The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming

Note: Originally published in April 2013

Monsanto’s talk of ‘technology’ tries to hide its real objectives of control over seed where genetic engineering is a means to control seed,

“Monsanto is an agricultural company.

We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more.”

“Producing more, Conserving more, Improving farmers lives.”

These are the promises Monsanto India’s website makes, alongside pictures of smiling, prosperous farmers from the state of Maharashtra. This is a desperate attempt by Monsanto and its PR machinery to delink the epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India from the company’s growing control over cotton seed supply — 95 per cent of India’s cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto.

Control over seed is the first link in the food chain because seed is the source of life. When a corporation controls seed, it controls life, especially the life of farmers.

Monsanto’s concentrated control over the seed sector in India as well as across the world is very worrying. This is what connects farmers’ suicides in India to Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser in Canada, to Monsanto vs Bowman in the US, and to farmers in Brazil suing Monsanto for $2.2 billion for unfair collection of royalty.

Through patents on seed, Monsanto has become the “Life Lord” of our planet, collecting rents for life’s renewal from farmers, the original breeders.

Patents on seed are illegitimate because putting a toxic gene into a plant cell is not “creating” or “inventing” a plant. These are seeds of deception — the deception that Monsanto is the creator of seeds and life; the deception that while Monsanto sues farmers and traps them in debt, it pretends to be working for farmers’ welfare, and the deception that GMOs feed the world. GMOs are failing to control pests and weeds, and have instead led to the emergence of superpests and superweeds.

The entry of Monsanto in the Indian seed sector was made possible with a 1988 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank, requiring the Government of India to deregulate the seed sector. Five things changed with Monsanto’s entry: First, Indian companies were locked into joint-ventures and licensing arrangements, and concentration over the seed sector increased. Second, seed which had been the farmers’ common resource became the “intellectual property” of Monsanto, for which it started collecting royalties, thus raising the costs of seed. Third, open pollinated cotton seeds were displaced by hybrids, including GMO hybrids. A renewable resource became a non-renewable, patented commodity. Fourth, cotton which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops now had to be grown as a monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure. Fifth, Monsanto started to subvert India’s regulatory processes and, in fact, started to use public resources to push its non-renewable hybrids and GMOs through so-called public-private partnerships (PPP).

In 1995, Monsanto introduced its Bt technology in India through a joint-venture with the Indian company Mahyco. In 1997-98, Monsanto started open field trials of its GMO Bt cotton illegally and announced that it would be selling the seeds commercially the following year. India has rules for regulating GMOs since 1989, under the Environment Protection Act. It is mandatory to get approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the ministry of environment for GMO trials. The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology sued Monsanto in the Supreme Court of India and Monsanto could not start the commercial sales of its Bt cotton seeds until 2002.
And, after the damning report of India’s parliamentary committee on Bt crops in August 2012, the panel of technical experts appointed by the Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GM food and termination of all ongoing trials of transgenic crops.

But it had changed Indian agriculture already.

Monsanto’s seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides and agrarian distress which is driving the farmers’ suicide epidemic in India. This systemic control has been intensified with Bt cotton. That is why most suicides are in the cotton belt.

An internal advisory by the agricultural ministry of India in January 2012 had this to say to the cotton-growing states in India — “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.”

The highest acreage of Bt cotton is in Maharashtra and this is also where the highest farmer suicides are. Suicides increased after Bt cotton was introduced — Monsanto’s royalty extraction, and the high costs of seed and chemicals have created a debt trap. According to Government of India data, nearly 75 per cent rural debt is due to purchase inputs. As Monsanto’s profits grow, farmers’ debt grows. It is in this systemic sense that Monsanto’s seeds are seeds of suicide.

The ultimate seeds of suicide is Monsanto’s patented technology to create sterile seeds. (Called “Terminator technology” by the media, sterile seed technology is a type of Gene Use Restriction Technology, GRUT, in which seed produced by a crop will not grow — crops will not produce viable offspring seeds or will produce viable seeds with specific genes switched off.) The Convention on Biological Diversity has banned its use, otherwise Monsanto would be collecting even higher profits from seed.

Monsanto’s talk of “technology” tries to hide its real objectives of ownership and control over seed where genetic engineering is just a means to control seed and the food system through patents and intellectual property rights.

A Monsanto representative admitted that they were “the patient’s diagnostician, and physician all in one” in writing the patents on life-forms, from micro-organisms to plants, in the TRIPS’ agreement of WTO. Stopping farmers from saving seeds and exercising their seed sovereignty was the main objective. Monsanto is now extending its patents to conventionally bred seed, as in the case of broccoli and capsicum, or the low gluten wheat it had pirated from India which we challenged as a biopiracy case in the European Patent office.

That is why we have started Fibres of Freedom in the heart of Monsanto’s Bt cotton/suicide belt in Vidharba. We have created community seed banks with indigenous seeds and helped farmers go organic. No GMO seeds, no debt, no suicides.

Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist, and eco feminist.Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than 20 books and over 500 papers in leading scientific and technical journals. She was trained as a physicist and received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1993. She is the founder of Navdanya

If you would like more information about GMOs, F. William Engdahl‘s book “Seeds of Destruction” is available from the Global Research online store.


New Study Shows Global Warming May Push Temperatures Past Threshold for Human Survival


If we don’t cut greenhouse gases, it’s not just storms and rising seas we’d have to worry about. The heat alone could kill a lot of us.

If greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, rising temperatures and humidity wrought by global warming could expose hundreds of millions of people worldwide to potentially lethal heat stress by 2060, a new report suggests.

