Green Planet Blues: Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Tyoto

By Ken Conca; Geoffrey D. Dabelko et al. | Go to book overview

BRUCE RICH


21
The Emperor's New Clothes:
The World Bank and
Environmental Reform

On October 24, 1989, an extraordinary hearing took place in the U.S. Congress. Two and a half years after the president of the World Bank, former congressman Barber Conable, had committed the Bank to sweeping environmental reforms, activists from its most important borrower and donor countries--India and the United States--testified about the Bank's systematic violation of its own environmental and social policies in the Sardar Sarovar dam project in north-central India. The activists objected that the Bank was continuing to finance the project despite five years of noncompliance by project authorities in preparing critical environmental studies and action plans, and in the absence of a resettlement plan for the 90,000 rural poor that the dam's 120-mile-long reservoir would displace. . . . Indeed, the Sardar Sarovar project is only one of literally scores of ongoing and proposed World Bank ecological debacles that have come to congressional and international attention over the past two years--debacles that have occurred despite a tenfold increase in Bank environmental staff and a proliferation of new environmental policies, action plans, and task forces. "[The Bank's] written assurances don't amount to a hill of beans; they don't exist for practical purposes," [ New York Congressman James] Scheuer charged. "Where do the pressures come

____________________
Excerpted from World Policy Journal 7, no. 2 (Spring 1990):305-329. Reprinted with permission.

-201-

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