendations for investigation into the grievances of the complainants against forced land pooling, coercion and intimidation, lack of sufficient public consultations, grave threat to food security and loss of fertile flood plains to establish Amaravati.

It is established from the copy of the report that the Panel has infact concluded that there are indeed “issues of potential harm and policy non-compliance.” We note that it has further observed that the people “raised issues of a serious character that can only be fully ascertained in the context of an investigation.” It also recommends “carrying out an investigation,” which “will primarily focus on the resettlement aspects of the Bank’s proposed project, as well as environmental concerns, and issues related to consultation, participation and disclosure of information as they pertain to the Bank’s financing, policies and procedures.”

The Bank, while pulling down this report, issued a press statement saying that the Panel’s report was inadvertently published before being reviewed by the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. All the affected groups, the communities, supportive CSOs and media are now watching Board’s decision closely, which will decide on the further investigation into Bank’s non-compliance with its operating policies [OP/BP 4.01 – Environmental Assessment, OP/BP 4.04 – Natural Habitats, OP/BP 4.11 – Physical Cultural Resources, OP/BP 4.12 – Involuntary Resettlement, OP/BP 4.36 – Forests].

Undermining of Panel’s mandate

While you are now considering revising the directives of your accountability mechanism by next year, we keenly call forth to bolster the mandate of the Panel and not to weaken it. Earlier this year, there were calls by the CSOs for greater ‘independence’ and ‘legitimacy’ of the Panel by including external stakeholders in its Panel, which could be from the academia or CSOs. Not to deviate from the point of attention here, there are regular calls about strengthening your accountability, but your actions seem to weaken your mandate by limiting the role of your own complaint handling mechanisms.

This, in turn, reflects your undermining of the systems and responsibilities you uphold. Especially, now that the international climate has been manipulatively made conducive for development banks and lenders to thrust funds in the guise of mega infrastructure financing, it is likely that you would witness a large number of objections as well, since it involves significant displacement of people, loss of natural resources and livelihoods. Disregard of national and state laws, violation of environmental and social safeguards and hiding of critical information to affected communities continue unchecked.

There are strong reasons to suspect that the Government of India might weigh in on the Board to dissuade it from permitting an investigation into the case. We want to confirm that that view is not shared by a large number of us, and the Government is going ahead against the wishes of the people.
The independence of the Inspection Panel and the commitment of the Board on following its procedures will be strongly tested once the Panel’s report is published on the Bank website again.

Intimidation of the State

Though the Government of Andhra Pradesh [GoAP] presented Land Pooling Scheme as voluntary, many farmers were intimidated and economically manipulated into pooling their lands. The strategies for the same included setting short deadlines for participation in the LPS, which were subsequently and repeatedly extended; threats to acquire the land under the regulations of the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, which would provide compensation far below the actual market value of the farmers’ land and threats to provide the ten-year annuity only to those farmers who signed up for the LPS prior to May 1, 2015.

Farmers who expressed opposition to the LPS were also intimidated and harassed. There were instances of burning of farms and plantations in the State. Further, there has been a heavy police presence in the Amaravati area since land pooling began, and police have interrogated, detained, harassed, assaulted, and intimidated residents. The Chief Minister of the State, who publicly challenged to take legal action against the people working against the capital city, has set a bad precedent to the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms of development banks. The intimidating atmosphere around any public workshop or meeting held by those who are not in favour of the capital city project is very clearly established in the IP report and as was evident during their visit to Amaravati as well.

We are astonished that the Bank has not made a public statement against this outright intimidation for seeking redressal from its accountability mechanism. Apart from a direct threat to the current complainants, it is also a warning to all future complainants that they will have to face the wrath of the state for approaching the Bank and its mechanisms. The silence the Bank continues to maintain on this is perceived to be a tactical one to appease the Indian government.

