June 28, 2017

Is the World Bank financing impoverishment and famine?

Dear Mr Clausen,

As you will remember, a special double issue of The Ecologist (Vol. 15, No. 1/2) contained an open letter to you, in which I accused your organisation, the World Bank, of funding environmentally and socially destructive projects that were seriously contributing to the escalation of poverty, malnutrition and famine throughout the Third World.

That issue also contained a number of articles by different students of development, showing precisely how and why your policies were so destructive. It was widely distributed among decision-makers and attracted much attention. In the USA, it helped trigger off a Congressional Inquiry. In the UK, both our Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher (see a letter from her office below) and one of the leaders of the Liberal/SDP Alliance, Mrs Shirley Williams, have proposed meetings to discuss the issues it raises.

The former, however, stated that she would first like to see both your answer and that of Mr Timothy Raison, our Minister for Overseas Development to whom I had also addressed a letter on the same subject.

Both answers have now been received (yours written by Mr Jose Botafogo) and are published on pages 204 and 207 respectively of this issue. This is followed by an article by me on page 210 which seeks to answer the main arguments put forward by Mr Botafogo in defence of your policies, together with a number of relevant articles, written by students of development in Canada, the USA, the UK, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Thailand. These further expose the flaws in his arguments and clearly illustrate that it is not just in Africa that your policies are leading to environmental devastation and human impoverishment and famine. Indeed unless these are drastically modified, the tragic conditions we are at present witnessing in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa, must soon prevail throughout South and Southeast Asia. The survival of hundreds of millions of people is at stake, and I hope you will agree with me, that these should not simply be sacrificed in the interests of short-term political and economic expediency.

Yours sincerely,
Edward Goldsmith

Reply from the office of the Prime Minister

Dear Sir,

World Bank—“Global Financing of Impoverishment and Famine”

Thank you for your letter of 17 May to the Prime Minister about this special issue of The Ecologist. I have been asked to reply.

I am sorry that you have not had a reply before now. You will know, however, from the interim response already sent to you that the Overseas Development Administration will be sending you a carefully considered response as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister agrees that your thesis raises some important, and indeed controversial, issues which require an answer. It may be, as you suggest, that there would be value in the interested parties getting together to have a discussion. No doubt this can be considered further once the World Bank President and the Minister for Overseas Development have given you their considered responses.
Nicholas Towers
14 August 1985

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Mr Timothy Raison, Minister for Overseas Development, replies to The Ecologist

Dear Sir,

I am sorry for the delay in replying to your letter of 10 June but I wanted to see what the World Bank had to say in response to your criticisms of them in The Ecologist magazine which you sent me.

I have now seen a copy of the letter you were sent by the World Bank’s Vice President for External Relations on 7 August. We agree with the points made by Mr Botafogo and I believe they need no further elaboration from me.

I must say, however, that I disagree most strongly with the remarks in your letter about the Mahaweli programme in Sri Lanka. As you know, the Government of Sri Lanka are responsible for the full Mahaweli programme whose declared objectives are threefold: to open up new land for agricultural settlement; to increase food production; and to provide employment opportunities. The British Government’s direct involvement in the programme is the construction and operation of the Victoria hydroelectric project, the main purpose of which is to increase Sri Lanka’s hydroelectric capacity for the general benefit of its economy and people. In deciding to support this project we took account of likely environmental and ecological effects. We concluded that the beneficial effects far outweighed any that were adverse.

I do not know your evidence for asserting that the Mahaweli scheme will lead “to the displacement of over a million people who will be settled in the dry infertile zone of the Island where they will eke out a miserable existence until such time as they drift into the slums of the larger cities”. The important point is that those displaced by impounding etc should be properly re-settled. We understand that the number of people displaced by the construction of the Victoria project was between 30,000 and 40,000, of those about half were re-settled in downstream areas while the rest opted to remain on state lands near the reservoir. All are being paid full compensation for their lost lands and buildings and provided with a plot for building; in addition farmers are allocated irrigated land for cultivation.

Your reference to the “dry infertile zone” needs some qualification. Sri Lanka’s dry zone receives upwards of 1,000 mm of rain annually, and it is termed “dry” only because the rainfall is less copious and predictable than in the country’s south west quadrant. To describe this area as “infertile” is erroneous; its fertility is demonstrated by the fact that it contains most of the several hundred irrigation tanks constructed by the people of Sri Lanka over many centuries for the purpose of supporting agricultural settlement.

Your prediction of what will happen to the people to be re-settled under the Mahaweli programme pays no regard to the recent history of such schemes in Sri Lanka. Organised colonisation of the dry zone has been under way since the 1930s, and the Sri Lankans have plenty of experience on which to build. In the 15 years from 1953-1968 a total of about 45,000 families—perhaps a quarter of a million people—were re-settled. Our information indicates that the Sri Lankan authorities show proper concern with the human aspects of resettlement; temporary hardships are inevitable in any movement of this kind, but there appears to have been no lack of volunteers for successive re-settlement schemes.
Timothy Raison

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The Ecologist replies to Mr Raison

Dear Mr Raison,

Many thanks for your letter in which you state your acceptance of the World Bank’s position as expressed in Mr Botafogo’s letter (see p. 207 of this issue of The Ecologist). On this subject I refer you to my article and to the other articles contained in this issue which I feel, must show that this position is not reconcilable with all the evidence provided by the development experience over the last thirty years in different Third World countries.

I have sent your remarks on the Victoria Dam to a number of my contacts in Sri Lanka. I am not acquainted with any ODA Environmental Assessment Report, and, if one was done, I would very much appreciate receiving a copy. To my knowledge only two detailed environmental assessment reports were commissioned by the Sri Lankan Government; the TAMS and NEDECO reports, both of which I have in my possession. Both of them advise the government and the funders of the Mahaweli scheme of the very serious environmental problems it would create. Dr Mediwake, one of my informants, whose letter follows, maintains that few of the recommendations contained in these reports, regarding measures to minimise environmental problems, have actually been implemented. I shall elaborate on this statement when I return from a proposed visit to Sri Lanka next year.

