World Bank dams provoke hunger strikes in Pakistan

2 April 2007

In February affected communities, and local NGOs undertook a hunger strike in protest against the implementation of the Bank funded water project of the Taunsa Barrage Emergency Rehabilitation and Modernisation. The protest focused in particular on the Bank’s lack of response to environmental and socio-economic degradation caused by the remodelling project and the refusal to launch an inquiry. The impact of the project has ranged from displacement, loss of livelihoods, intensification of water-logging and salinity, closure of canals and river-erosion. There are concerns that it is also in violation of the Bank’s own policies and that the underlying data and design are flawed. Despite 18 months of registered protest from affected communities and repeated requests for an independent inquiry to look into the social and environmental problems of the project, neither the Bank nor the Punjab irrigation department have accepted responsibility for the projects failings, nor show signs to instigate an independent enquiry commission. Pakistani civil society organisations are reluctant to take the case to the Bank’s Inspection Panel due to the cumbersome and lengthy processed experienced in the case of the Left Bank Outfall Drainage Project (see Update 53). This lead to many recommendations being largely ignored by the Bank.

Bank's lack of response to socio-economic and environmental degradation

In addition, a letter from the Sindh Democratic Forum to President Wolfowitz and representatives of the Asian and Islamic Development Banks expresses great concern regarding proposed IFI funding for mega water projects to the government of Pakistan. In particular the letter focuses on cuts to the Indus River system which has seriously affected Sindh province’s water supply and subsequently rural economy, agriculture, drinking water and poverty levels. Sindh province is entirely dependent on the Indus for its water. The letter points out that financial support for large water projects runs contrary to the development and poverty reduction mandate of the IFIs.