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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Inde : la centrale électrique qui bafoue les droits des pauvres

by Damien Roustel

India: the electricity plant that flouts the rights of the poor

Translated Monday 15 June 2015, by Adrian Jordan

“Out of the total number of people affected, 25 percent are tribals (indigenous people) and 35 percent are marginalized people (Dalits). The Constitutional rights they enjoy are flouted and are made further vulnerable. We hold World Bank responsible for our misery. Today, we are left landless and without any livelihood.” Dukhbandhu Bhoi lives in the village of Achalkut in the state of Odisha. He is one of the 5,000 people in whose name two local organisations filed a complaint with the mediator in 2011, requiring the application of directives of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), subsidiary of the World Bank. He contests the electricity plant project by GMR Kamalanga Energy Limited (GKEL).

According to the Oxfam report, more than 1,000 families had to give up their land in the face of intimidation by the company: either by relinquishing or selling it at derisory prices. “The GKEL project has exacerbated the poor living conditions of communities who already lived in a highly polluted area... The Brahmani river on which members of affected communities depend for their daily water usage has been declared unfit for drinking and bathing”, state the NGO. “Also, the construction of a wall around the factory has destroyed the local irrigation system, and the subcanals which irrigated the land have now run dry”, it adds. As for promised jobs, they would only benefit 11 percent of those affected by the project. What is more, they would be unstable sub-contracts.

GKEL’s 1,400 megawatt electricity plant is an investment financed by India Infrastructure Funds (IIF). This organisation is concerned with large projects such as ports, roads, railways, hydroelectric power stations... In 2008, the IFC took 100 million dollars of equity in IIF, funds qualified as being “central to economic growth, improved living standards, and broader development”.

Challenged, GKEL insists it has respected all the rules. The IFC’s internal watchdog has opened an inquiry. Its report is expected this year.

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