Recent Information on World Bank Plans in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh

Recent Information on World Bank Plans in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh

Forest Alert IndiaSeptember 2004

3)      Chhattisgarh: There are also reports from MTOs in Chhattisgarh, including Nadi Gadi Morcha, that the World Bank has been proactively consulting with Government and NGOs about the possibility of implementing a so-called Community Forest Management (CFM) project across the state. An outline project proposal is contained in an official Bank Project Information Document (PID), see:http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P077572.

Despite the indications of Bank interest in Chhattisgarh and the existence of an official concept document, in July 2004, Bank officials denied any definite plans in the state. In September 2004, information from the Bank’s website advises that the project has been “dropped”. It is noteworthy, however, that the Bank’s track record has sometimes been one of denying specific plans, while behind the scenes negotiations proceed, after which projects may again quickly come on line for official approval in a very short space of time – catching movements and communities unawares and on the back foot.

Is the Bank learning lessons?

Consistent with its publicly declared “learning approach” to development, the Bank is launching the aforementioned forest pilot projects in MP and Jharkhand, in accordance with its stated approach to forest-related lending in the Bank’s Draft Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for India. In this latter document, the Bank proposes that major forestry loans will be preceded by pilot projects that would inform the design of any state-wide intervention.

But is the Bank really learning lessons? Will even these pilot projects genuinely respect the rights and wishes of forest-dependent communities? Or will they, as in the past, primarily support state government forest policies that remain largely unacceptable to tribal and other forest communities across India? Early signs from Andhra Pradesh are that the Bank remains slow to learn from past mistakes, where its current CFM project has been criticised by prominent forest-related NGOs as “old wine in a new bottle”. What is clear is that the World Bank has become ever-increasingly sophisticated at deploying seductive language in their project documents and of downplaying the negative impacts of forestry projects and flawed conceptual design of these interventions that ultimately aims to “reduce the dependence of the tribal on the forests”. Despite much rhetoric on empowerment and devolving decision-making power to communities, forest management decisions still lie firmly in the hands of state government – much to the disillusionment of participating communities.

To see the Bank’s portfolio in India, see:http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK= 217672&piPK=95916&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=223661&category=regcountries&regioncode=4&countrycode=IN

This briefing was compiled by the Forest Peoples Programme, September 2004

Despite years of controversy surrounding World Bank forestry projects in India, the World Bank is pressing ahead with major plans to make the way for large loans for further forestry projects in several States. Activists and forest movements are alerted to the following:

1)      Madhya Pradesh: At the end of June 2004, the World Bank and the Japanese Government approved a grant for a pilot “Capacity Building for Community Forestry Management” project which may lead to a state-wide Community Forest Management (CFM) project in Madhya Pradesh**. The pilot project will run for 24 months from the start of the grant (the grant agreement is still being finalised). This grant will supposedly support village level training in dispute resolution, financial management, community resource assessment, micro planning, small and medium-sized enterprise development, and participatory monitoring and evaluation. It is not clear how this pilot project will be articulated with existing Forest Department programmes, for instance whether or not it will be linked to the infamous Village Forest Protection Committees or Ecodevelopment Committees that have been so vehemently rejected by tribal communities in so many parts of MP. *There is no readily available information on the net to clarify these key points and activists in MP report that they have no knowledge whatsoever of this proposal, let alone any information on which villages might be affected. As one MTO coordinator commented on hearing this startling news: “MTOs in MP know nothing of this proposal. It seems that the Bank and the MPFD have not properly informed MTOs and tribal groups in MP about the project.” In 1996, 1999 and 2000, the MTOs in MP mobilised in widespread protests against the World Bank’s previous forestry project that was criticised for empowering the FD, further marginalising communities, placing unwanted restrictions on traditional resource rights and undermining customary livelihoods in many parts of MP.

** Although the pilot project is approved for Madhya Pradesh, on 30 September 2004, the World Bank’s website indicates that in the meantime the proposed state-wide forestry project has been “dropped” (for now). See:http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P050644 .

2)      Jharkhand: In mid-July 2004, the Bank gave the internal green light for implementation of a USD 2,000,000 (9 Crore Rupees) pilot Participatory Forest Management (PFM) project in Jharkhand, which will affect 50 villages in 5 districts. At the same time, the Bank gave the go-ahead for 16 months preparation work for a state-wide PFM project that is likely to be financed by a loan of over 100 million US dollars. Tribal leaders, activists and civil society in Jharkhand are questioning the whole process by which the pilot phase has been approved internally by the Bank. On learning of the approval of the pilot project, a spokesperson for Jharkhand Save the Forest Movement stated that the organisation intends to query the Bank about how it consulted the traditional authorities and Gram Sabahs in the five chosen districts. At this stage, activists have not even been able to obtain information about which districts will be affected. For its part, the Bank claims that specific villages have still not been identified, and will be selected on a “demand” basis. However, there is no clarity on how such demand will be judged to be truly coming from the grassroots and to what extent the position of Gram Sabahs and traditional authorities will be respected. Despite very persuasive and arguably misleading language about empowerment, scrutiny of the Bank’s Project Information Document for the PFM project has alarmed tribal leaders and activists in Jharkhand as it proposes an “Action Restriction Process Framework”, a “Physical Displacement Policy Framework” as well as “site-specific resettlement Action Plans”. Tribal representatives question how the Bank can promote a project that reinforces the states JFM policy which has been widely repudiated by the tribal movement in Jharkhand in both a memorandum to the government in November 2002 and in the Khunti Declaration of November 2003. In relation to the Bank’s plans in Jharkhand, one Mundari leader of Ranchi District asks: “How can the Bank justify plans for this top-down project?”

For a copy of the PID for the proposed state-wide project in Jharkhand see: http://web.worldbank.org/external/projects/main?pagePK=104231&piPK=73230&theSitePK=40941&menuPK=228424&Projectid=P077192