Precautionary Orders of NGT Judgment

In its recent (17th November 2017) decision, the Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (in Pandaleneni Srimannarayana, EAS Sarma and others, vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and ors.) has categorically held that the proposed Capital’s environmental and social impacts have been insufficiently reviewed and addressed when the controversial environmental clearance was accorded to it.

As a consequence, the Tribunal thought it fit to appoint a special Supervisory Committee to review all conditions of the environmental clearance accorded by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, and also to subject the project to further review from a perspective of assessing risks, including those posed by climate change events. It is clear from this verdict that even the most basic assessments relating to the short-term and long-term environmental and social impacts of the project have not been assessed per law and applicable norms by the Andhra Pradesh Government.

All things considered, no project can be supported or financed if it is not in conformance with the Constitution of India. It is an undeniable fact that the Amaravati Capital proposal has not yet been reviewed and approved by the District Planning Committee [DPC] as is mandated per Article 243ZD of the Constitution of India, which requires such a project as the Capital Amaravati can only be promoted, provided it has been approved by the DPC having prepared a District Development Plan having regard to:

“(i) matters of common interest between the Panchayats and the Municipalities including spatial planning, sharing of water and other physical and natural resources, the integrated development of infrastructure and environmental conservation;
(ii) the extent and type of available resources whether financial or otherwise;
(iii) consult such institutions and organisations as the Governor may, by order, specify.
(iv) The Chairperson of every District Planning Committee shall forward the development plan, as recommended by such Committee, to the Government of the State.”

In the instant case, without Amravati having secured mandatory approval of DPC, it follows that extending any form of loan and assistance to the proposal will amount to the World Bank supporting, financing and participating in an unconstitutional project.

Our Demands against the Impositions of the WB as a co-financier in Amaravati Capital City Development Project

1. We strongly hold the World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a co-financier of the project, accountable for the already existing and impending crucial consequences of this mammoth capital city project with its flawed project design, based on its own environmental and social safeguards.
2. Despite repeated communication and appeals, the GoAP has already proceeded with construction activities and laying out infrastructure in an accelerated mechanism, involving sub-projects and components, which highly falls in the purview of the Bank’s scope – its Urban Pro-Poor Infrastructure goal for the project. This is a very disturbing trend of the WB for proceeding with support for the government without paying heed to the resistances of the project affected communities and circumventing their concerns against the project. Also, as understood from the World Bank’s statement, it has executed a trust fund of $ 0.17 million for financing the preparatory works of project.
3. We do not hesitate to direct our charges against the WB on lending to the catastrophic project where we are witnessing now the forced Land Pooling Scheme to amass vast parcels of land for development across one of the richest fertile food belts of India [Please note that GoAP has proposed to acquire around 56,000 acres of which around 35,000 are already pooled in, including almost 100 hectares of Forest Land].
4. We demand that WB revoke its support from the project, which would surely pave the way for the disruption of the natural state of a sensitive ecosystem including remodelling reserve forests by felling trees and building bio/industrial/techno/sports parks, along with your negligence towards our foresight of frequent floods triggered to an acute degree. We challenge that the Chief Minister of AP himself is flouting NGT orders on zero constructions on the river embankments, by renovating his residence on the banks adjacent to River Krishna.
5. Displacement and ‘resettling’ of around 20,000 families in the guise of returning ‘developed’ residential and commercial lands in the absence of a guarantee and struggling in the tentacle grip of realtors, middlemen, goondas of real estate sector are serious concerns raised. WB presenting a plan on involuntary resettlement against these issues without public consultations or consent is vehemently questionable.
6. We strongly reiterate that the creation of Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act (APRCDA Act 2014) was against the country’s Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 along with the tweaked amendments. We are aware that, as and when project components materialise, existing laws are amended at the State, or there is a complete irreverence to the nation-specific policies. We fiercely question this disregard of WB for our policies and laws, which were strenuously formulated by our national leaders during our times of national and regional struggles.
7. The lack of an adequate and comprehensive Resettlement Policy Plan and the incompetent addressing of the Bank against the uprooting of impoverished Dalit families from 600-year-old occupied islands and not having guaranteed them return lands will lead directly to the creation of a wide marginalised community of informal sector on the outskirts of the capital city with no regard to their dignity, efforts and labour. Also, depriving village commons from the communities dependent on them is highly regrettable.
8. We want to draw the attention of WB to the contemptuous promises made by the Government to upgrade skills of project affected people of which farmers are majority, by wrenching their agricultural lands from them and introducing new ‘industrial and technological’ skills. The statistics of increase in land value, population and employment rates are highly speculated, and studies based on other references on recent capital cities of India affirm our case. We are resolute when we ask WB to reconsider stop investing in this project based on highly inflated statistics that are borrowed from the development models of foreign countries (Japan, Dubai, Singapore).
9. We do not wish to sell our land to foreign players with diversified investments, MoUs and interests, in the name of ‘development’. GoAP, who should have been supporting the citizens who elected them, refrain from giving attention to our calls. We assert that we will continue exhorting WB for proceeding with this ill-conceived project, against the greater interests of the people in Amaravati.

