Guest Article by Jens Holm, Member of Parliament (Left Party), Sweden
Large-scale World Bank hydro power project, non-additional, far-reaching effects on the local environment, local opposition and no compensation for the affected local community. That is in sum the hydro electric power CDM-project Rampur, Himachal Pradesh, Northern India.
The Rampur hydroelectric power project is a part of several mega projects in Himachal Pradesh, in northern India. It was registered as a CDM project in July last year and is a part of the World Bank fund, Umbrella Carbon Facility Tranche 2. Over the next 10 years, Rampur is expected to generate about 14 million carbon credits, to an estimated market value of 100 million USD. However, it is questionable whether it is additional. In 2004 the regional company SJVNL and the World Bank signed a deal on Rampur. But it was not until 2009 that they filed the application to become a CDM project. Many of the additionality concerns of the project cannot even be further investigated because one of the key documents, the investment analysis, is not publicly available. This in itself is an infringement of CDM rules.
Rampur is a “run of river” project, not a classical dam hydro project. Instead of damming up the river Sutlej a huge tunnel is now under construction. The tunnel will redirect the normal flow of the river and only a tiny part of the water will be kept in the normal river basin. Approximately 15km of the river basin will basically be dry due to the tunnel project.
The local community in the vicinity of the project and the organisation South Asia Network on Dams, River and People (SANDRP) has opposed the project. But the response from the regional government and the World Bank has been poor. When I visited India in February 2012 locals informed me about problems with dust, muck, drying up of ground water, negative effects on local agriculture and the occurrence of landslides due to the project. Many families need to be moved from the area. At the moment no compensation or other arrangements have been made for them.
In February the Swedish embassy was invited to a round table in New Delhi to discuss Rampur and other environmental issues with myself and eight other members of the Swedish parliament. The iWorld Bank officials who were invited unfortunately never turned up to the meeting. Himanshu Thakkar of SANDRP, however, attended the meeting and said: “This mega project has very little to do with climate but will have a detrimental effect on the local environment and people living in the area.. CDM was only a means to generate additional profit for the constructors long after the investment decision had been taken. This is not the type of project Sweden should support.”
This hydro project has gained attention in Sweden. The Swedish criteria for CDM projects states that Sweden only supports hydro projects of a small or medium scale. At 412 MW, this project is clearly large scale, both by Swedish and Indian standards. On 8 February this year Minister for the Environment Lena Ek told me that the criteria applies only to bilateral CDM projects, not projects that are part of multilateral funds (such as this one). The statement raises questions: should the environmental standards less stringent in World Bank funds? Why?