It is the TAMS Report (Volume I, Main Report, page 27) that states that the Mahaweli project would lead to the displacement of a million people. Since then, the project has been simplified and you are quite right in stating that far less people will be affected. Dr L. W. Mediwake considers that the figure is likely to be no more than 100,000. Nevertheless this is still a lot of people and contrary to what you say, they are unlikely to be paid full compensation for their loss of land and buildings. Some, as you rightly note, have elected to stay in the area, but those who will be moved are to be settled, as I stated, on land that is considerably less fertile than that of the area in which they previously lived. Dr Mediwake elaborates on this point in his letter.

As you rightly point out, the dry zone of Sri Lanka was thickly populated for many centuries and the civilisation developed in that area was a highly sophisticated one. What you do not mention, however, is that it only survived because of the highly elaborate traditional irrigation system that was developed in that country and which eventually fell into decay, possibly as a result of social upheavals. This my colleague Nicholas Hildyard and I, have described in our book The Social and Environmental Effects of Large Dams, a copy of which has been sent to your Department.

Unfortunately, however, since this remarkable system of irrigation is no longer in operation, life in the dry zone is considerably more difficult for those who have been moved there than in the wet zone where they previously lived. Indeed, it seems inevitable that a considerable number of them, judging from experience with other resettlement schemes of this sort, will end up in the shanty-towns. Mr Mediwake, as you will see, also makes this point.

Yours sincerely,
Edward Goldsmith

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Doctor L. Mediwake, Geographer and resident of the Dumbara Valley, until his land was flooded by the Victoria Dam project, comments on Mr Raison’s letter

Dear Teddy,

Many thanks for your short note and for the photostat copy of the letter written to you by Timothy Raison your Minister for Overseas Development.

As you may know, when the Mahaweli development programme was conceived in the sixties and seventies both the Sri Lankan Government and the donor countries worked out a Master Plan. The chief sponsors were the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. The team that worked out the master plan was composed of experts from a number of countries and was headed by a Russian professor with an international reputation in hydraulics. I understand that this team advised that the Randenigala should be a high dam and the Victoria a low dam. The reason was that the Dumbara Valley was such a rich, highly developed agricultural area that it was advisable to flood as little as possible of it.

The then scientific adviser and the environmental adviser to your Ministry of Overseas Development wrote to me at the time, and asked me to assess for them the likely adverse effects of this project. I was the obvious person to choose for this purpose since I am not only a qualified geographer but I was also a resident of the Dumbara Valley. The document I drew up was praised in our Parliament, but was bitterly criticised by the minister in charge of the Mahaweli Ministry who even threatened to jail me. I understand that it was only due to the timely intervention of his excellency the President that this was avoided.

In any case, my advice was ignored. The project has now gone ahead and has led to the flooding of vast tracts of jungle, valuable agricultural land, many villages and a number of ancient Buddhist temples.

In addition, so as to permit the new colonisation schemes, thousands and thousands of acres of virgin jungle have also been cleared to create new paddy lands which will obtain their water by diversion schemes further down the Mahaweli river. The damage to wildlife has been enormous, the Randenigala project has blocked the elephants’ only migratory route. Very recently elephants have destroyed the camp site of the German contractors which was blocking their route to their feeding grounds upstream. Once the Randenigala Project has been built those feeding grounds will have been totally destroyed.

Of the five thousand families affected by Victoria a third or so belong to the category of low income people. However while living in this fertile valley they had built up a relatively comfortable and self sustaining way of life (unique to the Kandyan Country of Sri Lanka). Today, however, they are living in conditions with half of what they had before because of the high cost of building and the nature of the land from which they must now earn their living.

The trouble is that the fertile soil and water is found at the bottom of the valleys and not on hill tops and high ground. The soil of the Dumbara Valley, which has now been flooded by the Victoria Lake, is rich sandy loam, moisture-retaining and fertile while the soils of the newly cleared jungle areas harden during the dry season and cannot be used for crop production without irrigation water. Furthermore the Dumbara Valley, situated approximately a thousand three hundred feet above sea level, has a moderate climate which makes it suitable for a variety of food crops, spices and tree crops, whereas the climate of the newly cleared jungle areas is extremely hot during the day and night with heavy seasonal rainfall. For these reasons the income earned on a quarter acre of land in the Dumbara Valley cannot be earned even with enormous effort and suffering from two acres in the new settlements.

Regarding those who have opted to migrate to the new colony of Ulhitiyawa in the dry zone, each family was lured there by the offer of three acres of land and one thousand five hundred rupees (approximately £360) in cash to build a hut, supplemented with a few dry rations from the World Food Programme.

The question is whether they will have access to the necessary irrigation facilities.

Indeed the Kotmale, Polgolla, Victoria and Randenigala projects do not irrigate any land directly. Polgolla water is diverted through a tunnel to two power stations and fifty miles away it feeds or augments the existing old canal and tank network in the North Central Province. Therefore the greater part of the Mahaweli Programme does not provide any irrigation facilities to the peasants directly except through a diversion canal way down the river at Ulhitiyawa. The Mahaweli Scheme is therefore nothing but a mighty hydro-electric programme.

What is more, much of the irrigation water is likely to be made available for export crops to earn foreign exchange, rather than for food crops for the local people. The original plan was to lease out thousands of acres from the Maduruoya Project to Multinationals. This however has been temporarily abandoned due to various protests. However, the long established Ceylon Tobacco Company, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco is everywhere encouraging the cultivation of tobacco and cash crops for export and city consumption.

If the settlers are not provided with sufficient funds to acquire a suitable property and basic facilities such as good access roads and irrigation water, they will clearly not be capable of earning their livelihood, let alone of paying the new taxes that they have been asked to pay from the meagre compensation they have received. What makes matters even more difficult is that many communities have been broken up which will make traditional paddy cultivation—based as it is on community participation-very much more difficult.

Under such conditions, many people will undoubtedly abandon the new settlements and many will be condemned to drift to the city slums.

We must also ask ourselves how we are going to run and maintain so massive an engineering works? The aid package includes ten years minimum management and maintenance, but what happens after that? It is unlikely that we will have either the facilities or the number of trained engineers to run and maintain it ourselves.

