Stakeholders allege that IFC had not assessed all factors

A hurdle, unexpected by the State government, seems to be coming up before the proposed Vizhinjam port project.

Hotel and tourism industry stakeholders in the region are aggrieved that the project’s impact on their thriving business has not been properly studied, or had been ignored, while assessing the logic of setting up an international container transhipment port.

International Finance Corporation (IFC) is the lead transaction adviser for the project. The tourism stakeholders have complained to its Compliance Adviser/Ombudsman (CAO) that it had not displayed “due diligence” in assessing all factors involved in the proposed project.

In a letter dated September 13, IFC ombudsman Meg Taylor told the complainants that a team from the CAO’s office in Washington would “begin an assessment of the opportunities for resolving the complaint.” He said the assessment would be done within 120 working days, or even earlier, and the team would be led by special ombudsman for the CAO Scot T. Adams.

The IFC, in the ESIA (environmental and social impact assessment) scoping done on the project, had allegedly relied on studies conducted by L&T Rambol, which had been a consultant for the project even before the entry of the IFC as the lead transaction adviser, according to a petition to the CAO, signed by Cyriac Kodath, vice-president, Exnora International; Sanjeev Ghosh, former Additional Director of Fisheries in Kerala; Sudhiesh M., president of the Kerala Hotels and Restaurant Association district unit; and Shajer Khan, social activist.

Their petition to the CAO analyses, from their point of view, the recommendations of the IFC to the State government with regard to the port project, and argues that the IFC had “violated” the performance standards it had set for itself in documenting the facts.

The CAO, in his letter to the complainants, said their complaint fulfilled “the eligibility criteria for further assessment,” but added that it did not imply “any judgment on the part of the CAO of the merit of the issues raised in the complaint.” The purpose of the visit of the team led by the Special Ombudsman would be to “work with the parties to clarify the issues raised by the complainants, to gather information on how other stakeholders see the situation and to help stakeholders determine whether and how they might be able to resolve the issues through the Ombudsman or Compliance functions of the CAO.”

Ahead of the arrival of the Special Ombudsman, a team of IFC officials are visiting the State on Tuesday for an interaction with the complainants. The Board of Directors of Vizhinjam International Seaports Ltd. (VISL), the government agency in charge of executing the proposed project, is holding a meeting here on Wednesday.

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