The greatest exposure will occur in populous, tropical regions such as India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. But even in the northeastern United States, as many as 30 million people might be exposed at least once a year to heat that could be lethal to children, the elderly, and the sick, according to the new study.

It’s the first study to look at future heat stress on a global basis, says Ethan Coffel, a PhD candidate in atmospheric sciences at Columbia University, who presented the results on Monday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Coffel and his colleagues used climate models and population projections to estimate how many people could face dangerous heat in 2060—assuming that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise sharply on a “business-as-usual” course.

The findings are based on forecasts of “wet bulb” temperatures, in which a wet cloth is wrapped around a thermometer bulb. Whereas standard thermometer readings measure air temperature, a wet bulb measures the temperature of a moist surface that has been cooled as much as possible by evaporation.

That reading depends on both the heat and the humidity of the surrounding air. It’s generally much lower than the dry-bulb temperature, and it’s a better indicator of the humid heat that humans and other large mammals find hardest to deal with.

The normal temperature inside the human body is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 degrees Celsius. Human skin is typically at 35°C. When the wet-bulb temperature of the air exceeds that level, it becomes physically impossible for the body to shed its own metabolic heat and cool itself, especially by evaporating sweat. Even a fit individual would be expected to die from such heat within six hours.

Today, even in Earth’s hottest, muggiest spots, the wet-bulb temperature does not rise above 31°C. (The highest dry-bulb temperature ever recorded is 56.7°C, or 134°F.)

But a study published in October by MIT researchers found that by 2100, in Persian Gulf cities such as Abu Dhabi or Dubai, the 35°C threshold of human survival may occasionally be exceeded—again, assuming that greenhouse emissions continue to rise unabated.

Where Heat, Humidity, and People Intersect

In practice, wet-bulb temperatures below the 35°C threshold are dangerous for children, the elderly, people with heart or lung problems—or anybody actively working outside. By the 2060s, according to Coffel and his colleagues, 250 million people could be experiencing 33°C at least once a year. As many as 700 million could be exposed to 32°C. For many people, those conditions could be lethal.

“You have a large portion of the world that’s very densely populated and potentially at risk,” says Coffel. “Populations which right now work primarily outdoors and have very little access to air conditioning. It’s hard to function outdoors in those kinds of temperatures.”

The MIT study concluded that wet-bulb temperatures of 32°C or 33°C could be expected to arise later this century in Mecca, for example, where they might sometimes coincide with the Hajj, when millions of pilgrims pray outdoors all day long.

But as rising temperatures push more moisture into the atmosphere, particularly near warming oceans, spells of extreme heat and humidity will become more frequent and intense in many parts of the world. Even residents of cities like New York and London could encounter future temperatures that are near the limits of what their bodies can tolerate, according to the Columbia researchers.

“Local ocean temperatures can be a really big driver for the extent of these high heat and humidity events,” says co-author Radley Horton of Columbia. “How far inland away from the coasts will we see some of these really deadly high heat and humidity events penetrate? Will this impact where people are able to live?”

Bryan Jones, a postdoctoral fellow at the City University of New York who also studies future heat exposures but was not part of the Columbia study, said its “projections of exposure to extreme heat stress seem very reasonable. In fact, they may even be conservative, depending on how populations in West Africa, India, and Southeast Asia are distributed in the coming decades.”

Heat Is Already A Big Killer

Heat already kills more people than any other form of extreme weather. In the past decade, heat waves that featured wet-bulb temperatures between 29°C and 31°C have caused tens of thousands of deaths in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East.

Last summer more than 2,300 died from extreme heat in India, where air temperatures reached 122°F. High humidity and temperatures topping 116°F also proved deadly in Egypt this year. And work stopped for several summer days in Iraq while thermometers hovered around 120°F.

Air conditioning protects those who have access to it and can afford it. The spread of high-heat-stress events is likely to produce a surge in demand, says Horton. Air conditioners don’t function as efficiently in humid conditions, however—and as long as the electricity for them is generated with fossil fuels, they add to the underlying problem.

The other approach to coping with dangerous heat, Coffel says, is “reorganizing your society, like when you work outside, like giving people the day off when it’s hot.”

Neither air-conditioning nor staying inside is an option for other large mammals, which are affected by climbing heat and humidity in much the same way as humans. The impact on them is a “wild card,” says Horton. Little research has been done.


Fossil Fuels Subsidised by $10m A Minute, Says IMF

[Gerry Machen/Flickr]

[Gerry Machen/Flickr]


Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3 trillion (€4.74 tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3 tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

Related: US taxpayers subsidising world’s biggest fossil fuel companies

Nicholas Stern, an eminent climate economist at the London School of Economics, said, “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.”

Lord Stern said that even the IMF’s vast subsidy figure was a significant underestimate: “A more complete estimate of the costs due to climate change would show the implicit subsidies for fossil fuels are much bigger even than this report suggests.”

The IMF, one of the world’s most respected financial institutions, said that ending subsidies for fossil fuels would cut global carbon emissions by 20%. That would be a giant step towards taming global warming, an issue on which the world has made little progress to date.

Ending the subsidies would also slash the number of premature deaths from outdoor air pollution by 50% – about 1.6 million lives a year.

Furthermore, the IMF said the resources freed by ending fossil fuel subsidies could be an economic “game-changer” for many countries, by driving economic growth and poverty reduction through greater investment in infrastructure, health and education and also by cutting taxes that restrict growth.

