Washington D.C. - On Thursday fishing communities and farmers from India represented by EarthRights International (ERI) filed suit against the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private-lending arm of the World Bank Group, in federal court in Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs allege that the IFC caused the loss of their livelihoods, destroyed their lands and water, and created threats to their health by funding the Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant in Gujarat, India.
According to ERI, the World Bank Group caused serious harm to fisherfolk, farmers and villagers in northwest India by bankrolling a giant coal-fired power plant on an ecologically fragile stretch of coastline.
The suit accuses the World Bank Group’s the International Finance Corporation, of "irresponsible and negligent conduct" in handling its $450 million financing package for the coal plant. Lawyers for EarthRights International, an environmental group with offices in the U.S., South America and Asia, filed the suit on behalf of people living and working near the coal plant, which is located along the Gulf of Kutch, an inlet of the Arabian Sea.
In previous statements, the IFC has said that area residents are better off because it helped finance the power plant, reported the ICIJ. "IFC has played a critical role in the Tata Mundra project, both in terms of investing and in providing guidance on environment and social practices," it said. By developing guidelines to reduce harm to neighbors, and helping Tata implement them, "IFC ensured that the project’s environmental and social impacts are in line with good international industry practices."
But as ERI claims, the plant has already dramatically affected the lives of the people who live in its shadow. The thermal pollution discharged from the plant’s cooling system has led to a dramatic decline in the fish populations that local fishing communities depend on.
"The IFC failed on all counts with the Tata Mundra project," said Rick Herz, ERI’s Litigation Coordinator. "While the IFC purports to support this project in the name of poverty reduction and development, its impacts fall hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable communities."