The Singrauli district is one of the districts in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
A 2011 report by the Bretton Woods Project, "No fairy tale: Singrauli, India, still suffering years after World Bank coal investments," describes the Singrauli district in Madhya Pradesh and Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh as "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. Furthermore, 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."
History of World Bank involvement
In 1977, the World Bank provided a $150 million loan to the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), a state-owned company, for the first coal-fired power plant in the region. It also financed its expansion in 1980, and helped finance one of the first open pit coal mines in the area, Dudhichua. In 1985 the Bank also financed the connection of the power plants to the grid with a loan to the NTPC for the Rihand Power Transmission Project. Later the Bank backed the NTPC Vinhyachal power station.
Thousands of locals were displaced by the projects. One example cited by the Bretton Woods project report is Chilka Daad Colony, a residential development less than two kilometres south of NTPC’s oldest power plant, Shakti Nagar. Many of the residents were relocated to the area after their land was acquired for the Shakti plant: "Since then, people displaced twice, and even three times due to prior projects like Rihand dam, have been living in 12-by-18 meters or 9-by-15 meters plots that they received as compensation. They cannot sell the land and have no access to employment, with forests and agricultural areas diminishing in the region. Of the 12,000 people living in the colony, approximately half belong to tribal groups and 30 per cent belong to disadvantaged castes from non-tribal groups."
An environmental assessment commissioned by the World Bank and NTPC in 1991 found that 90 per cent of the local Singrauli people had been displaced at least once, and 34 per cent had been forced to move multiples times. The same study found that resettlement “appears to have failed in practically all cases”, and noted in particular “the inadequacy of facilities and equipment necessary for water, sewage treatment, schools, education and medical care.” In 1997, a complaint was filed at the Bank’s complaint mechanism by Madhu Kohli, a local activist, who alleged major violations of Bank displacement policy, lost livelihoods, brutality, and unfulfilled promises of jobs, as well as particularly hard effects on women, as they received little if any compensation for land and lost livelihoods, were offered far fewer job opportunities with the companies, and were harassed when they did secure employment. A WB investigation found that “violations of policies and procedures can be attributed to pressure from Senior Regional Management to accelerate the process of loan approval and to not granting the same relevance to Resettlement and Rehabilitation and Environmental Action matters as to other project components.”
The World Bank has been a large proponent of privatisation of the electricity sector in India. In 1993, the Bank provided a $20 million technical assistance loan to the Indian government to review outstanding power projects, and negotiate power purchase agreements and privatisation of power projects. Following privatisation of the power sector in the state of Orissa in 1995, the government has continued to work with the World Bank to privatise the sector across the country.
More coal projects proposed
In 2011, NGO Greenpeace India sent a fact-finding mission to Singrauli to look at new developments in the area. According to it, an important change in the last decade in Singrauli has been “the affirmative push of the private sector to tap the area’s coal reserves for large-scale power generation”. Several big energy players in the country are positioning themselves to play a role in Singrauli’s future, such as Reliance Power, Hindalco, Essar, Jaypee, Dainik Bhaskar (DB) Power and many other state government-led special purpose vehicles (SPV), set up as public-private partnerships, which are looking to operate mines as well as build super critical and mega thermal power plants in the area.
Articles and Resources
- "No fairy tale: Singrauli, India, still suffering years after World Bank coal investments" Bretton Woods Project, November 2011.
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