In my opinion, the Victoria dam can only be a financial disaster, and it seems unjust to create so much suffering and inconvenience to more than 30,000 people for the sake of producing electricity so that people in our cities can adopt the Western electricity-based way of life. I for one still prefer to go to bed with the sunset and rise with the sunrise, as I have always done in the past.

Yours sincerely,

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Development and Environment: A Reply to The Ecologist

by Jose Botafogo G. of The World Bank
The latest issue of The Ecologist (Vol. 15, No. 1/2) contains a large number of unfounded charges and allegations about The World Bank and its work in developing countries. The editor of The Ecologist requested a response and we welcome this opportunity to set the record straight.

Perhaps the most unfounded allegation is that development per se is antithetical to the aspirations and interests of poorer nations, is automatically destructive of the environment in those countries and that the Bank, as a development institution, therefore contributes to these alleged maladies.

This deduction is frankly preposterous. It ignores some fundamental facts about current conditions in developing countries. The most fundamental fact of all is the widespread poverty, the very worst form of environmental degradation. Only about a quarter of the people who live in developing countries, for example, have access to clean water. Disease typically takes up a tenth of a person’s productive time. Poverty also puts severe and often irreversible strains on the natural environment. At survival level, people are sometimes compelled to exploit their environment too intensively.

Then there is the fundamental fact of excessive population growth. Poverty and rapid population growth reinforce each other. In Africa, for example, population is growing at a rate faster than in any continent in history—three per cent a year or twentyfold a century. This enormous growth in human numbers, now underway for a third of a century, is taxing natural support systems throughout the continent. In country after country, forests and grasslands are being decimated. Soil erosion and the loss of soil organic matter are diminishing land productivity over much of Africa.

No serious analysis of these problems could possibly conclude that they are the result of economic development, as The Ecologist implies. Africa’s phenomenal population growth is largely the result of public health measures and vaccinations, which have reduced death rates, but without parallel efforts to reduce birth rates. The World Bank’s 1984 World Development Report dealt with the problems of global population growth. One central message was that economic and social progress helps slow population growth but, at the same time, rapid population growth hampers economic development.

Sustainable economic development, carefully conceived and managed, offers realistic opportunities for resolving or alleviating these problems. The World Bank’s mandate is to help promote such development in its member developing nations. And an integral part of this development effort is proper resource management.

We certainly do not have all the answers in this difficult area and we have much to learn. But we are trying. Through our lending operations and our continuing dialogue with developing countries we attempt to heighten awareness of the need for improved resource management as a critical ingredient in sustainable growth strategies. We are working on many other fronts as well. In agricultural research, we are collaborating with other agencies in the Cooperative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to seek solutions to a host of basic problems, among them how to improve soil and water management in Africa and to increase yields from rainfed crops. Through our development project work we are attempting to increase supplies of fuelwood without creating erosion problems. We are prepared to help find better ways of saving or regenerating scarce forest resources. The only limitation here is the willingness and ability of countries to implement sustainable development and conservation programmes.

These efforts are being pursued in many ways and not only, as The Ecologist alleges, through large development projects. Most of the Bank’s lending each year—twenty-five to thirty per cent—goes for agriculture and rural development activities, mainly for food production and to help thousands of small farmers become more productive. Our lending for health, family planning, water supply, mainly benefits lower income groups in cities and villages. In energy, our aim is not only to help develop new energy resources, including renewable energy, but also to promote greater conservation through appropriate pricing policies and other actions. In industry, the main beneficiaries of our efforts are seldom large plants but many medium and small enterprises throughout the developing world.

But size is not the real issue. The issue really is how we can most effectively help most of the world’s peoples strengthen their economies and improve their living standards. Developing countries today face perhaps unprecedented difficulties and challenges. They have been hit especially hard by the recent shocks to the global economy—the energy crisis, persistent recession, the international debt problem and the natural catastrophe of prolonged drought. All societies face difficult choices. In developing countries, the choices must be made in the face of deplorably widespread poverty, unemployment, rapidly growing population, other deprivations.

The World Bank has been assisting developing countries with these choices for some thirty-five years. We have learned that economic development, while a slow, long and often painful process, can yield enormous dividends if done carefully and well.

For example, some twenty years ago, India was unable to feed itself. It was importing about ten million tons of food grains each year. Today, food production has increased to the point where India can feed itself. This achievement is a tribute to sensible government policies—development policies—as well as assistance from development agencies such as The World Bank, and its affiliate, the International Development Association (IDA).

Sound economic development policy, aided by external financial and technical assistance, also helps explain the Korean success story. Twenty-five years ago, Korea was an extremely poor country with a per capita income of about $80 a year and a future that many regarded as uncertain, if not bleak. Today the average Korean can expect to live more than 67 years, up from 53 years in 1960. Infant mortality has dropped from 78 per thousand to 32 per thousand over the same period while the number of city dwellers with access to safe drinking water has soared to 85 per cent from 18 per cent. Per capita income is now up to about $2,000. There are many other examples of development success and the World Bank has played a constructive role in many of these achievements.

As we see it, an overriding issue is how to avoid environmental damage or reduce it to an acceptable minimum without slowing the pace of development. When poorly planned, development may contribute to the depreciation of a country’s natural capital. Even when carefully planned, the process of economic development may cause some modification of natural ecological systems.

But this is no reason to abandon the search for better ways to help most of the world’s peoples strengthen their economies and improve their living standards. With due attention to resource management, economic development can improve people’s environment, in the broad sense of the word. That is, after all, the fundamental purpose of development. And that is the fundamental mandate of The World Bank.

In the final analysis, sustainable development and wise conservation are mutually reinforcing and absolutely inseparable goals.

The Ecologist makes many other unfounded allegations. Because of the diversity of the subjects, it is more appropriate to group responses under a few sub-headings, which deal with most of the major issues.

A. Cash Crop Versus Food Crop Production in Sub-Saharan Africa:

The allegation is made that the Bank, and other development agencies, have stressed cash, or export, crop production in Sub-Saharan Africa, instead of food crops, and thereby have encouraged impoverishment and famine.

