New Delhi:
HYDRO-POWER PROJECT IN UTTARAKHAND Ecologist Dunu Roy was engaged by World Bank for inspection of the 444 MW Vishnugad-Pipalkoti project
Well-known ecologist and activist Dunu Roy , who was engaged by the World Bank for inspection of the 444 MW VishnugadPipalkoti hydro-electric project in Uttarakhand that it partly funded, has alleged that his adverse findings have been “radically altered to give a clear chit to the Bank“ in the final report.Anubrotto Kumar Roy, better known as Dunu Roy, confirmed to ET over email that he had sought withdrawal of his name from the inspection panel’s report. The World Bank told ET it had received Roy’s letter and that its panel, set up after environmental concerns were raised, stands by its findings in the investigation of the VishnugadPipalkoti project.

Under the current circumstances, it is “not ethically right to conceal the lack of due diligence by the panel and the consequences to human life and nature,“ Roy said in his communication to the World Bank, which was accessed by ET.

Roy noted with concern that “the tragedy in Uttarakhand grows grimmer with recent landslides in the Chamoli-Rudraprayag area just downstream of VishnuprayagPipalkoti“ and stated in his letter to the World Bank that “much of the vulnerability of the region can be attributed to the extensive infrastructure development for the 29 HEPs (planned and under construction) upstream in the Alaknanda basin.“

The project on the Alaknanda river had run into trouble in 2011-12 itself, with several complaints on the ecological and environmental consequences and fears that it would affect the continuous flow of the highly revered river. The project is due to be commissioned in December 2019, according to the website of the Tehri Hydro Power Development Corporation.

In 2013, following the complaints, the World Bank set up the inspection panel to look into these aspects and engaged Roy as a consultant for the review. Roy now alleges that the panel’s final report failed to mention his findings, which indicated lack of due diligence by the World Bank before extending the $648 million loan for the project.

In a letter to the Chair of the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, Gonzalo Castro, Roy said that right until May 2014, he had written to the panel with his “unambiguous view“ that “the Bank did not critically analyse the need for either e-flows (environmental flows) or for a sectoralregional environmental assessment.“ “However, in July 2014, the panel publicly issued a final report in which the findings and recommendations had been radically altered to give a clear chit to the Bank,“ Roy said in his letter to Castro last week.

Since then, Roy claimed he has written repeatedly to the Bank seeking to know why his findings were changed and requesting that his name be removed from the report. With no response given to him, he also wrote to bank’s ethics committee in April 2016.

In response to ET’s queries, the World Bank said its panel was an impartial fact-finding body and that while the consultants are expected to provide it with their professional technical opinion on the matters under consideration, it is up to the panel to decide how best to use that input and whether a project is in compliance or not with World Bank policy .

“The Panel, which is an impartial fact-finding body comprised of three members experienced in development issues, reaches those decisions independently . The Panel stands by its findings in the investigation of the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project,“ said Rob Doher ty, Communications Advisor for the World Bank.

Economist Bharat Jhunjhunwala, who was one of the key complainants on this hydel project, said it was very clear that the inspection panel had made a mockery of the whole process.

“None of the issues we raised ­ from spiritual and cultural impact to impact on fisheries and the flawed cost-benefit analysis ­ were taken up by them. The final inspection report diluted most of the findings and is in fact a farce. Dunu Roy’s outburst may have come too late as all funding has already been given for the project, but this can probably at least be an entry point for the bank to review their policy on funding projects of this nature,“ Jhunjhunwala told ET.