The Bretton Woods Project reports that residents of the Indian district of Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh are living with the lasting social and environmental impacts of decades of coal-related projects funded by the World Bank. A fully formatted and referenced PDF version of the report is available.
The World Bank’s involvement in Singrauli set the stage for devastating coal projects contributing to environmental degradation, displacement of communities from their land, and undermining of local livelihoods.
Once a densely forested region, the area is now a conglomeration of 11 open coal mines, and seven coal-fired power plants, with proposals to expand this to 17 more, all in an area of 1,800 square kilometres. More forest land is threatened:
Sierra Club members visited the region. The first village they saw was the home of the Baiga tribe at the foot of the mines, with the railroad tracks for the coal cars running right through the middle of the village, and homes just a few meters from the fallen coal surrounding the tracks:
One club member said: “Here I could believe that Singrauli used to be a forest. It seemed as though the Baiga had found the last remaining, concentrated patch of trees to shade and shelter them. Unlike the other villages we saw, people here did not approach us or try to speak to us. Awadhesh explained that they were shy, that they didn’t want to adapt to this modern world around them, and that they just wanted to be left alone.”
A jumble of pipes mar the land for miles transporting ash, known to have carcinogenic properties, from existing coal-fired thermal power plants to massive open ponds, where it pours out day and night.
Roma Malik of the movement National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers, which works in Singrauli, emphasises the major changes in the landscape, environment and livelihoods, particularly of the local tribal people reliant on the forests:
“They have taken a huge forest area that Nehru called the Switzerland of India, and destroyed it. How will this irreparable loss be compensated? This is a major lasting impact of the World Bank’s funding, along with others.
Those who can face it, can read more here: <http://brettonwoodsproject.org/art.shtml?x=569291>