The facts are quite different. In the last ten years, (1974-84), The World Bank and its affiliate, the International Development Association (IDA), provided almost five billion dollars for agricultural development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Only about fifteen per cent of this assistance went for pure cash, or export, crop production. The rest was for food crop production or a combination of food and export crop production as well as for livestock and fisheries development to help increase domestic consumption. The so-called dichotomy between food and cash crops is actually quite misleading. Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, both are grown, often in rotation and experience has demonstrated that countries with dynamic export production generally do better, not worse, in food production as well.

Increased exports are needed to finance the import of critical items needed for food, as well as cash crop production. Foreign exchange scarcity, which is largely the result of declining crop exports, can impede food production as well and this phenomenon is common in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The task really is to look carefully at the total agricultural sector in each country and try to improve it by helping to increase production in areas where the need is great and the advantage large. Sometimes, the appropriate approach may involve a fairly comprehensive development programme or project involving a range of services. In other instances, a more modest intervention is warranted. The ultimate decision, of course, rests with each country and The World Bank tries to help with the best possible technical advice and financial assistance.

B. Forestry Projects in India:

The charge is made that Bank-supported forestry projects in India are promoting deforestation of remaining forested areas and that social forestry projects designed to help the poor are, in fact, mainly aiding wealthier individuals. The Bank-financed Madhya Pradesh Forestry Technical Assistance Project in Bastar is singled out for criticism.

Of India’s total land area, twenty-three per cent or about 75 million hectares, is designated in land revenue records as ‘forests’, mostly government owned. Increasing population and cattle pressures have resulted in an ever-increasing depletion and degradation of much of the natural forests so that only about forty million hectares of this land is actually tree covered. Deforestation has resulted because of outright clearing for agriculture or through the slow and continuous decimation that comes from meeting the fodder, fuel and timber needs of the community and industry. The government has accorded high priority to forestry development. It is one of the ten areas of development which Prime Minister Gandhi has singled out for special attention.

The World Bank’s first intervention in the forestry sector came in 1975, with the Madhya Pradesh Forestry Technical Assistance Project. It was designed to investigate the possibilities of developing a pulp and paper industry in the Bastar region. However, the project was actually terminated a few years later. The government and the Bank agreed that the industrial development proposal would not be justified because of social and environmental considerations of tribal peoples in the area.

Since then, the main thrust of the Bank’s operations has been in support of India’s social forestry programme. We have approved seven projects involving assistance in eleven states. Each of these has had the objective of increasing the supply of fuelwood and providing poles, small timber, fodder and other minor forest products to those living in rural areas, with additional concern for increasing employment and fuelwood supplies for marginal farmers and the landless. The Bank’s experience with social forestry in India is relatively brief, with the first projects just completing five years of implementation. Nevertheless, many useful lessons have been learned and are constantly being used to improve social forestry programmes.

The main purpose of early projects was to produce fuelwood, particularly for the rural poor. Quantitative goals have been met or exceeded in all states; tree farming by individual farmers has proved to be more popular and cost effective than was originally expected. While only a small part of the earlier projects was aimed at farm forestry, this has become a major focus in later projects.

While it is true that so-called large farmers have participated in social forestry and expect to make money selling the trees they plant once the trees mature, it is wrong to conclude that large farmers are the main beneficiaries. For example, a recent survey in Gujarat showed that about 67 per cent of the farmers planting seedlings owned two hectares or less of land.

The World Bank is concerned about ensuring an adequate supply of wood products to the poor and recent projects have been designed to help meet this need.

C. Brazil’s Polonoroeste Programme

The Ecologist alleges that Bank-financed projects in northwestern Brazil (Polonoroeste) have aggravated environmental problems and jeopardised the position of several indigenous Amazon tribes.

In 1980, the Bank, at the request of the Government of Brazil, undertook a general economic survey of the Northwest region. The request arose from concern that an uncontrolled and spontaneous settlement process, accelerated in the late 1960s when a dirt highway was built into the area, could harm the regional ecology. The Bank produced a report that concluded that the region has high potential for economic development based on agriculture, provided a balanced, long-term programme could be undertaken in which environmental risks were minimised. After careful deliberation, the government adopted such a programme. One important aim was to steer continuing migration away from fragile and/or ecologically exceptional areas (including Amerindian areas) and to encourage sound agricultural practices that would preserve the region’s long-term potential.

The Bank has assisted this programme through projects approved between 1981 and 1984 involving a total of about $435 million. Throughout this period, Bank staff, working with government and regional officials, have undertaken periodic comprehensive reviews of the programme’s progress. It is true that there have been problems and this is understandable given the dynamic nature of the growth and change taking place. For example, the programme has been comparatively more successful with infrastructure development than with institution building or services to farmers. The special project for protection of Amerindians, involving, among other things, full establishment of five reserve areas, has not moved as well as planned.

As a result of these and other implementation difficulties, the Government of Brazil earlier this year took the initiative to have disbursements from outstanding Bank loans supporting the programme held in abeyance until a remedial action plan could be discussed and agreed with the Bank. This was done and progress is now being made.

In retrospect, the easiest course for the Bank might have been not to get involved at all in the Polonoroeste programme, to ‘play it safe’ and thereby possibly avoid public criticism. This would not, however, have prevented environmental problems and jeopardy to tribal people from occurring as a result of continued uncontrolled settlement.

We should add that the entire history of the Bank’s involvement in this programme, as well as the current situation, was explained and discussed in great detail last May to a group of individuals interested in environmental matters, including one of the authors of the article in The Ecologist.

D. Indonesia Transmigration:

The Ecologist characterises Indonesia’s transmigration programme, which the Bank has helped to support, as an ecological ‘debacle’.

In fact, one major purpose of Indonesia’s transmigration programme is to reduce ecological damage and stabilise fragile ecosystems in Java where large population densities in critical watershed areas create deforestation, siltation of reservoirs and other problems.

The resettlement of Indonesians from densely populated Java and Bali to other islands of the archipelago actually began 80 years ago. Since independence in 1949, the government has assigned high priority to the programme, in view of the potential benefits to be realised in reducing land and population pressures in one part of the country, transferring skilled farmers to underused land elsewhere, raising the incomes of transmigrants themselves and stimulating regional development in remote parts of Indonesia.