Another consequence would be that the need for subsidies for renewable energy – a relatively tiny $120bn a year – would also disappear, if fossil fuel prices reflected the full cost of their impacts.

“These [fossil fuel subsidy] estimates are shocking,” said Vitor Gaspar, the IMF’s head of fiscal affairs and former finance minister of Portugal. “Energy prices remain woefully below levels that reflect their true costs.”

David Coady, the IMF official in charge of the report, said: “When the [$5.3tn] number came out at first, we thought we had better double check this!” But the broad picture of huge global subsidies was “extremely robust”, he said. “It is the true cost associated with fossil fuel subsidies.”

The IMF estimate of $5.3tn in fossil fuel subsidies represents 6.5% of global GDP. Just over half the figure is the money governments are forced to spend treating the victims of air pollution and the income lost because of ill health and premature deaths. The figure is higher than a 2013 IMF estimate because new data from the World Health Organisation shows the harm caused by air pollution to be much higher than thought.

Coal is the dirtiest fuel in terms of both local air pollution and climate-warming carbon emissions and is therefore the greatest beneficiary of the subsidies, with just over half the total. Oil, heavily used in transport, gets about a third of the subsidy and gas the rest.

The biggest single source of air pollution is coal-fired power stations and China, with its large population and heavy reliance on coal power, provides $2.3tn of the annual subsidies. The next biggest fossil fuel subsidies are in the US ($700bn), Russia ($335bn), India ($277bn) and Japan ($157bn), with the European Union collectively allowing $330bn in subsidies to fossil fuels.

The costs resulting from the climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions account for subsidies of $1.27tn a year, about a quarter, of the IMF’s total. The IMF calculated this cost using an official US government estimate of $42 a tonne of CO2 (in 2015 dollars), a price “very likely to underestimate” the true cost, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The direct subsidising of fuel for consumers, by government discounts on diesel and other fuels, account for just 6% of the IMF’s total. Other local factors, such as reduced sales taxes on fossil fuels and the cost of traffic congestion and accidents, make up the rest. The IMF says traffic costs are included because increased fuel prices would be the most direct way to reduce them.

Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate change chief charged with delivering a deal to tackle global warming at a crunch summit in December, said: “The IMF provides five trillion reasons for acting on fossil fuel subsidies. Protecting the poor and the vulnerable is crucial to the phasing down of these subsidies, but the multiple economic, social and environmental benefits are long and legion.”

Barack Obama and the G20 nations called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies in 2009, but little progress had been made until oil prices fell in 2014. In April, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, told the Guardian that it was crazy that governments were still driving the use of coal, oil and gas by providing subsidies. “We need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now,” he said.

Reform of the subsidies would increase energy costs but Kim and the IMF both noted that existing fossil fuel subsidies overwhelmingly go to the rich, with the wealthiest 20% of people getting six times as much as the poorest 20% in low and middle-income countries. Gaspar said that with oil and coal prices currently low, there was a “golden opportunity” to phase out subsidies and use the increased tax revenues to reduce poverty through investment and to provide better targeted support.

Subsidy reforms are beginning in dozens of countries including Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Morocco and Thailand. In India, subsidies for diesel ended in October 2014. “People said it would not be possible to do that,” noted Coady. Coal use has also begun to fall in China for the first time this century.

On renewable energy, Coady said: “If we get the pricing of fossil fuels right, the argument for subsidies for renewable energy will disappear. Renewable energy would all of a sudden become a much more attractive option.”

Shelagh Whitley, a subsidies expert at the Overseas Development Institute, said: “The IMF report is yet another reminder that governments around the world are propping up a century-old energy model. Compounding the issue, our research shows that many of the energy subsidies highlighted by the IMF go toward finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal, which we know must be left in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic, irreversible climate change.”

Developing the international cooperation needed to tackle climate change has proved challenging but a key message from the IMF’s work, according to Gaspar, is that each nation will directly benefit from tackling its own fossil fuel subsidies. “The icing on the cake is that the benefits from subsidy reform – for example, from reduced pollution – would overwhelmingly accrue to local populations,” he said.

“By acting local, and in their own best interest, [nations] can contribute significantly to the solution of a global challenge,” said Gaspar. “The path forward is clear: act local, solve global.”

On India’s Coast, A Power Plant Backed By The World Bank Group Threatens A Way Of Life – HuffPost, ICIJ

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and The Huffington Post estimate that 3.4 million people have been physically or economically displaced by World Bank-backed projects since 2004.

We present here the part of this project about India.
You can find the whole investigation and also the cases of other countries here.

ICIJ lede-art-ce

A woman washes dishes at Kutadi Bandar, a seasonal fishing community located next to the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project’s intake channel.Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

The Uncounted


By Barry Yeoman *, Friday, May 1, 2015, 7:00 am EDT
Source: Huff Post-ICIJ

The Tata group, one of India’s largest conglomerates, promised to be a good neighbor when it took on the job of building the nation’s first “ultra mega” coal-fired power plant.

The plan was to build the plant along the Gulf of Kutch, an inlet of the Arabian Sea that provides a living for fishing clans that harvest the coast’s rich marine life. Tata assured the World Bank Group, which was putting up $450 million to help finance the project, that there was little reason to worry about the giant plant’s impact on people living and working nearby.

Tata reported that “the fishing potential of the Gulf of Kutch is significant,” but there were “no local fishing activities in the coastal waters fronting the project.” The “nearest small fishing community,” it said, was located “outside the project area.”

This came as a surprise to Budha Ismail Jam.

