NBA Press Note

November 14, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

B-13, Shivam Flats, Ellora Park, Baroda, Gujarat.
Telefax: 0265-382232

World Bank President Compelled to meet over 2500 'Civil Society' representatives: No plans to fund Narmada again, President admits

Govt. Representatives failed to show up at the Public Hearing on Narmada: Afraid of being exposed of their false claims, people allege.

People's organisations, from various parts of the country cautiously take the promises made by the World Bank President, Mr.James Wolfensohn, before a gathering of over 2500 people yesterday (13th Nov.). The President who had to concede to the demand of the people that he should come before them said that the Bank is for alleviation of poverty. While hearing the people for over 45 minutes he also said, "I don't want to be held responsible for problems (of tribals and poor people) for which I have every sympathy". The people, who are the victims of the present lopsided development paradigm, pushed ahead by the Bank and their agents, expressed their determination to fight this paradigm, which push them to deprivation and destitution.

Afraid of being exposed of their false claims about Sardar Sarovar, no ministers or other officials of the Govt. turned up for the Public Hearing organised by Indian People's Tribunal (IPT, Mumbai), at Parade Ground, Delhi today. An eminent Jury comprising of Jst.(Retd) Tewetia (Retd. Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court), Jst. Jaspal Singh (Retd. Judge, Delhi High Court), Mohini Giri (former Chairperson, National Commission for Women), Haroobhai Mehta (former Member of Parliament and senior Advocate, Gujarat High Court), Prof.U.R.Ananthamoorthy (Jnanpith Award winner and writer) and Ashish Nandy (Academician) is currently hearing the NBA representatives, who were invited by IPT along with the Govt. Ministries / bodies.

The eminent Jury will hear the people on various issues pertaining to the Narmada Project (Sardar Sarovar). The issues include, Costs and Benefits, Social Impacts, Environmental Impacts, Mirage of Benefits for Gujarat ?, Alternatives etc. The interim findings will be declared on the 16th.

Yesterday, while talking to the people, Mr.Wolfensohn admitted that the Bank has "made some mistakes in the past and wants to correct them". People look ahead to see whether the realisation of mistakes will make them withdraw from other destructive projects around the country in particular and the world, in general.

The protest rally which started from Rajghat in the morning (13th) passed through major junctions of Delhi for over 4 hours and the rally was converted into a sit-in, when the police stopped from going further, towards the Bank office. People affected by Bank funded projects in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and other places too have taken part in the protest rally.

Contrary to what some of the news papers reported, Mr.Wolfensohn has made it clear that the Bank doesn't have plans to fund any components of the Narmada projects. He admitted that the failure to follow the strictures and norms compelled the Bank to withdraw its earlier loan in 1993. If they get any request for any projects or its components related to Narmada, they will consider it only after a thorough evaluation of the same its social and environmental impacts. The "Rehabilitation issue is a major one" and that cannot be ignored, Mr.Wolfensohn said.

Cutting through Mr.Wolfensohn's perception that the Bank funded Social Forestry in Andhra Pradesh is a good experience, Mr.Chennaih from Chittor (A.P) exposed the veil of Mr.Chandrababu Naidu, who is all out to please Multinational companies at the cost of his own people. Representatives of Ekta Parishad, Kisan Adivasi Sangathan and others have made it clear that the plans to fund the Phase II of Madhya Pradesh Social Forestry will not be taken lightly and will be fought tooth-and-nail.

The Long March Call for Justice, which culminated in Delhi from different parts of the valley, is in Delhi since Nov. 11th, holding different programs. In the wake of the Supreme Court judgment, which permits the govt. to build the dam, without taking care of the various conditions which are to be taken care of, including rehabilitation of thousands of oustees, people have no other choice than to appeal to the conscience of the civil society. Various organisations from different parts of the country and others from Delhi, representatives from Maheshwar, Bargi, Man, Veda, Tawa dams (all on Narmada) are also with the Dharna in large numbers.

Joe Athialy