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Himachal’s Clean Energy funder Asian Development Bank faces criticism on its 50th Birthday

Press Release: 8th May 2017

Environmental groups and people’s movements across the country condemn its destructive projects and policies

The Asian Development Bank, an international financial institution, has in the last decade financed infrastructure and other large development projects to the tune of 123 billion dollars across Asia. While ADB celebrated its 50th year with pomp and pride from 1st and 7th May 2017, it is receiving massive criticism, people’s movements and other civil society organisations under the banner of ‘People’s Forum Against ADB’ across India held over 100 actions of protest in 21 states of the country between May 1 – 7, 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), highlighting the gross human rights violations, loss of livelihood, and environmental destruction caused by the ‘development model’ being pushed by ADB and other international financial institutions (IFIs), using public money.

These projects have been pushed in the name of development in various regions of India including Himachal Pradesh, where ADB apart from several other projects has funded the Himachal Pradesh clean energy program. As a part of this Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation recieved an 800 million dollar loan from ADB for four Hydropower projects. The four ADB financed hydro power projects being constructed by HPPCL include the 195 MW Integrated Kashang Stage I, II and III and the 402 (now 450) MW Shongtong-Karccham in Kinnaur. The other two projects are the 111 MW Sawara-Kuddu hydropower project in Shimla district and the 100 MW Sainj hydropower project in Kullu District.

All four projects have been in the eye of the storm given their massive environmental and social impacts apart from other issues. The Sawra Kuddu project on Pabbar river was slammed by the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) for the serious financial irregularities and corruptions which led to cost escalation of close to 700 crores. The cost of the project escalated massively due to poor planning as a result of which the design of the project has to be altered. The building of an extra unplanned additional tunnel impacted the Thana village which challenged the matter in the National Green Tribunal. The other matter which was taken to the Green tribunal by the local communities was the Kashang Stage II project, where the NGT recorded violations of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act 2006 and asked for the consent of the community to be taken first by the project proponents. The 450 MW Shongtong Karchham project, also located in the Kinnaur district has been another disaster, especially highlighting once again the poor planning and absence of pre-feasibility studies leading to delays. For instance the Himachal Pradesh High Court in 2013 stayed the work on the project on the ground that the project was located in vicinity of an ammunition depot where project authorities are using explosives to construct a road. It was submitted that the Himachal Power Corporation Limited went ahead with the project construction despite objections raised by the army from 2007 to 2013.

The Shongtong Karchham project has also been in the news for the last three years because of the struggle of the workers due to violation of labour legislations in the project. In November 2015 at least two workers were killed and half a dozen others injured in an accident at the project site.Striking workers have faced severe repression for demanding the implementation of law, minimum wage for work, safety measures in the tunnels, proper living conditions, providing wage slip, social security measures under the EPF Act etc. Issues of safety remain unaddressed in these project sites as well. Kashang I, Shongtong Karchham, Sawra Kuddu and Sainj project, all four have faced issues of ‘geological complexities’, landslides and slope failures, leading to hazards for local communities or workers.

In 2011, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, an environment group, brought out a study titled, ‘In the Name of Clean Energy’, which did a ground investigation of the four ADB funded Hydropower projects in Himachal. One of the key findings of the report was that despite ADB’s long drawn out list of claimed safeguards on social and environmental accountability, there was little difference between hydroprojects projects in Himachal funded by ADB and those where a comprehensive safeguard framework like ADB claims does not exist. The performance of both sets of projects is equally pathetic on all counts.

Himdhara wrote out a detailed memorandum to the ADB back in 2011, highlighting the adverse impacts of its projects and the shortcomings in its project safeguards both at the policy design and implementation level. But these were not taken seriously by ADB. Infact, the HPPCL instead of taking on board the recommendations of the report, brought out a counter-report titled ‘For the Sake of Earning Livelihood‘ which failed to provide real concrete responses to the issues raised and instead questioned our credibility, labeling us ‘professional project proponents.

R.S Negi of Him Lok Jagriti Manch, a Kinnaur based platform asserting rights of local communities across the district added, “The concerns that we have been raising were not exaggerated or false, and that has been proven if we look at the status of all four projects, which have been faced the issues that we had predicted and highlighted almost 8 years ago”. Representatives of communities from the Shontong Karcham and Kashang project areas also condemned the role of the ADB in financing these projects. Govind Chatranta, from Thana village affected by Sawra Kuddu expressed solidarity with all the voices against ADB from across the country.

The position taken by the environmental groups and local communities stands vindicated, as more and more documentation and evidence is now available to indicate that Hydro-projects have had disastrous consequences in the ecologically and geologically fragile Himalayas. Himdhara also sent ADB the following Birthday greetings through a Video message: https://youtu.be/iYkVNQFrDgI)

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