Yunus Suleman Gadh stands in the hut that serves as his home for eight months a year. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Yunus Suleman Gadh stands in the hut that serves as his home for eight months a year. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


Jam spends most of the year living in a one-room hut on Tragadi Bandar, a makeshift fishing settlement that borders the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project in the western state of Gujarat, 100 miles south of India’s border with Pakistan. All that separates the settlement from the Tata plant, completed in 2012, is a man-made channel that releases heated wastewater from the 4,150-megawatt operation. The channel was cut from land where, until recently, fishing families lived. Beyond it rises the plant’s twin red-and-white striped smokestacks, visible for miles across the flat landscape.

Jam belongs to a Muslim minority group called the Waghers, whose history on the coastline dates back 200 years, according to their fishing association. Every summer, about 1,000 Wagher families — as many as 10,000 men, women and children — load their possessions onto rented trucks and migrate from their inland villages to the sandy fishing grounds along the gulf. They rebuild their settlements from scratch, framing huts from wooden branches and covering them with burlap walls, and live there for eight months without electrical connections or running water. The men haul in the daily catch. The women sort the fish and hang the most pungent species, Bombay duck, on bamboo trellises to dry. Much of the product gets shipped across India and to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

“Those people say there are no fisherfolk here,” says Jam, who is in his mid-50s and dresses in the loose-fitting clothing and knit skullcap of many Wagher men. “There are a lot of us here.”

The coming of the Tata plant and other industrial projects, though, has made it harder for them to make their living on the coast.

Residents of Tragadi Bandar claim in a lawsuit filed April 23 in U.S. federal court in Washington, D.C., that warm water discharged by the Tata plant has driven fish away from the intertidal zone, where the Waghers used to practice pagadiya, a traditional method of setting up nets and harvesting the fish at low tide. The returns from boat fishing, which takes place farther from shore, have also fallen off.

“You see this produce here?” says Jam, sweeping his arm across a view of his bandar, one of several fishing settlements along the gulf. Burlap bags stuffed with dried Bombay duck sit on the sand waiting for market. “We used to get this much business in one day. Now it takes 15.”

Yunus Suleman Gadh and other fisherfolk on Kutadi Bandar discuss how the Tata plant has harmed both their livelihoods and their health. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Yunus Suleman Gadh and other fisherfolk on Kutadi Bandar discuss how the Tata plant has harmed both their livelihoods and their health. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


Jam and his neighbors are among the uncounted: people the World Bank Group and its borrowers have ignored in their push to create dams, power plants and other projects.

The global institution’s two main lenders — the World Bank, which lends to governments, and the International Finance Corporation, which lends to corporations such as Tata — have repeatedly failed to make sure people harmed by big projects get counted, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.

Both lenders have detailed policies that require that their borrowers identify people whose homes or land will be lost or livelihoods will be damaged as a result of the projects they finance.

When “project-affected people” are identified, borrowers must resettle them into new homes or help restore their livelihoods. But if people don’t get counted, they’re unlikely to get help from the lenders and their borrowers in putting their lives back together.

In some cases, the IFC and the World Bank have declined to count entire populations that claim they’ve been harmed by projects backed by the lenders. In Kenya and Ethiopia, indigenous groups claim that World Bank cash bankrolled mass evictions that targeted them for threats, violence or arbitrary arrests. The World Bank denies its money was used for these evictions.

In other cases, the World Bank has acknowledged that large numbers of people would be harmed by development initiatives, but allowed its borrowers to underestimate the real number.

A 2012 internal review of nine World Bank-supported projects found that the number of affected people turned out to be, on average, 32 percent higher than the figure reported by the bank before approving the initiatives, understating the number of people affected by the nine projects by 77,500. This echoed a broader internal review in 1994, which looked at 192 projects and found that the real number of affected people averaged 47 percent higher than previously estimated.

In March, a World Bank spokesman acknowledged that the bank-financed Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos has physically displaced or economically affected more than 75,000 villagers — a 50 percent increase over the 50,000 figure that the bank had reported before it approved the project in 2005.

Independent researchers who have studied the project estimate that the number of people who have been harmed by the dam’s construction is larger than even bank’s updated number — reaching as high as 130,000 to 150,000.

Bruce Shoemaker, a researcher on natural resources issues who worked on the independent review, says villagers downstream from the dam have suffered a drop in wild fish catches, excessive flooding of their rice fields and other impacts on their livelihoods. The failure by World Bank and Laotian officials to recognize the dam’s full effects on people above and below the dam means that the compensation offered to farmers and fisherfolk “didn’t come close to making up for their losses,” Shoemaker says.

World Bank officials say they disagree with the larger estimate reached by Shoemaker and his co-researchers. “We are always willing to consider independent studies that focus on our projects,” David Theis, a bank spokesman, said in a written statement. “In this case, our extensive and detailed research and analysis has yielded different facts, which we stand by.”

The bank says most people affected by Nam Theun 2 are better off than they were before, with surveys showing many families having more savings and assets and fewer underweight children.

The bank says the increase in the numbers of people identified as being affected by the dam came because the project’s managers used a broader definition of affected households. In other cases, bank officials have attributed shifting numbers for people harmed by projects to later expansions in projects’ size or to population growth during projects’ long time windows.

Theis said that despite the complex challenges of keeping track of people affected by development, “we are going to be extremely vigilant about our work in this area. When our work does involve relocation, we will do so as long as we can improve or at least restore people’s incomes and living conditions.”

