/** dev.worldbank: 191.2 **/
** Written 12:53 PM Feb 16, 1995 by gn:ecologist in cdp:dev.worldbank **
When defending its record on evictions, the World Bank frequently argues that it must provide services, such as drinking water and energy, to the poor and that this inevitably disrupts communities. It is undeniable that many people lack basic services, but it does not follow that the World Bank can supply them: Bank projects are built in the name of the poor, but in fact mainly benefit industry and politically- powerful sections of society.
The Sardar Sarovar dam and water delivery project (SSP) in India is a good example. It is supposed to bring drinking and irrigation water to the "parched throats" in Gujarat's Kutch and Saurashtra regions.
Beneath the rhetoric, the detailed plans for SSP reveal that the project can only irrigate 1.6% of Kutch and 9.3% of Saurashtra's cultivable areas. In spite of this, the project is being allotted four-fifths of Gujarat's water budget. The Economic Times commented: "with the mounting cost of SSP . . . schemes in the water-starved areas of North Gujarat and Saurashtra have either been scrapped altogether or are being ignored."
The World Bank claims that SSP will "support irrigated agricultural production sufficient to feed about 20 million people." This overlooks the political reality that much of the water will be used for water-intensive sugar cane for export. Seven large sugar factories are being built nearby; one has been linked to the Chief Minister of Gujarat. The World Bank also overlooks the finding of its own Irrigation Sector Review which found that: "Irrigation efficiency in India has often been assumed to be 60% . . . [yet] most irrigation commands in India probably have an irrigation efficiency of 20 to 35%." The World Bank's Independent Review of SSP found that "there is good reason to believe that the Projects will not work as planned."
Kalpraviksh, a Delhi-based NGO, found in a 1993 report that SSP's drinking water and power potential were also hugely exaggerated, while most of any water and power which does emerge will go to urban areas, not the poor. The report comments that "the provision of drinking water is one of the main moral and political justifications for the SSP in Gujarat where acute water scarcity has been a crippling problem." Yet it reveals that no detailed plan or budget for drinking water supply exists and that "the number of beneficiary villages, urban areas and their population has been changing at almost every mention." For Kutch and Saurashtra:
"The project authorities have simply listed as a target the total number of villages . . . ignoring or simply unaware of the fact that 61 villages in Kutch and 149 villages in Saurashtra are listed as uninhabited."
Meanwhile the project displays a strong urban bias: "In an area where the population is approximately 70% rural, cities were supposed to receive over 80% of the total quantity of drinking water." The cost of supplying drinking water has still not been included in the cost-benefit analysis of SSP. Despite such criticisms, the World Bank continues to insist that SSP will "meet the domestic [water] needs of some 30 million people."
The World Bank's effectiveness in reaching poor people is also questioned in a report commissioned under the Bank's resettlement review. The report, by a Philippines NGO [see box, p.9], comments:
"The Bank needs fresh and creative lending approaches . . . . Unless the Bank provides access to resources directly to the communities and supports NGOs assisting them in their initiatives in shelter, resettlement, and other social concerns these sectors will always be at the bottom of resource allocation. Presently only 20% of the shelter fund [goes to people on] low income which is P5,000 and below, 80% [goes] to the middle class."
The World Bank is not equipped to support community initiatives, so its projects have rarely helped the poor in whose name they are built. Instead they benefit an elite minority and take money away from projects which could bring real benefits to the poor.
The World Bank not only redistributes wealth upwards within countries, but also between countries. The British ODA admits that British banks and businesses make more money from the World Bank than Britain pays in.
The World Bank's claim that its displacement is necessary and unavoidable in order to help "development" for the world's poorest people, is thus dangerously misleading. The World Bank's record does not inspire confidence that it can be trusted to alleviate poverty in the future.
Economic Times, Ahmedabad, 4 January 1993.
Muddy Waters, A Critical Assessment of the Benefits of the Sardar Sarovar Project, Dr. Rahul N. Ram, Kalpraviksh, New Delhi, 1993.
Press Release No. 93/S51, World Bank, Washington DC, 1993.
India Irrigation Sector Review, Report No. 9518-IN, World Bank, Washington DC 1991.
Involuntary Resettlement In World Bank Projects, Recent Experiences in Metro Manila and Adjacent Provinces of Rizal and Bulacan, Urban Poor Associates, Quezon City, The Philippines, September 1993.
British Overseas Aid, Annual Review 1992, ODA London, 1992.