Friday, October 27, 2006

Pakistan:Left Bank Out-fall Drain (LBOD)

Dear Executive Director
The purpose of this communication is draw yourattention to the faulty planning, design andconstruction of the Left Bank Out-fall Drain (LBOD)project in Pakistan and appeal to you to support thecompensation of native and indigenous people of theaffected areas on the lines requested by them. TheWorld Bank Inspection Panel recently completed itsanalysis and has squarely laid blame on the majorprocess, investigation, and implementation failures.The proposed compensation recommendation that ispresented here was formulated in several meetings ofthe local communities and their leaders, including apublic meeting attended by more than a thousandpersons from the affected areas.
The World Bank Inspection Panel report explicitlystates that there were serious violations of WorldBank safe guard policies and the failure of theproject related structures. The LBOD project hascaused serious environmental problems in the lowerregion of the Province of Sindh, Pakistan. The localcommunities have appealed the World Bank to accept thefindings of the Inspection panel and engage in adialogue with the representatives of localcommunities. They petition that instead of embarkingon a long process and financing other projects as acompensatory measure, the World Bank focus on directlyhelping local communities to solve the problem ofeffluent disposal as well as rehabilitation of thedestroyed livelihoods and restoration of theenvironment.
The following is a synopsis of the design and processfailures and as well the catastrophic losses for thelocal communities caused by these failures:
O Significant technical mistakes were made in thedesign of tidal link and choleri weir.
O Designers did not evaluate likelihood that underprevailing meteorological conditions high surfacewater run off from upstream areas that would coincidewith high water levels in the Arabian Sea.
O Under-estimation of risk and lack of appropriatetechnical measures have contributed to suffering oflocal people.
O The effects of the LBOD system on people and theenvironment in lower Sindh are severe.
O The LBOD system, combined with the partialdestruction of tidal link, has heightened risks tolocal people from flooding.
O Increased salinity has affected large tracts ofagriculture land; tidal link failure has led to majorharm to the eco-system, wildlife and fisheries, uponwhich many people depend for their livelihood.
O Neither potential environmental nor the potentialsocial impacts of the project in the area wereconsidered in a meaningful way, until the filing ofthe complaints by local communities.
O Drainage Sector Environmental Assessment (DSEA) wasinsufficient and outdated documents were used tojustify the project design and feasibility.
O Failure to prepare Environmental Management Plan(EMP) for National Drainage Program (NDP) andimplementation of EMP of LBOD were the missedopportunities to mitigate the environmental risks.
O People have suffered great harm and hardship, whichis in significant part a result of these structuresand their failure.
· Project paid little attention to study the impactsand rehabilitation of Dhands (Wetlands).
· O Failure to address technical problems arisen duringthe construction of tidal link.The communities living in the affected coastal area ofthe Badin district, once lived happy and prosperouslife. The disasters caused have had changed theirlives and pushed these communities to deplorableconditions. These people and their leaders have drawna set of measures that they believe would help themreasonably to deal with the LBOD related calamities asfollows:
1. There should be full investigation against thepersons and institutions who designed the faultyproject. There is a need for full accountability ofthe people and institutions for making this heinouscrime against humanity.
2. The entire loan of the project should be convertedinto grant and funds should be spent for the fullreparation of affected communities, environmentalrestoration of the area especially Dhands andrehabilitation of affected people.
3. There must be an honest and independent assessmentof losses occurred during 1999 cyclone and 2003floods. All the people who lost their family members,livestock, suffered crop losses, damage to houses andloss to agriculture land must be properly compensatedwithout any delay.
4. The World Bank, Water And Power DevelopmentAuthority (WAPDA) and other government agencies mustimmediately plan a safe alternative disposal of LBODeffluent. The local communities must be fully involvedand given a leading role in any solution that isagreed.
5. The World Bank and governments of Sindh andPakistan must start the plan for restoration ofenvironment especially the degraded environment ofwetlands.
6. There must be a comprehensive plan for protection,promotion and restoration of livelihood sources suchas agriculture land, livestock, fisheries, grazingareas and forests.
7. For immediate relief and taking people out ofshock, 4000 to 5000 jobs must be created to reducepoverty among the affected families.
8. Model education institutions must be built to bringthe education of this area at par with other areas andalso establish technical skill centers to train theyouth in different skills. Poor students of the areashould be given scholarships for opportunities topursue higher education on a priority basis.
9. The water disposed into Arabian Sea by LBOD systemmust be treated and ensured that it does not pose anythreat to marine life.
10. Government of Sindh should end the contract systemon inland fisheries thus providing opportunities forthe LBOD affected fishing community to earn theirlivelihood.
11. The district of Badin should be given its dueshare of oil and gas royalty from the nearby oil andgas fields. This can help to build the infrastructureand improve the social services for the localpopulation.
12. Right Bank Out-fall Drain will create moredevastation than LBOD, thus government of Sindh andPakistan must shelve the project and find alternativesbased on local or district wise disposal of effluent.
We hope that the World Bank will live up to its motto”Working for a World free of Poverty” by endorsingthe recommendation of the people of local areas anduse its influence the governments of Sindh andPakistan to do the likewise.
Ali Nawaz Memon

Sindh Development Institute

7204 Antares Drive

Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA 20879

Friday, October 13, 2006

Political impotence of Sindhis

I am not trying to exaggerate. I am trying to choose my words carefully.

I sense political helplessness among Sindhis every day as I (a) go through various newspapers including Kawish, (b) read emails on several Sindhi related lists, and (c) talk to politically aware people.

Through newspapers, we discover new injustices inflicted upon Sindh and Sindhis. Sale of the two islands is the latest discovery. On email lists and in our discussion groups, we talk and talk. We have come to expect that nothing will come out of the discussions. Many of our bright people have stopped reading these emails knowing that nothing will come out of it.