We unwaveringly stress that the civil society of India is wary about how you will take a decision based on the recommendations of the Panel. We look forward to your immediate attention on our requirements and for your sound judgment on Amaravati case.

Signatories:

1. Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan
2. Dr. EAS Sarma, Forum for Better Visakha and Former Secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India
3. Prafulla Samanthra, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha
4. Gautam Mody, New Trade Union Initiative
5. T. Peter, National Fishworkers Forum
6. Madhuresh Kumar, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Delhi
7. Afsar Jafri, Focus on Global South
8. Sreedhar Ramamurthi, Environics Trust, New Delhi
9. Ravi Rebbapragda, Samata Assertion for People
10. Ashok Shrimali, Mines, Minerals & People
11. Souparna Lahiri, All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM)
12. Xavier Dias, Editor, Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR, (Mines Minerals & RIGHTS)
13. Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
14. Himanshu Upadhyaya, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective, Bangalore
15. Tani Alex, Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi
16. Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha
17. Beyond Copenhagen Collective
18. Willy, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, New Delhi
19. Kalyani Menon-Sen, Independent Researcher and Activist
20. Leo Saldanha, Environmental Support Group, Bangalore
21. Ram Wangkheirakpam, Indigenous Perspectives, Manipur
22. Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, Delhi
23. Dr. Babu Rao, Retired Scientist, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and Independent Environmental Expert
24. Usha Seethalakshmi, Independent Researcher, Mahila Kisan Manch (MAKAAM), Forum For Women Farmers’ Rights
25. Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
26. Kiran Kumar Vissa, Rythu Swarajya Vedika (Forum For Farmers’ Sovereignty)
27. Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for Right to Information and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
28. Deepala Suresh, Lawyer and Independent Researcher
29. Gutta Rohit, Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
30. Adv. Ravi Kumar, Independent Lawyer (representative of the Amaravati project-affected before various judicial fora)
31. Rajesh Serupally, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
32. Jeevan Kumar, Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh/Telangana State
33. Bharat Patel, Machimar Adhikaar Sangharsh Sangathan
34. Awadhesh Kumar, Srijan Lokhit Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
35. Rajendra Ravi, Institute for Democracy and Sustainability
36. Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Abhiyaan
37. Manshi Asher, Himdhara – Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
38. Aashima Subberwal, The Research Collective, New Delhi
39. Rajesh Singh, Delhi Solidarity Group
40. Himanshu Damle, Public Finance Public Accountability Collective, New Delhi
41. Vimalbhai, Mattu Jan Sangathan, Uttrakhand
42. Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Paramanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh
43. Maglin Philomin, Teeradesa Mahila Vedi, Kerala
44. Amulya Nidhi, Nai Shuruwat, Madhya Pradesh
45. Kannan, PSI India
46. Ravindranath, River Basin Friends

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s