Wagher fishermen head into the gulf one afternoon. The water discharged by the Tata power plant is often hotter than the seawater, altering the marine ecosystem, an independent fact-finding team found. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Wagher fishermen head into the gulf one afternoon. The water discharged by the Tata power plant is often hotter than the seawater, altering the marine ecosystem, an independent fact-finding team found. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


Early Warning

The problem of undercounting resonates in the Indian state of Gujarat, the site of a mammoth debacle that was supposed to transform the World Bank’s approach to development and displacement. In 1985, the bank pledged $450 million to finance the Sardar Sarovar dam and canal, the keystone of an effort to turn the Narmada River into a series of reservoirs that would serve the state’s most drought-prone regions.

The bank estimated in 1987 that 60,000 people would be affected by the project. By 2000, the World Commission on Dams, a study group co-sponsored by the World Bank, put the figure at more than 200,000. Current estimates from NGOs monitoring the project indicate more than 250,000 will be impacted by the dam, which is in now in its final stages of construction. Many of the displaced, like the Wagher fishing families, had no title to the land they occupied. World Bank policies explicitly state that residents without title still qualify for compensation and resettlement assistance.

Planning for Sardar Sarovar began with an “elaborate Government pantomime of conducting studies to estimate the actual project costs and the impact it would have on people and the environment,” the famed Indian novelist and activist Arundhati Roy later wrote. “The World Bank participated wholeheartedly in the charade — occasionally it beetled its brows and raised feeble requests for more information on issues like the resettlement and rehabilitation of what it calls ‘PAPs’ — Project Affected Persons. (They help, these acronyms — they manage to mutate muscle and blood into cold statistics. PAPs soon cease to be people.) The merest of crumbs satisfied the Bank and it proceeded with the project.”

Resistance was fierce. Protesters blocked roads and barred government officials from their villages. Some pledged to drown rather than leave their land. Police met Gandhi-style nonviolence with beatings and arrests. After activists launched a hunger strike, the World Bank agreed to an independent review by an expert panel.

These experts found — in the words of one panelist — “a rather terrifying ignorance” on the bank’s part about the dam’s human consequences. No one knew how many people would be ousted, and there was little preparation, or even available land, for resettling them. After the panel issued its 363-page report, the bank announced in 1993 that it would withdraw from the project, canceling the last $170 million of its loan. By then it had disbursed $280 million, and the Indian government found other funding to make up the difference. Construction proceeded.

In the wake of the protests, World Bank officials pledged to pay more attention to the social dimensions of civil-works projects. “After the Narmada project, it became clear that giving affected people a voice was critical,” E. Patrick Coady, a former U.S. executive director for the World Bank, later said.

Ultra Mega

In 2005, the government of India unveiled a bold scheme to bring its poorest citizens into the 21st century. It would commission a series of coal-fired power plants — each with seven times the capacity of its average U.S. counterpart — that would provide cheap electricity in a country where one-third of the population lives off the grid.

The first of these privately run “Ultra Mega Power Projects” would front the Gulf of Kutch, near the town of Mundra in Gujarat. Tata Power, part of a $100 billion conglomerate that produces everything from Tetley Tea to Jaguar sports cars, won the contract to build and operate the plant. To put together the financing for the $4.1 billion project, Tata sought help from the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation.

For the World Bank Group, the project came with public relations risks. It was under pressure to stop financing carbon-spewing coal plants. And it had been burned before in India by Narmada and by other big projects that spawned evictions and protests.

Tata and the Indian government promised that the new coal plant would be different. It would burn imported coal using a high-temperature technology that emits fewer greenhouse gases. And the company insisted that the people affected by the plant would be identified and protected.

Tata’s planning documents noted that some villagers would lose farmland, access to communal grazing land and, in a few cases, their homes. (It described those losses as “marginal.”) Those same documents — along with other studies produced by the company and the government — were generally silent about, or dismissive of, the Wagher fishing communities. Impacts on fisheries, an Indian government report said, would be “minor and non-consequential.” Ten months later, Tata identified three villages that would be affected by the power plant. It listed their total fishing population as zero.

Advocacy groups say the failure to count the Wagher fishers shows the World Bank and the IFC haven’t learned from the Narmada ordeal or other projects that failed to fully acknowledge their impacts on people.

“What they have done in Mundra is not unique,” says Joe Athialy, acting Asia director for the Bank Information Center, an NGO that pushes for greater local participation in development decisions. “This is happening project after project, sector after sector.”

Sidik Kasam Jam at this home on Kutadi Bandar. His family and others in the community have fished in the area for generations and say the construction and operation of the Tata plant have significantly harmed their yields. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Sidik Kasam Jam at this home on Kutadi Bandar. His family and others in the community have fished in the area for generations and say the construction and operation of the Tata plant have significantly harmed their yields. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


Best Practices

The sun sets on Kutadi Bandar. Young men throw anchors and buoys onto the wooden boats at the shoreline. They untangle thick rolls of green netting, occasionally breaking into song, preparing for an overnight trawl.

Nearby, outside a hut, neighbors sit and listen — men on one side, women on the other — as an elder with a white beard and turban recites poetry about brotherhood and the folly of greed. Donkeys bray. Women cook flatbread over open fires. A three-wheeled auto-rickshaw arrives from the market, bringing empty foam coolers that, with any luck, will be filled with fish when the boats return. As the night darkens, those with portable solar panels turn on the lights inside their dwellings. In the distance, the Tata Mundra power plant twinkles like a galaxy.

