Ease of Doing Business Rankings, Social and Environmental Safeguard Policies

Some background reading to understand why people are  calling for the world bank to stop ranking counties on “ease of doing business”and stop weakening its safeguard policies:
World Bank:  Ease of Doing Business  & World Bank’s Doing Business Infographic
World Bank:  Safeguard Policies  & Proposal to review & update Safeguard Policies (2014)
Letter opposing this draft from 99 NGOs / civil society networks from Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe titled:  World Bank’s Draft Safeguards Fail to Protect Land Rights and Prevent Impoverishment: Major Revisions Required (July 2014)

Bank Information Centre PRESS RELEASE: World Bank Breaks its Promise Not to Weaken Protections for the Poor and Planet

Critique written by Bretton Woods Project: Dangers of dilution: World Bank’s new weak environmental and social framework

Our Land, Our Business: How World Bank Rankings Impoverish SmallHolder Farmers and other reports by the Oakland Institute. 

Oakland Institute Press Release: Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, and NGOs Take to Streets in Ten Cities Demanding an End to World Bank’s Morally Bankrupt Development Continue reading


Notice: Rally in DC on World Bank Safeguard Policies and a Public Meeting with Medha Patkar

Demand that the World Bank stop weakening its social and environmental safeguard policies.  

Internationally renowned activist Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements will be in Washington DC and will be present at a rally in front of the World Bank.  Friends of the Earth’s notice of the rally is here.

Continue reading

Exhortation, Memorium

The Call of Harsud: Vikas Chahiye, Vinas Nahin

Baba Amte addressing Harsud Rally Photo by Smitu Kothari.  Photo of Shankar Guha Niyogi by Anand Patwardhan.  Remaining Photos taken from video footage of John D'Souza.

It was at a gathering in 1999 that many of my generation first heard of the Harsud Rally and were present when the 28th of September was declared as Harsud Day which we commemorated along with the people of the Narmada Valley in Domkhedi, in the hamlet called Kuthavani Pada, Akkalkuva Tehsil, District Nandurbar, Maharashtra.

Ten years prior, people of the Narmada Valley along with as many as fifty thousand people from villages and valleys and towns across India had come together to call for a development policy that worked for them, that supported social and environmental justice through the democratic process.  To expose and oppose policies that were made in the name of development but in fact extinguished the very resources that supported people’s lives and livelihoods, as well as the lives of myriad other species.  To stand united for just and equitable development, for the survival of the rivers and forests and all the life and culture they nourish. Continue reading

Letter to Editor

Making of an activist … Nity

Return to frontpage
Nityanand Jayaraman. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
The Hindu, Nityanand Jayaraman. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Dear Editor,

Thank you for this truly inspiring article about a dedicated, hardworking, and clear-thinking activist, Nityanand Jayaraman. As I read, I found my heart filled with hope that your article would encourage many young people to try different paths and find truly meaningful work. I appreciated reading the story of his early explorations leading him to his current endeavors. Indeed, what he and his team are doing is one of the most important tasks that our country needs today: ““We allow communities to speak for themselves — and began the Community Environment Monitoring Programme. We don’t teach them anything but make sure their local knowledge is translated into a language that public servants understand.”

May public servants learn from his example and spend time listening to local communities, who have the knowledge and experience to inform sensible policies for protecting our environment and all the life and livelihoods that depend on it.

Aravinda Pillalamarri

Here is an excellent talk that Nity gave at Srivenkateswara College, Chennai:

Bibliography, Resources

Uttarakhand Reading List

While we have all ears and eyes for reports form the ground regarding immediate relief and rehabilitation work, we should also pay attention to the very good articles and reports that are coming based on information already in our hands such as performance audits on existing programs and institutions.

With public attention turned towards Uttarakhand people are seeing real live impact of poor planning, poor implementation and climate change. As if ready for this moment to reach the public, Down to Earth Magazine has published a wealth of material on geographic and environmental aspects of the flood. Scroll down to see the links I have copied directly from their home page.