While transmigration is strongly encouraged, the programme is voluntary and applicants are placed on waiting lists.

The Bank has financed several projects since the mid-1970s to support the transmigration programme. The main thrust of our assistance, which involves about ten per cent of total financing for the programme, is to undertake planning studies to ensure the selection of suitable sites and appropriate designs for eventual settlements. These studies are not confined to technical judgments about the climate, topography, fertility, hydrology and accessibility of prospective sites. They also involve an assessment of environmental features; existing and alternative land uses; prior claims on the land from other government programmes, such as forestry, or from local populations; the likely costs of settling large numbers of people in specific areas; and a range of options for ensuring the most economic and socially acceptable development of proposed sites. The government has made good use of these studies and almost half of the sites rejected in the past have been ruled out primarily on environmental and social grounds rather than on the basis of their poor agricultural potential.

There is considerable concern about the impact of transmigration to Irian Jaya, where the indigenous people do not share the same cultural features or history as the migrants. The government, with assistance from the Bank, has taken various steps to anticipate and prevent possible problems for the local people. These include, among others, requirements that (a) settlement sites have soils capable of sustaining crops; (b) economic development be promoted at a pace that will not unduly jeopardise the cultural milieu of local peoples; (c) settlement be prohibited in wildlife reserves or areas of particular ecological importance.

While transmigration has been controversial and has encountered problems, on balance it has benefited the national economy in several ways. It has demonstrated that there are sound, sustainable measures that can be taken to reduce or eliminate ecological damage, taking into account the lives and cultures of people, presence of primary forests, soils for agricultural use and other environmental factors. It has increased food production by expanding cropped areas and allowed previously landless farmers to become self-sufficient in food. It has created hundreds of thousands of new agricultural jobs. It has provided improved education and health services to transmigrant families. And it has helped at the margin to contain soil exhaustion and erosion in the most densely populated areas of Java.
Jose Botafogo G.
Vice-president for External Relations
The World Bank

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Is Development the Solution or the Problem?

Edward Goldsmith answers Jose Botafogo
It is only since the end of the last war that development has been made out to be a veritable panacea for all the world’s ills. The policies that characterise the development process were previously pursued by colonial governments for the avowed purpose of providing them with a source of cheap raw materials and a captive outlet for their manufactured goods. It was rarely suggested that such policies also served the interests of the colonies themselves.

Today, to suppose that they might not serve those of our now independent ex-colonies is regarded by Mr Botafogo of the World Bank as “preposterous”. Unfortunately, most representatives of large institutions involved in development, and most of the experts who work for them, would probably concur.

Yet what evidence do they have to support such a view? Empirically, none at all. In the last thirty years, every consideration, whether ecological, social, aesthetic or spiritual, has been subordinated to the overall goal of development. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on means of achieving it and there has been a massive transfer of technological knowhow from North to South. Indeed, Ayensu1 tells us that in Africa alone, 80,000 experts from the industrial world are busily at work at a cost of an annual eight billion dollars. Nor have such efforts been in vain. Massive changes, there have been, and in purely economic terms, they have given rise to considerable economic growth—the accepted measure of the development achieved.

In spite of this, the last thirty years have been the most disastrous in the history of most, if not all, Third World countries. There has been massive deforestation, soil erosion and desertification. The incidence of floods and droughts has increased dramatically as has their destructiveness, population growth has surged, as has urbanisation, in particular the development of vast shanty-towns, in which human life has attained a degree of squalor probably unprecedented outside Hitler’s concentration camps.

With such developments, have come increased malnutrition and hunger; so much so, that today we are witnessing, for the first time in human history, famine on a continental scale, with two-thirds of African countries to some degree affected.

What is more, this terrible catastrophe is not just the result of a temporary Act of God, as we are often led to believe, but of a constellation of closely associated largely man-made ecological and climatic changes, which may prove difficult, both politically, economically and ecologically too, to reverse.

It is often argued by proponents of development, that Africa is a special case and that development has been very much more successful elsewhere. Mr Botafogo cites India as an obvious success story. Thus he states “that some 20 years ago India was unable to feed itself. It was importing about 10 million tonnes of food grain each year. Today, food production has increased to the point where India can feed itself.” This achievement he regards as “a tribute to sensible government policies, as well as to assistance from development agencies such as the World Bank and its affiliate the International Development Association (IDA).”

India has indeed become “self-sufficient”, but that term is used in the narrowest economic sense to mean that the food available in the shops is sufficient to satisfy the requirements of all those who can afford to buy it, but it tells us nothing of the largely unsatisfied food requirements of the vast bulk of the people who cannot afford to buy it. Sumanta Banerjee and Smitu Kothari make this point abundantly clear. (See p. 257 of this issue of The Ecologist.) Development, rather than increased food availability, they show, has actually increased malnutrition and hunger in their country.

The experience in other South Asian countries has been very similar. Thus Mohiuddin Ahmed (see p. 261 of this issue) shows how the same is true in Bangladesh. Narinder Kaur, (see p. 263 in this issue) shows how development has led to increased poverty and malnutrition in Malaysia, Sulak Sivaraksa (see p. 266 of this issue) shows how it is having precisely the same effects in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. At the same time, in his article Kumar Rupesinghe shows in great detail (p. 246 of this issue) what has been the terrible effect on the welfare of the people of Sri Lanka of adopting the export oriented policy that the World Bank and the IMF, in effect, impose on Third World countries which is considered to be the true road to development.

There are of course many ways of interpreting the failure of a policy. Thus, a tribal rainmaker, when confronted with the failure of the magical rites which his ancestors have performed from time immemorial in order to induce rain, is unlikely to incriminate the rites themselves. They are above suspicion. There must be some other way to explain his failure, such as to attribute it to some technical flaw in their implementation or to his failure to perform the rites with sufficient vigour or to repeat them the requisite number of times.

The latter interpretation is, of course, particularly convenient, since it would automatically follow that what is above all required is more vigorous and more numerous magical rites, which, as it happens, it is his prerogative to perform.

