Not another World Bank bashing post

May 27, 2009

Honestly, this is not just another World Bank bashing post. Alright, the Bank does have something to do with it but only as another link in the chain of unsustainability and short-sightedness we call ‘development’. The World Bank has agreed to fund the $4.4 billion, coal-powered Tata Ultra Mega Plant that is expected to become operational in 2012. The coal plant is predicted to become one of the world’s top 50 highest greenhouse gas emitters, emitting more CO2 annually than the entire country of Tunisia. The loan comes barely a year after World Bank President, Robert Zoellick pledged to “significantly step up our assistance” in fighting climate change. The Tata Group does not have the best environment record either. Their soda-ash plant on Lake Natron in Tanzania is facing strong opposition for jeopardising the largest breeding site of the Lesser Flamingo whose impressive, pink congregations are wildlife documentary staples. Closer to home, its private Dhamra port in Orissa, India, has been criticised for preventing endangered Olive Ridley Turtles from accessing their traditional nesting sites along the Orissa coastline. Like the World Bank, the Tata Group invests in a lot of greenwashing by sponsoring small conservation projects.

Can’t really place all blame on the World Bank because it is these sort of ‘dirty’ plants that offer the fastest return on investments while also conveniently meeting its supposed mandate of reducing poverty. In fact, the scheme is so delicious that the Bank not only agreed to lend Tata $450 million for the Ultra Mega Plant but may also buy a $50 million stake in it for itself (Do banks laugh all the way to the bank as well?) Tata is a private company that only has to answer to its shareholders and meet the laughable environment clearance processes in India. As a developing country with no CO2 emissions commitments, India is exempt from any mandatory obligations to produce clean energy. The cheapest kind (for now) will do, thank you. The electricity produced will be siphoned off by industry and the insatiable big & small cities. Urban poor will be forced steal expensive Tata electricity while their rural cousins continue to burn cow dung cakes and firewood. Both serving their purpose as mascots of Indian poverty for the next coal plant loan and keeping India’s per-capita CO2 emissions low enough to argue for a case for exemption from environment commitments. Made to order. We would even put these poor folks on an carbon trading scheme if we could get away with it. Who cares about vanishing islands in the Sunderbans, disappearing villages along the East coast or unproductive apple orchards in the lower Himalayas. Misery, unlike CO2 emissions is not so willingly shared on a per-capita basis it seems.

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