As part of Association for India’s Development, we must study these reports. We have a significant role to play in increasing public awareness of these issues. Although the tendency is to jump on eyewitness reports, we should not, to quote an excellent article by Himanshu Upadhyay, ignore the writing on the wall. I was moved by his commitment to understand the role of institutions and implementation in the present disaster:

“Yet, once again, while not rushing to ground zero to file a disaster-related human interest story, I have decided to browse through a source that friends often accuse me of being addicted to: Performance Audits by CAG of India on the working of institutions and implementation of Acts.
– Uttarakhand: Ignoring the writing on the wall

What Happened

Ground Reports

Heaven’s rage  (Down to Earth)
Food scarcity continues in Uttarakhand villages (The Hindu)
How Uttarakhand dug its grave (Tehelka)
Himalayan tragedy (Frontilne)

Disastrous Unpreparedness
Kumar Sambhav S,
CAG had warned state about lack of disaster preparedness 
(Down to Earth)  Uttarakhand government took no step to address shortcomings in three years.

Himanshu Upadhyay,  Uttarakhand: Ignoring the writing on the wall

Watershed Moment, Uttarakhand government ignored advice from CAG. Himanshu Upadhyaya, Times Crest, June 29, 2013
CAG had warned last year about Uttarakhand Crisis in Making Himanshu Upadhyaya, Governance Now, June 27, 2013

South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers and People
Lessons from Uttarakhand disaster for Selection of River Valley Projects Expert Committee (Sandrp)
Uttarakhand Floods disaster: Lessons for Himalayan states (Sandrp) 

Even as the Uttarakhand state faced the worst floods in its history, CWC, which has been given the task of forecasting floods across flood prone areas all over India, completely failed in making any forecasts that could have helped the people and administration in Uttarakhand.

Jyotsna SinghMan-made reasons for Uttarakhand disaster (Down to Earth)
Sunita Narain, Himalayan blundersDown to Earth
” … stop blaming the people living in the Himalayas for the floods in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Instead, focus on building a management system to live with floods; to harvest the excess water in ponds, tanks and groundwater recharge systems.”

Ammu Joseph, An unequal disaster in the land of Chipko (India Together) 
There is now growing international recognition of the fact that women and girls face an increased risk of violence in the chaos and loss of social cohesion that routinely follow disasters in many parts of the world. However, violence and exploitation are not the only hazards women face in the wake of disasters. Even the death toll is sometimes influenced by gender.

Excerpts from Floods, Flood Plains and Environmental Myths, Center for Science and Environment


L.S. Aravinda, Beware of Disaster Profiteering (India Together)

Throughout India farmers and social organizations are fighting an uphill battle to sustain local grains. Yet these are neither included in the public distribution system (PDS) of the government nor distributed through the private suppliers who have the infrastructure to work with large donor agencies. – See more at:

Throughout India farmers and social organizations are fighting an uphill battle to sustain local grains. Yet these are neither included in the public distribution system (PDS) of the government nor distributed through the private suppliers who have the infrastructure to work with large donor agencies

How to contain Himalayan tsunamis (Down to Earth)

The Himalaya is still geologically active and structurally unstable. Scientists speak on what needs to be done to mitigate disaster impacts in the region

CLIMATE JUSTICE STATEMENT ON THE UTTARAKHAND CATASTROPHE ” …similar catastrophes could recur with increasing frequency and intensity anywhere in the country in the coming years.”

Uttarakhand and Climate Change: How long can we ignore this in the Himalayas? (Sandrp)
” … we cannot ignore Climate Change and its associated challenges…”

PM kick starts 850 MW Ratle Project in J&K without full Impact Assessment: Invitation to another disaster in Chenab basin? (Sandrp)
India should start preparing for a large earthquake in Uttarakhand“…large parts of the Himalayas are overdue a large earthquake. Such an event would be even more destructive over an area hundreds of times as big.”

Development  in the Himalayas

The cost of development in Himalaya (Down to Earth)
There is a link between the disaster and the manner in which development has been carried out in this ecologically fragile region.

Uttarakhand: Existing, under construction and proposed Hydropower Projects: How do they add to the state’s disaster potential? (Sandrp)

Himalayas: the agenda for development and environment  (Down to Earth)

We need to think about a pan-Himalayan development strategy which is based on the region’s natural resources, culture and traditional knowledge.

Shripad Dharmadhikary (2009), Mountains of Concrete
Letter to Editor

DOW buying space in New York Times online

TO:  Editor, New York Times

Dear Editor,

I am shocked and appalled to see an ad for DOW chemical on your website.  New York Times has reported on their human rights abuses in depth.  Can they buy publicity on your front page while continuing to poison survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster, refusing to clean up, provide medical treatment or even key information that would have helped in their medical treatment.  That such a criminal corporation could simply buy their way into the prestigious space of the New York Times is outrageous.  It is because humanity is so cheaply traded that corporations get away with murder.  We look to New York Times as a beacon of journalistic responsibility, a reputation you have earned thanks to some of the best journalists in the field, serving the cause of truth and democracy.  A reputation earned by people like Pulitzer Prize-winning Robert McFadden, who reported on the Bhopal Disaster.  I strongly urge that you don’t put this reputation on the line just to make a quick buck.

