How Gujarat fishermen won US top court ruling against global funding

(Indian Express, Ahmedabad, 10 April 2019) On February 27, the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of a group of fishermen and a Gujarat village panchayat in a suit against the US-headquartered International Finance Corporation (IFC). The case, which now goes back to a US district court, relates to alleged pollution caused by a Gujarat-based power plant partly funded by IFC and Korean ECA KEXIM. Of the estimated project cost of $4.14 billion, $450 million was funded in 2008 by IFC, the Asian Development Bank advanced $450 million as loan, the Export Credit Agency of Korea extended another $800 million as loan, and CGPL raised around Rs 1.5 billion from Indian banks through debt. According to National Fish Worker’s Forum, a nationwide federation of fishermen organisations, the plant operates a cooling technology that requires much more water than the system it got clearance for. The water is eventually discharged into the sea, and the complainants have alleged that it has affected marine life. Budha Jam, leader of the fishermen community of Tragadi-Nal, says: “With marine life near the coast affected, we are forced to sail farther in search of fish. They also dredged the coast and seafloor for their outfall channel and deposited sand near a well, which was a source of drinking water. Water in the well has turned saline since.” Complainants add that coal dust and fly-ash from the plant are damaging date palms and chikoo trees in Navinal. [One wonders how KEXIM's adherence to the OECD's Common Approaches could have allowed this.]