In the same way, Mr Botafogo must regard as “preposterous” the very suggestion that development, which it is the very raison d’être of the World Bank to finance, might be the real cause of so much human misery. This, he will rather be tempted to attribute to poor management, local corruption, or better still to insufficient development, or “underdevelopment” as poverty is also referred to in the development jargon.

If it is the poor who create all the problems, then it clearly makes sense, also to incriminate, as Mr Botafogo does, their demographic proliferation, for which, as it happens, further development is also held out to provide the cure.

Blaming Poverty and Population Growth

Even environmental disruption, Mr Botafogo attributes entirely to poverty and population growth. Poverty, he tells us “puts severe and often irreversible strains on the natural environment.” What is more, these strains get worse as the poor proliferate. Indeed “poverty and rapid population growth reinforce each other.”

Unfortunately it is easy to verify empirically that wherever, in the Third World, peasants overtax their soil or over-exploit their forests, it is that much of their land and of their forests have been taken away from them to accommodate large development schemes, and the area left at their disposal is too small and of too low a quality to satisfy their needs. Thus Paul Ngei, Kenya’s Minister for the Environment also recently declared that deprived people are a threat to the environment. But as Martin Redfern, the Nairobi correspondent of the New Scientist notes, this “fitted badly with his own announcement, two days before, of a plan to uproot 17,000 hectares of Kenya’s natural forests to make way for government tea plantations.” Often, Redfern notes “it is the grandiose schemes of governments that do the real environmental damage.”2

Indeed, “peasants left to themselves” according to Shelton Davis, and “given enough physical space, are environmental improvers.”3 He quotes Professor Michel Cepede, who insists that when such conditions are satisfied, “fertility is progressively built up on naturally poor land.” “Even today, in poorer countries”, Davis writes, “small plots worked by peasants have proved up to thirteen times as productive as large mechanised holdings, although this is no longer possible when the resources available to them are drastically reduced. Then they are accused of ‘overcultivating’ and ‘overgrazing’ the little that has been left them—as indeed they must if they hope to ensure immediate survival.”

One of the forms of environmental destruction that is invariably attributed to overpopulation and poverty is deforestation. But, as Val Plumwood and Richard Routley point out: 4

“The bulk of the West African rainforest is found in the Cameroons, the Congo, Zaire and Gabon, which according to the World Bank “are all timber-rich countries with comparatively low population densities.”

Papua New Guinea is now also being systematically deforested and all its accessible forests are likely to have disappeared by the end of this century, yet that country is very sparsely populated. Deforestation has also been massive both in New Zealand and Australia and today continues unabated, though these countries have among the lowest population density of any countries in the world, and their citizens enjoy a very high standard of material consumption.

In Brazil, according to official figures issued in the years 1966-75, 60 per cent of the forest destruction was to accommodate large-scale cattle raising schemes (3,865,271 hectares) and the highway construction programmes (3,075,000 hectares) both of which were financed by the World Bank and other similar organisations, while less than 17.6 per cent were lost to state colonisation schemes whose object was ostensibly to settle landless peasants.5

Even these figures overstate the real contribution made by overpopulation and poverty to the forest destruction, for, as Jose Lutzenberger6 points out, the peasants who have invaded the Rondonian part of Amazonia, have done so because their lands in the State of Rio Grande Do Sul have been taken over by large scale export-oriented agricultural enterprises. It is to the latter that the destruction should, in reality, be imputed.

What does Development involve?

The real cause of all the environmental destruction becomes clear if one considers what sort of policies Third World countries must adopt in order to develop and how such policies must affect their environment.

One must first realise that in order to develop, a Third World country must be able to earn a great deal of foreign exchange so as to finance the import of all the inputs required for modern agriculture, modern industry, modern warfare and modern living. Now how can they earn this foreign exchange?

For various fairly obvious reasons, few are equipped to produce manufactured goods nor high technology devices that can hope to be competitive on the world market, so they are forced to ‘develop’ their natural resources, which basically means transforming them into commodities which can be exploited commercially. This sounds eminently reasonable, but it has two unfortunate consequences. The first is that once a resource is developed and put up for sale in “the global supermarket”, the rural poor of the Third World, many of whom do not earn more than twenty dollars a year, must compete for it with the citizens of western cities like Los Angeles, many of whom may earn as much as twenty dollars an hour.

This means that the resource is no longer available to them. As Banerjee and Kothari show (see p. 257 of this issue) it suffices in India, to transform any resource that was previously freely available to all, into a commodity to be bought and sold on the market for it to be inaccessible to the bulk of the rural poor.

The most obvious resource for a newly developing country to develop is its forests. It was by developing its forests, for instance, that the Indonesian “economic miracle” was achieved. Another obvious resource to develop is the land that has been cleared of its forest cover, and that which is “uneconomically” farmed by traditional subsistence farmers, and which can be transformed into plantations growing cash-crops or into rangelands producing beef for the export market.

The development of such resources is regularly funded by the big multilateral development banks (see Teresa Hayter and Catharine Watson, page 222 of this issue). Mr Botafogo of course will not face this. He insists that

“eighty-five per cent of loans provided by the World Bank for agriculture to Sub-Saharan Africa have been for food crop production or a combination of food and export crop production as well as for livestock and fisheries development to help increase domestic consumption.”

What is more, he tells us,

“the so-called dichotomy between food and cash crops is actually quite misleading. Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, both are grown, often in rotation, and experience has demonstrated that countries with dynamic export production generally do better, not worse, in food production as well.”

Unfortunately, the development of fisheries in the Third World cannot be regarded as a means of feeding local people as they are almost entirely geared to the export trade (see George Kent pages 232-239 of this issue). Indeed, very few of the rural poor in Africa or South Asia can afford to buy beef produced by World Bank-financed cattle rearing schemes.

What is more, the dichotomy between food crops and cash crops is, contrary to what Mr Botafogo says, absolutely fundamental.

The amount of good arable land available in any country is very limited. For instance, in Egypt, only three per cent of the country is suitable for agriculture, the rest being mainly desert. What is more, the land used for export crops is invariably the best land, the peasants growing food for local consumption being pushed onto the marginal lands which are rapidly eroded and desertified inevitably causing malnutrition and eventually famine.