The sense of enterprise on this bandar, just east of Tragadi Bandar, is palpable. So is the sense of worry. Fishers here have nostalgic memories of practicing pagadiya, or foot-fishing: waking up at 5 a.m., drinking tea together inside their huts, and then wading into the water in teams of four to harvest the fish that had gotten entangled in the nets.

Nowadays, Kutadi’s fishers need to travel farther into the gulf to bring back diminishing catches. Some weeks they make no money and have to ask local fish merchants to front their expenses. “We beg them to give us loans,” says Jubedaben Manjaliya, the matriarch of a three-generation household.

Ask the men about stress and they show their blood-pressure medications. Yunus Suleman Gadh, 48, pulls out a receipt with the proceeds from 15 days’ catch: 1,400 rupees, just under $23. “Sometimes we feel that we should stop fishing. Just stop and no more, that’s it,” he says. “Then what will we do? Lift loads on our shoulders and do heavy labor? No one is going to hire us for labor. We will have to beg by telling stories.”

The problems on Kutadi Bandar started before Tata’s arrival.

Some of its fishers have moved twice since the late ’90s, according to Bharat Patel, general secretary of the local fishers’ organization MASS (Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, or Association for the Struggle for Fishworkers’ Rights). First they were displaced by the construction of India’s largest private port. Then came a second move to make way for the intake channel built originally for Mundra’s other coal-fired thermal plant, owned by Adani Group, a conglomerate based in Gujarat. As industry took over the coastline, studies chronicled wholesale mangrove destruction — “bulldozed or burnt down, leaving no trace,” H.S. Singh, Gujarat’s chief forest conservator, told India’s Financial Express in 2007 — and dredging that filled the creeks.

The Tata plant, built next to Adani’s and sharing the same intake channel, was supposed to be more ecologically and socially friendly. Officials with the World Bank Group’s IFC unit noted that Tata had a track record of partnership with the IFC and was widely considered to be a good corporate citizen. And its plant would be planned and constructed under the IFC’s detailed rules for protecting people and the environment.

The IFC responded to questions for this article by quoting its own website, which says its investment in the Mundra plant ensured “the best international industry practices.”

Out of Balance

In 2011, 10 months before Tata’s coal-fired plant opened, the fishers’ group MASS filed a complaint with the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman, the IFC’s internal watchdog unit. The IFC ignored its own policies by allowing Tata to exclude fishing communities from the list of people harmed by the project, the complaint said.

“We felt cheated and worthless,” says Yunus Suleman Gadh, who says he learned from a local newspaper that he and other Waghers had not been counted. “How dare they do this! The government people know we are here, because we had to get security clearance permits from them to fish.”

MASS also asked the National Fishworkers Forum to send an independent fact-finding team to Mundra. The team, which included a retired judge and a marine scientist, visited shortly after the plant opened and met with both fishers and Tata managers. Its 2012 report described a project that “has been marred with serious social and environmental impacts,” while those harmed were largely excluded from the deliberations. Tata Power notes there were public meetings to discuss the plant, including a hearing in Mundra that drew 250 people. The fact-finding team located people who attended those meetings, but said no one “could remember any material being distributed … in any languages they understand.”

Many of the meetings were sparsely attended. “We didn’t know the meaning of ‘public hearing’ back in those days,” says Manjalia Ibrahim Sale Mohammad, a Wagher elder. “So we didn’t go.”

During visits to the Tata site, the fact finders witnessed heavy equipment “leveling and clearing the coastal mud flats” and reviewed MASS’ photos of mangrove destruction. Fishers pointed out creeks damaged by dredging. Tata insists it harmed no mangroves or “biodiversity rich creeks.”

The research team’s tests revealed the water discharged from the plant near Tragadi Bandar was higher in oxygen-depleting contaminants and warmer than the Gulf of Kutch’s waters. Its temperature was 32 to 33 degrees Celsius, far higher than the gulf’s average surface temperature of 26.1 degrees. “Fish tend to move away or suffer in abundance even with a 1°C change,” the report said. “Thus, four to five degrees warmer water falling into the Gulf throughout the year is sure to … drive away most fish species.”

Tata says its discharge is cooled to a safe temperature and contains no chemicals, and that its seawater monitoring shows “no adverse change.”

The researchers disagreed, concluding that ecological changes caused by the plant have harmed the Waghers’ ability to earn a living from the water.

“The boats used by the local fisher people are … small, thus preventing them from venturing out to the open sea — which they have no experience of, or had no need for — as the interior of the Gulf was a plentiful source of fish until recently,” the researchers wrote. “The centuries-old balanced existence is now changing for the worse, negatively impacting fisher-people who are themselves not responsible for this change.”

Rising Hopes

In August 2013, the IFC’s ombudsman unit issued an audit report that upheld many of the Waghers’ complaints, finding that the IFC had broken its own rules by failing to properly identify and consult with “project-affected people.”

Tata reported no data about the residents of Tragadi and Kutadi bandars, the audit noted. Key documents scarcely mentioned them and the “IFC paid insufficient attention” to this omission.

Consultations with fishers were not “effective or timely,” despite indications bandar residents would be “physically and economically” displaced. This was particularly worrisome, the report said, because Muslim Waghers — whose Hindu vegetarian neighbors often view fishers with disdain — are “statutorily recognized as educationally and socially disadvantaged and acknowledged by IFC to be vulnerable.”

The Tata plant. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

The Tata plant. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

The audit report added that the IFC didn’t do enough to investigate the power plant’s marine impacts and failed to consider all the ways the Tata plant might contribute to the cumulative impacts of industrialization along the coast.

