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Environment: NGO’s Denounce World Bank

March 13, 1998

Italian Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) accused the World Bank of violating human and environmental rights in the construction of three hydroelectric stations in Argentina – Paraguay, Guatemala and Lesotho.

ROME-The denunciation was presented in a press conference, on the eve of the National Day of Action Against Dams and for Rivers.

The World Bank financed the dams of Yacyreta, between Argentina and Paraguay, Chixoy in Guatemala, and Katse in Lesotho, all built by an Italian transnational company, Impregilo.

The accusation was launched by Liliana Cori and Francesco Martone, co-ordinators of the Campaign for the Reform of the World Bank, and Jaroslava Colajacomo, researcher of the Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of the Peoples.

Since its creation in 1994, the World Bank has financed more than 6,000 development projects in 140 countries, worth a total of 300 billion dollars. There have been complaints against their activities and projects from local communities and NGOs from all over the world for years.

For the World Bank has given its support to large-scale projects which destroy forests, contaminate the atmosphere, expel millions of people from their lands and reduce the possibility of ecologically compatible and socially just development.

Despite the announcement of substantial reforms in its policies and procedures, the entity has not been able to give priority to projects which directly contribute to the battle against poverty and the defence of the environment, they indicated.

The NGO representatives demanded the World Bank be ”more green, transparent and responsible.”

The three dams mentioned above caused serious social and environmental problems to indigenous people and local communities. The most evident violations are those of these peoples’ rights to decide on their own future and to manage their territory and natural resources.

They were not consulted in any of these three cases, violating even the World Bank’s own policy and international regulations, said the NGOs.

The dams have caused the dispersal, death and physical and cultural impoverishment of the communities, enriching the political elites and transnationals which carry out the work.

They forced people to leave their homes, submerged fertile farmlands, forests and sacred places, destroyed drinking water reserves and caused the social and cultural disintegration of societies.

Meanwhile, they have produced less electrical energy and irrigated less than promised and have caused floods, instead of limiting them.

The benefits of these projects went to large land owners, the multinational agroindustry companies and speculators.

The Chixoy station had devastating effects on the Guatemalan economy, as its cost represents 40 percent of the nation’s foreign debt.

Activists asked politicians, international agencies and investors for an immediate suspension of the construction of large hydroelectric centres, until all forms of violence against the local peoples can be stopped.

Yacyreta, on the Parana river, on the frontier between Argentina and Paraguay is ”considered a model of corruption in Latin America” and even the World Bank recognised it would have been better not to have built it, they said.

Its construction was planned in 1973, in a treaty between Argentine president Juan Domingo Peron and the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner. Its final cost was four times the planned costs in the engineering sector and seven in the administration.

The cost of the energy produced by Yacyreta ws three times higher than the international average and the project has still not been finished, despite the fact funding was to end in 1990. According to World Bank calculations, around 80,000 people were forced to leave their homes.

The Chixoy hydroelectric project was developed in a period of military dictatorship and civil war in Guatemala. In 1975, the National Institute of Electrification (Inde) announced the project, to develop a reliable, economic and abundant source of energy supply.

The final cost of the project is still not clear, but estimates range from 1.2 to 2.5 billion dollars.

The dam was built in the area where the Maya Achi indigenous people had lived for centuries, and 50,000 people have been forced to leave their land.

The Katse dam, which is planned to end in 2017, was planned in a treaty between the South African and Lesotho governments in 1986, at an initial cost of 300 million dollars.

The projects have affected the lives of 24,000 people, now surviving on the cereals they were given in compensation.

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