Consider the result of the World Bank’s policy in Tanzania. In the 1960s it agreed to back a government programme to intensify land-use. By the end of 1975, the Bank had invested 2,015—16 million Tanzanian shillings for this purpose, of which 40 per cent was for agricultural purposes. Not a single project, however, according to Dinham and Hines7 is designed to produce basic foodstuffs for local consumption. Loans from other agencies were also mainly for cash crops. In 1978-79, for example, 61 per cent of loans went towards increasing tobacco production. Somewhat depressingly, Dinham and Hines comment:

“The bias in investment toward export crops did little to increase food production and, indeed, tended to push food crops into the more arid parts of the country while good land was turned over to export crops.

In Sahelia one of the areas which has suffered most from famine in the last ten years, the expansion in the cultivation of peanuts for export, mainly to France, “has” according to Trainer “forced nomadic peoples on to marginal lands which have inevitably been overgrazed and desertified.”8 

Not only has the land been taken away from the nomads but, as Trainer notes:

“The scarce water resources have been ‘assigned’ by agricultural business corporations to the production, not of food, but of products for marketing to the industrial world.”

As Franke and Chasin write9 “agricultural exports from the Sahelian countries to Europe actually increased during the late sixties and early seventies, in the face of worsening drought and widespread hunger.” In fact,

“during the drought in Mali, the area planted with the two most important export crops, peanuts and cotton, was expanded by almost 50 per cent and over 100 per cent respectively between 1965 and 1972.”

This can hardly have helped the starving people to feed themselves.

Horrifying as it may sound much of this area has been earmarked as a future ‘greenhouse’ for Euorpe. Indeed, as far back as the early 1970s a confidential World Bank report noted: “Senegal is the closest country to the European market where vegetables can be cultivated in the open without glass or plastic protection during the winter.”10 Since then, the Bank has been even more specific in its recommendations for developing the area. Thus, according to Francis Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins,11 “recent World Bank reports on Senegal and Mauritania see the region’s future in mango, aubergine and avocado exports.”

Perelman12 goes so far as to say that Africa “is being converted into a farm for exporting luxury crops such as flowers, protein rich legumes and even meat.” Much the same could be said of the Asian countries (see George Kent pp. 232-239 in this issue).

Developments in Central America also illustrate how World Bank policies create malnutrition and famine. Thus Lappé and Collins cite the experience of San Salvador, where plantations now take up half of the total farming area of the country—including all the prime land.

“The land left over, mainly barren hills, is all that some 350,000 ‘campesinos’ have on which to scratch out a subsistence living for their families. Much of the land they are forced to cultivate is so steep it has to be planted with a stick. The erosion can be so devastating—one study concluded, that 77 per cent of the nation’s land is suffering from accelerated erosion—that the ‘cam-pesinos must abandon a slope after a single year’s meagre yield.”13

It is in Central America too that the World Bank policy of funding totally destructive livestock rearing ventures may have had the most devastating effects. To quote Lappé and Collins:

“Since 1963, the World Bank has provided funds for cattle ranching activities to every Central American country except El Salvador. In the last twenty years, the area of man-made pastures and the number of beef cattle in Central America have increased by about two-thirds. Apparently this has the effect of reducing the price of hamburger in the US by about five cents a pound, and helps to fight domestic inflation. But during the 1960s and 1970s, when beef production in Costa Rica more than tripled, local consumption of beef actually declined to the point where the average Costa Rican ate less beef per year than the average North American house cat.14 

As Patricia Adams notes:

“In Central America, more than one quarter of all forests have been destroyed since 1960 to produce beef—90 per cent of which went to US hamburger chains and petfood companies, which pay more than the Latin American peasant can afford. For this reason, despite the enormous increase in the amount of beef for export, less is affordable for the local people. In Guatamala, beef exports increased from zero to 15,000 tons per year in the last decade, but Guatemalans today eat 50 per cent less beef. Not only are the rainforests destroyed but food production suffers.”15

In the Dominican Republic, more and more of the best land has been turned to cash crops, in particular to sugar. As a result food availability has steadily fallen. To quote Robert Ledogar,

“to the undernourised small farmers, subsistence farmers and landless labourers—who together comprise about 75 per cent of the rural population—the endless vista of cane fields looks like a great green plague slowly destroying their land.”16

It is the spread of that plague that the World Bank irresponsibly continues to finance, in spite of all Mr Botafogo’s assurances to the contrary.

Cashing in Resources

The second unfortunate consequence of developing a resource is that it has a considerable chance of being rapidly exhausted. The reason is that no effective mechanism exists for assuring its sustained exploitation. This means that it is exploited as rapidly as possible so as to maximise short-term economic returns. That is how we in Britain, for instance, are exploiting our North Sea oil, and it does not occur to us to exploit it any other way.

Indeed, to develop a resource is above all to cash it in. Thus the first thing Europeans did when they arrived in New Zealand was to develop i.e. cash in the whales that abounded off the coast. When there were none left they cashed in the seals. When these had been annihilated, they cashed in the Kauri trees. There were originally three million acres of those massive trees many of which were thousands of years old, but within a few decades, only a few thousand acres of them were left.17 They then found that the Kauris produced a valuable gum which could be found in the soil in which they previously grew. The soil was everywhere dug up and the gum cashed in. Most of the remaining forests of the two islands were then burnt down, to accommodate an eventual seventy million sheep. The process of cashing in the soil had now begun, and much fertile land in hilly areas became seriously eroded.

It was then found that the seas around the islands of New Zealand teemed with fish. This resource too had to be ‘developed’. In 1963 the Marlborough scallop beds began to be ‘cashed in’. Catches went up to 9,000 tonnes a year around 1976. By 1982 they were down to zero. Then it was the turn of the crayfish in the nearby Chatham Islands. Catches went up from zero in 1964 to 6,000 tonnes in 1969. They are now down to practically zero again, and so it has been for most other commercial fish species in New Zealand.18

Today, the last relics of New Zealand’s unique forests are still being cashed in, even though the bulk of the population is in favour of preserving them. What is more, we are witnessing the same pattern of resource development throughout the developing world.