The report spawned rising hopes among the fisherfolk. “There was a sense of confidence: ‘OK, a body from within the World Bank Group has come out strongly in our favor,’” says Himanshu Damle, a researcher with the Bank Information Center. “Expectations rose as a result of that, thinking that the World Bank president would step in.”

Instead, IFC officials issued an 11-page response denying that the fishers were displaced. The bandars, it said, are “temporary in nature,” and even though some bandar land was taken, enough remained for the fishers to return. The IFC said the seawater and marine life would be fine and that no additional impact studies were needed.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim signed off on the IFC’s response without comment.

Since then, human-rights groups and other NGOs around the world have targeted Kim with letters protesting his rejection of his own watchdog unit’s findings. “Your decision means thousands of fishing and fishworker families will continue suffering,” said one plea signed by 68 organizations from the U.S., Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere.

And on April 23, some of the plant’s frustrated neighbors took their fight to the city where the World Bank is headquartered, signing onto a lawsuit filed against the IFC in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by the nonprofit EarthRights International. The suit accuses the lender of violating its own mission of promoting sustainable development while doing no harm. The IFC failed “to prevent and mitigate harms to the property, health, livelihoods, and way of life of many of the people who live near the Tata Mundra Plant,” says the complaint. “The Tata Mundra Plant is thus a mission failure.”

The plaintiffs, including Budha Ismail Jam and the fishers’ organization MASS, are seeking class-action status.

The IFC declined to comment on the lawsuit’s claims.

The Price

The controversy over the coal-burning plant on the Gulf of Kutch comes at a bad time for the World Bank Group, which has been trying to position itself as a leader in the fight against climate change. The bank’s governing board pledged in 2013 to limit its funding for coal-burning plants to “rare circumstances.”

The IFC’s decision to invest in the Tata plant has become more difficult to defend as the company has wavered on its central promise — providing low-cost electricity to 16 million Indians across five northern and western states.

Tata buys its coal for the Mundra plant from Indonesia, which raised its export prices in 2011 to benchmark them to the international market. Because Tata won its bid on the promise to sell energy at a certain price, it now loses money on every kilowatt it generates at the plant. In 2013, at the company’s request, a federal agency approved a 23 percent rate hike. The increase was blocked last year, at least temporarily, by India’s Supreme Court.

Justin Guay, an energy lending expert and former Washington representative for the Sierra Club, says the Tata case violates the uneasy social contract surrounding coal in the developing world.

“The quid pro quo is that society gets cheap abundant electricity, but it comes at quite a bit of cost,” he says. “They justify those costs because it’s the only thing poor countries can do to help lift themselves out of poverty.” With Tata petitioning to raise its rates, “that social contract — even if it ever was a justifiable contract — has completely broken down.”

Tata Power declined three interview requests for this story. The company referred queries to the public-relations firm Edelman, which invited written questions and then declined to answer them.

In a broad written response focusing on the plant’s local impacts, the PR firm said the company is “very conscious of its impact on its community and environment and tirelessly works towards mitigating any impact.” It said Tata follows all environmental rules and works with “target neighboring communities” to improve “their quality of lives.”

A fisherman at Kutadi Bandar prepares the net for an overnight fishing trip. Locals say the World Bank Group-backed power plant in the distance has depleted fish stocks. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

A fisherman at Kutadi Bandar prepares the net for an overnight fishing trip. Locals say the World Bank Group-backed power plant in the distance has depleted fish stocks. Sami Siva / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


The Big Boss

In its marketing literature, Tata stresses its social investment in the Mundra area. It says it has stepped up its outreach to the Waghers, providing solar boat lights and running gynecology and malaria camps at the bandars. Tata also delivers drinking water to Tragadi Bandar, which had a well that was destroyed during the dredging of the plant’s wastewater channel, according to MASS’ Bharat Patel.

Wagher fishers say Tata has done some community outreach, but they call it selective and inadequate. Budha Ismail Jam and Yunus Suleman Gadh say the boat lights were subsidized, not distributed for free, and not made available to everyone. Jam says Tata has been delivering only half of the promised water. Tata declined to comment on water deliveries.

The IFC maintains that Tata is doing a good job dealing with locals’ concerns. In January, in response to a follow-up report from the ombudsman’s office, IFC management released a statement praising Tata for being “actively engaged with the fishing community” and noting that studies are being planned to assess the power plant’s environmental and socio-economic impacts — “both positive and unfavorable” — on the Mundra coast.

The ombudsman unit’s follow-up review, released Jan. 14, acknowledged these efforts, but said the IFC and Tata still haven’t done enough to correct the violations that sparked the fishers’ complaint in the first place. It said the “completion of studies that were required prior to construction of the project” might, at this late date, be too little, too late.

For their part, Wagher fishers say consultations and corporate charity can’t compensate them for the damage to the gulf — and to their lives.

Manjalia Ibrahim Sale Mohammad recalls two visits from Tata managers while the plant was being built, seeking the elder fisherman’s cooperation.

“They told me: Whatever you ask of us, we will try to provide you,” he says. “I told them: If I need anything, I ask the sea, because he is the big boss. Whenever one goes to the sea, he makes at least 2,000 to 5,000 rupees a day” — $32 to $81. “Are you going to give us this every day? No.”



What Is The World Bank?

The World Bank Group is the globe’s most prestigious development lender, bankrolling hundreds of government projects each year in pursuit of its high-minded mission: to combat the scourge of poverty by backing new transit systems, power plants, dams and other projects it believes will help boost the fortunes of poor people.