Our political parties and their leaders have effectively become helpless too. Our largest party and logical spokesman is perpetually rumored to be in political negotiations. Accordingly, they choose to remain silent on many Sindh issues. I pray that some day, they will be in a position to address Sindh issues. Our second largest party has chosen to be a part of the government. For them, "power today" is important, no matter what happens or does not happen to sindh or Sindhi people. Most of our national parties are reportedly sold out. One brave soul appears to be speaking and agitating but he is largely ignored by all those who matter.

Support from overseas has failed to arrive.

The net result is that the new masters have become bolder and bolder. They know that the natives are no match in any sense of the word. Like in British Raj, some bright and cooperative natives will continue to do well. The rest will be available for manual labor if and when needed.

To say the least, the net result is that Sindhis have become politically helpless. Is it fair to coin the phrase "impotant"? I think, the phrase is justified. It is time to face it.

Wise Sindhis hav begun to focus on more specific and action oriented items. Our new list "EducateSindh" and various project proposals are a right move in that direction. We must indeed become more specific and more practical. This is a right move in micro development sense. We need to help on individual and project basis. We need much more of this. This approach has potential of helping thousands.

However, the micro approach cannot solve the big problems. Big issues must be solved in political sense in the halls of political powers. The projects can establish two or ten or a hundred schools. Political decision can revitalize ove 20,000 schools in one go. We cannot give up that option or right.

So who is going to bell the cat? I can share the pain. I can help in specific projects. I can contribute some money for groups who who will work for welfare of our people. I can nudge and try to persuade others to do more for our community. I can pray for welfare of thirty million of our community. May be we can eventually we can get some one like the latest Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus and a Grameen Bank for Sindhis.

I know that we need effective political party and leader. Do we need some one like Altaf? We may not like him, but he appears to have done a lot for his community at expense of our community.

I know that nothing will come out of this discussion. I know that we cannot find a leader. I know.... But, we cannot give up. Forgive me for reminding you.

Your input and help towards development of Sindh is always welcome.

Ali Nawaz Memon
Sindh Development Institute
7204 Antares Drive Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA 20879

Nobel winner is lifeline for needy

Nobel winner is lifeline for needy

POSTED: 7:43 a.m. EDT, October 13, 2006
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NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) -- For a man who has perhaps done more than anyone to help people out of poverty, Muhammad Yunus makes no apologies for giving nothing to beggars.
Yunus is the founder of Grameen Bank, which has made more than $5.7 billion in tiny loans to poor Bangladeshis, providing a lifeline for millions and a banking model that has been copied in more than 100 nations from the United States to Uganda.
But Yunus's philosophy is to help the poor to help themselves: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but only by teaching him how to fish do you feed him for life.
So he never responds when a blind or crippled beggar or a mother cradling her baby holds out a hand for money.
"I feel bad -- sometimes I feel terrible -- that I'm denying the person. But I restrain myself. I never give them (anything)," Yunus told Reuters in a 2004 interview at Grameen's head office. "I would rather try to solve the problem than just give them a hand and take care of them for the day."
The economics professor, who along with his bank won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, has been trying to solve the problem since 1976, when he lent the equivalent of $27 to 42 women in a village near his home in the southern port of Chittagong.
The women were in hock to moneylenders charging extortionate rates, and Yunus's initial aim was simply to persuade a local bank manager to step in and offer them regular credit. The banker said it was impossible without a guarantee. So did others.
Yunus set out to prove them wrong and has never looked back. Grameen -- the word means village in Bengali -- now disburses tens of millions of dollars a month to 6.6 million borrowers, of which 96 percent are women.
"I'm very happy that I continued and that it grew into an institution and really proved its worth," said Yunus. "We have done something that put a big question mark next to the entire banking system. Banking will never be the same again."
Born in 1940 in Chittagong, the commercial center of what was then eastern Bengal, he was the son of a goldsmith, one of 14 children, five of whom died in childbirth.
A devastating famine that swept through Bangladesh in 1974, leaving hundreds of thousands dead, changed his life forever. A university field trip that year made him question how modern economic theories could ever deliver social justice to the poor.
"While people were dying of hunger on the streets, I was teaching elegant theories of economics," he told Alan Jolis, co-author of a book on his life, "The Good Banker", in a 1996 article published by Britain's Independent on Sunday.
"I started hating myself, the arrogance of pretending I had answers," he said. "We university professors were all so intelligent but we knew absolutely nothing about the poverty surrounding us.
"I decided that the poor themselves would be my teachers."
Yunus is proud that microfinance has taken off worldwide. If poor people are given the same access to credit as the rich, they will thrive, he says.
"Leave it to the people," he told Reuters. "They can take care of themselves. You don't have to shed tears for them. They are very capable."
Grameen Bank recovers nearly 99 percent of its loans even though borrowers need put up no collateral and pay a 20 percent interest rate on income-generating loans, which are always for one year.
Repayment starts the second week of the loan which releases the borrower from the need to pay a lump sum at the end of the year. All transactions are carried out in public meetings on a weekly basis in a country where corruption is endemic.
Grameen gives interest-free loans to the very poorest.
"Why should financial services be denied to the poor? Why should information technology be the exclusive privilege of rich people? Why can't we design things for poor people?" Yunus asks.
Borrowers from Grameen Bank own 94 percent of the equity of the bank. The remaining six percent is owned by the Bangladeshi government. Yunus defies critics who say his bank makes loans that are too small and too expensive, and insists he is not waging war on the rich, just helping the poor.
"I don't care if the rich get rich. It doesn't bother me. They should get richer. I'm worried about the poor getting poorer and not getting richer.
"If there are several Bill Gates in the country, I don't care. Lifting the bottom of society is the most important."
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