Nagesh Prabhu

3,500 public taps removed in Bangalore alone

The panel assessed impact of the bank across 26 sectors

BANGALORE: A panel of eminent intellectuals and social scientists have damned the World Bank and its reforms and said the Greater Bangalore Water and Sanitation Project and other water supply projects, financed by the bank, do not contain a single pro-poor policy, and yet 50 per cent of the people in the area are urban poor.

The panel named as the Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank in India charged the bank as being pro-rich and criticised the manner in which the Greater Bangalore Water and Sanitation Project was being implemented.

It said that “in an attempt to show that the poor are willing to pay for water, it has spent Rs. 4.5 crore on information, education and communications mostly paid to consultants, to convince slum dwellers in Bangalore that they should pay for water.”

“In Bangalore, the very poor are increasingly becoming disconnected from the existing public water supply systems. A policy of no free water supply with 100 per cent metering has been implemented and 3,500 public taps have been removed so far,” the panel said in its 31-page report, which was released last week.

The panel comprising Amit Bhaduri, Meher Engineer, Ramaswamy R. Iyer, Alejandro Nadal, Bruce Rich, Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy, Justice P.B. Sawant, S.P. Shukla, Sulak Sivaraska, Justice H. Suresh, Romila Thapar, Justice K.K. Usha, stated that in Karnataka, water supply operation and maintenance in north Karnataka cities of Belgaum, Gulbarga, Hubli, and Dharwad had been handed over to the largest private water company in the world, Veolia, under the bank-sponsored programme.

“Interestingly, it neither pays for groundwater, which is paid for by the State nor has made any initial investment. It only makes profit,” the panel said.

The bank has granted loan of $ 39.5 million to Karnataka Urban Water Sector Improvement (2004-08) to ensure safe drinking water in four cities.

The panel, which assessed the impact of the bank across 26 sectors in India, said the World Bank was guilty of harming the environment and lowering the standard of living for most Indians.

It put together 29 specific charges against the bank such as failure in its mission to reduce poverty, advocacy of policies which contributed to increased hunger, contributing to the agricultural crisis, and deliberate posting of former staff in the Indian bureaucracy in order to influence policy and diluting Indian environmental legislation.