Aravinda Pillalamarri

Solidarity, Tour, Volunteers

Texas / LA Regional Conference

Following up on key action items from the Columbus conference and ongoing discussions over the past few years, we had a series of regional meetings on AID philosophy and strategy for improving the quality of our work towards sustainable and just development.  In the South, AID Houston hosted such a meeting on Sept 16-17, 2006. 
In a brainstorming thread earlier, Srinadh wrote: 
 … broadly speaking it would be nice to re-emphasize (and revisit) our core AID principles:
  • For example why Sangharsh, Nirman and Seva?
  • What are our partners on the ground saying and feeling about the effects of rapid globalization?
  • Why do we oppose centralized planning without local context and input?
  • Why is peace important (example Gujarat) to development?
and the like.
In June he wrote: 

Houston, Austin, Baton Rouge and Dallas chapters are planning to have a retreat over the Sept 15 weekend in Houston, TX. (Haven’t heard from College Station folks but hoping they make it too!).Ravi and Aravinda have indicated that they will be there and join! Other interested people are welcome to join too.The Houston chapter has agreed to host the event and details are being worked on regarding logistics, agenda, schedule etc.

This is an early heads up to enable out of towners to begin planning.

More details here!


Houston, Austin, Baton Rouge and Dallas chapters

Nirveek wrote:

the recent philly workshop and the AID conference has given us several ideas as to how we can explore contemporary issues relevant to AID, constructively discuss any issue with an open mind, train each other in effective communication, i would think that in this retreat we can spend some time looking beyond just reports-kind-of-sessions – for example we can look at how we can creatively communicate with each other, new volunteers, and the community in general … since we have much more time to prepare than before the columbus conference, we can come up with a decent, well thought-out such interactive sessions. we can also take up the eFAQuate session that Aravinda started at Columbus and enrich it further.The Philly workshop brought us in touch with a group called “training for change” … and i think there are a lot of things in “effective communication” through role-playing that we can learn from them.  

After 30 posts and weekly conference calls organized by Priya, Sandhya and others in Team Texas, the dates & agenda were set, rooms booked, university support secured and one fine weekend in September, 50+ volunteers from Austin, Dallas, Houston, College Station and Baton Rouge converged in Houston for the retreat. Smaller than an AID conference, no parallel sessions, nothing to vote on, volunteers opened their minds and hearts to explore difficult questions concerning corruption, gender equality, diversity within AID, and the role of sangharsh.   Betsy from Training for Change engaged us in activities that gave us models for thinking about change, such as figuring out how to make radical change while including everyone … symbolized via an exercise where a group of us stood on a sheet and had to turn the sheet upside down without having a single person move to the floor – everyone must remain on the sheet, and the sheet must be overturned.  

Betsy of Training for Change conducted some exercises to help us think about models of social change.  At the official release of the 2007 AID Calendar Nurturing Nature, she received the first copy. 

We also had the release of the 2007 AID Calendar, whose theme was Nurturing Nature.   Betsy received the  first copy.
Yes the house is that close to the factories

On the third day of the retreat, we had a Toxic Tour of Houston, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.  Yes, the house is that close to the factories.

The second superfund site we visited

On the third day of the retreat, we had a Toxic Tour of Houston, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. This is the second superfund site we visited.

The field trip on Sunday was eye-opening and disturbing …. we went on a “toxic tour” of the city, visiting the neighborhoods in close proximity to factories emitting toxic waste.  
We read and talk about the common experience of injustice among communities across the globe.  Sometimes when we talk to people about the struggle in Bhopal or the villages along the industrial corridor of Gujarat, people can’t believe that such things are happening, and continue to this day.  Now we were standing right in the midst of it, feeling the same sense of incredulity that things could actually be this bad
Would this leave us in despair of ever making change?  Or would it empower us to recognize the struggle everywhere, in our own backyards and even within ourselves, and to BE THE CHANGE?
Exuding Passion

Volunteers on day 3 of the Texas / Louisiana Retreat, following the Toxic Tour of Texas, conducted by Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS).

More photographs taken by Keshav Narayanan during the Texas / Lousiana chapters conference: TX LA Retreat