Dan­ger­ous funds

Easy World Bank loans on min­ing and power pro­jects can harm bio­di­ver­sity

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EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL­ISTS AND hu­man rights cam­paign­ers have sounded the alarm about rad­i­cal plans to ease con­di­tions for World Bank loans. This will make avail­able more than $50 bil­lion of public money a year to large power, min­ing, trans­port and farm­ing pro­jects. Leaked e-mails seen by The­Guardian re­veal that se­nior of­fi­cials at the bank feared that light­touch reg­u­la­tion would lead to an in­crease in "prob­lem pro­jects".

Ana Re­venga, the bank's vice-pres­i­dent for poverty re­duc­tion, says in one of the e-mails: "It might ap­pear that the bank is in­ter­ested in lend­ing num­ber of prob­lem pro­jects and can­cel­la­tions." The e-mail ex­changes in­di­cate that the bank may ex­pand the use of "bio­di­ver­sity off­set­ting", which lets de­vel­op­ers de­stroy na­ture in one place if they com­pen­sate for it else­where. The e-mails show that there is con­cern among the bank's pres­i­dents that en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards could lower if the plans are im­ple­mented. "Some of the lan­guage would se­verely weaken the pro­tec­tions that cur­rently ex­ist for di­ver­sity and nat­u­ral habi­tats," says Zloubida Al­laoua, vice-pres­i­dent for sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. A World Bank spokesper­son said: "We do not com­ment on leaks. A vig­or­ous and healthy in­ter­nal dis­cus­sion is an im­por­tant part of our de­lib­er­a­tive process."

AJIT BA­JAJ / CSE

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