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, one of the two lending arms traditionally considered to be the World Bank
Typically lends to middle-income governments, also some creditworthy low-income countries
Founded in 1944
FY 2014 commitments $18.6 billion
Lends at market rate
Guarantees loans

  1. IDA

International Development Association, one of the two lending arms traditionally considered to be the World Bank
Typically lends to low-income governments
Founded in 1960
FY 2014 commitments $22.2 billion
Lends at low interest rate

  1. IFC

International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private lending arm
Typically lends to private firms in developing (low- to middle-income) countries
Founded in 1956
FY 2014 commitments $17.3 billion
Lends at market rate
Guarantees loans
Invests in private companies
Sources: Congressional Research Service, World Bank Annual Report

* Barry Yeoman is a U.S.-based magazine journalist. This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. Michael Hudson, a senior editor at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, contributed reporting to this story.

Produced by Hilary Fung and Shane Shifflett.


30 Years After Bhopal…

Bhopal Archive Photographs - Raghu Rai

Image courtesy Amnesty International © Raghu Rai / Magnum Photos

…US Company Responsible Remains Unpunished

By Vijay Prashad, The Real News

03 December 14

JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of the Prashad report.

Now joining us from Northampton, Massachusetts, is Vijay Prashad. Vijay is the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and professor of international studies at Trinity College. His most recent book is The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. And he’s a regular contributor to The Real News.

Thanks for joining us, Vijay.


DESVARIEUX: So, Vijay, December 2 marks the 30th anniversary of that infamous gas leak in Bhopal, India. Can you just remind our viewers exactly what happened that day 30 years ago?

PRASHAD: Well, I remember this very vividly. The night of December 2-3, a tank in a Union Carbide factory, Bhopal, India, leaked methyl isocyanate. And this gas swept through a working-class area called Jayaprakash Nagar, right near the plant. Eventually tens of thousands of people would be killed, half a million people affected. It was the largest chemical industrial accident in India till then, and in fact till now. It was a grotesque accident, because partly it was preventable, and secondly because the gas leak didn’t just kill people immediately; it affected an entire generation and the children born to them. So it was like–in a sense, I guess, like a Chernobyl for India.

And it’s important to recognize that this gas leak took place at a factory, Union Carbide, which was owned by an American company. They own more than 50 percent of the stake in this factory. There was an Indian minority holder, but it was essentially an American firm.

And just before the accident–the accident, so-called accident, took place in 1984. Just two years before, in 1982, there had been a study done of the plant. The Indian government had been involved. Many recommendations had been made for changing the piping, changing some of the infrastructure, upgrading security and safety mechanisms, etc., but nothing was done. And in that sense it was almost an industrial crime.

And because it was an industrial crime, the local authorities moved very quickly. They put out arrest warrants for the important leadership of the factory. People were arrested, including in 1985 the head, the CEO of Union Carbide, an American businessman by the name of Warren Anderson. But through various mechanisms he was able to post bail, and he left India in 1985.

DESVARIEUX: And wasn’t this Warren Anderson–didn’t he recently pass, Vijay?

PRASHAD: Yes. So Warren Anderson died just about a month ago.

Now, it’s important. For 30 years there has been an arrest warrant for Mr. Warren Anderson for essentially culpable homicide. I mean, there was enough evidence to show that the Union Carbide had been very negligent in its procedures, and this negligence, at least the intergovernmental government had suggested at the time, went all the way to the top. So the actual warrant was for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. In other words, Warren Anderson didn’t directly murder anybody. But indirectly, their kind of negligence killed tens of thousands of people.

You have to remember it’s grotesque. He posted bond of $2,000 when he left India. And from 1985 till his death in 2014, the United States government essentially refused to extradite Mr. Warren Anderson to India to face charges. In fact, quite disgustingly, in the last 20 years, as the Indian government has tried to come closer to the American government, there has been ample evidence of the Indian government colluding with the American government to prevent Mr. Anderson coming to justice in India. In other words, there is evidence that a particular ambassador from India was working with some Indian industrialists to suggest that if India didn’t push very hard to extradite Warren Anderson, it meant that India would treat American business with kid gloves, and therefore Americans should invest in India. I mean, the kind of position put out there was, if India is too aggressive against Warren Anderson, if it’s too aggressive against Union Carbide, then American firms will not come to India. And this was allowed to remain in that way, even though there were revelations about ten years ago of this kind of collusion.

The reason these revelations came out was that Greenpeace was able to find Mr. Warren Anderson’s home in New York State, and they went to the front door, rang the doorbell, and served him with a warrant. Of course, there was no efficacy to this, there was no power behind it, but it was a symbolic move. And at the time, evidence of this collusion had come out.

Well, now Mr. Anderson is dead. In that sense, the statute of limitations has run out on him. But Union Carbide was bought by Dow chemicals, and Dow chemicals in a sense has purchased the liability for what happened in 1984 on the night of December 2 and 3. And as of now, the compensation paid to the victims has been anemic, and pressure on Dow chemicals has been, I think, very limited.

So this is a very sad story. It’s been going on my entire adult life. A generation of Indians were radicalized by the grotesqueness of Bhopal. We were in college when this happened, and it was unbelievable to see the level of callousness by the authorities, the callousness by the United States government. And, of course, nothing has come of it since then.

DESVARIEUX: Alright. Vijay Prashad, thank you so much for that update, and we look forward to having you back on real soon. Thanks for joining us.

PRASHAD: Thank you so much.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Source: Reader Supported News

Bhopal Court Cases