Thus, everywhere we see the setting up of plantation crops for export which eventually involves cashing in the soil on which they are grown. Robert Goodland from the World Bank’s own Environmental Affairs Department, points out that “tobacco depletes soil nutrients at a much higher rate than most other crops thus rapidly decreasing the life of the soil.”19

Georg Borgstrom in his book The Hungry Planet shows how the coffee planters have destroyed the soils of Brazil. “The almost predatory exploitations by the coffee planters” he writes,

“have ruined a considerable portion of Brazil’s soils. In many areas, these abandoned coffee lands are so ruined that they can hardly ever be restored to crop production. In others, a varying portion of the topsoil has been removed, or the humus content of the soil has been seriously reduced. In most regions, a mere one-tenth now remains of the amount of humus present when coffee cultivation was started. Therefore, the coffee plantations have always been on the march, grabbing new lands and leaving behind eroded or impoverished soils.”20

Franke and Chasin describe too how destructive has been peanut cultivation in the Senegal.

“It has been estimated” they write, “that after only two successive years of peanut growing, there is a loss of thirty per cent of the soil’s organic matter and sixty per cent of the colloidal humus. In two successive years of peanut planting, the second year’s yield will be from twenty to forty per cent lower than the first.21

Cashing-in their Children

Once all a developing country’s physical resources have been cashed in, there remain the human ones.

In Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea, sex holidays have provided one of the most imaginative means of earning foreign exchange. Today we are told,

“between 70 and 80 per cent of male tourists who travel from Japan, the US, Australia and Western Europe to Asia do so solely for the purpose of sexual entertainment.”22

An International Labour Organisation (ILO) study reports that in Thailand, the police estimated that in 1982 there were 700,000 prostitutes in the country, about 10 per cent of all the women between the ages of 15 and 30 years—yet another ‘resource’ that is systematically cashed in to permit development.

In South Korea, the government sponsors an “orientation programme” where prostitutes are issued identification cards that serve as hotel passes. “You girls must take pride in your devotion to your country”, the women are told. “Your carnal conversations with foreign tourists do not prostitute either yourself or the nation, but express your heroic patriotism.”23

Mr Botafogo insists that South Korea provides a stunning example of how development with World Bank aid, can increase a people’s standard of living, but I find it difficult to accept that parents who are forced by their government to sell their children into prostitution can be seen as enjoying a very high standard of living.

What too happens, we might ask, once developing countries have cashed-in every available resource—their forests, their soil, the fish in the oceans around them, and finally their children? This of course we are not told, since World Bank-funded development is supposed to be “sustainable”.

The Need for Imports

In any case, what, one might ask, will the foreign exchange, earned at such an intolerable cost, be spent on? According to Mr Botafogo, on “critical items needed for food as well as cash crop production.” In reality, much of the foreign exchange earned in this way is actually spent on things that are in no way connected with the production of food, such as luxury items which only the elite can afford (see George Kent p. 232 of this issue). The point is well made by Lappé and Collins24 with respect to those countries worst hit by the catastrophic Sahelian drought at the end of the seventies. Thus they write:

“Much of the foreign exchange is used to enable government bureaucrats and other better-off urban workers to live an imported lifestyle—refrigerators, air-conditioners, refined sugar, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and so on. In 1974, about 30 per cent of the foreign exchange earned by Senegal went for just such items. The peanut exports annually account for one third of the national budget of Senegal—but 47.2 per cent of the budget goes on the salaries of the government bureaucrats. Between 1961 and the worst drought year, 1971, Niger, a country with marked malnutrition and a life expectancy of only thirty-eight years, quadrupled its cotton productions and tripled that of peanuts. But US$20 million in foreign exchange was then used up importing clothing, over nine times the amount earned by exporting raw cotton. Over $1 million went for private cars and over $4 million for gasoline and tyres. In only three years, 1967-1970, the number of private cars increased by over 50 per cent, most of them driven by the miniscule elite in the capital. Over $1 million was spent to import alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.”

Much of it too is simply wasted on armaments. From 1972 to 1982 according to Jacobsen:25 “Military spending by developing countries rose to more than 165 billion dollars, doubling in real terms. At the same time, the external debt of these countries soared from less than 300 billion dollars to over 750 billion dollars.” Egypt is apparently incurring debts of 800 million dollars a year just to pay interest on this “military debt”. The Argentine spends 61 per cent of its export earnings for the same purpose. Military expenditure in Africa has now reached 16 billion dollars a year, much of which must be paid for out of foreign exchange made from the sale of cash crops that use up land and resources which are essential for feeding already starving populations.

Some “critical items” are indeed required for agricultural purposes—but they are almost entirely used for the production of cash crops, which, with the Green Revolution, has been made totally dependent on the massive use of fertilisers, pesticides, agricultural machinery and irrigation water.

For two reasons such inputs can rarely be used for producing food for local people. To begin with they are too expensive. Secondly even if the Third World peasants could afford them, many of these inputs—the water for instance—would still not be made available to them. The reason is simple. A modern perennial irrigation system can cost tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to build and the foreign exchange required to pay the interest on the loans contracted to finance it can only be earned by exporting the produce grown on the land it serves to irrigate.

Capital intensive agriculture, by its very nature can thus only grow food for export, and for this reason alone it is, for the rural poor of the Third World but a recipe for starvation.

Fortunately to feed them there is no need for capital intensive agriculture nor for what Mr Botafogo regards as the “critical inputs” for food production.

Organic farmers in America and Europe achieve yields which are fully comparable to those achieved by farmers using vast amounts of fertiliser. Even the US Department of Agriculture recently produced a report which established that organic agriculture was a perfectly viable option for the US—a report which needless to say has now been duly shelved. This is even truer for tropical countries, where soils require organic matter to maintain their structure and prevent erosion by wind and water. Without organic matter, Dr Dhua,26 at one time science director of the Fertiliser Corporation of India, considers, artificial fertilisers, to be largely useless in the tropics since their use gives rise almost immediately to rapidly diminishing returns.

Uppali Senanayake,27 an authority on traditional agriculture in Sri Lanka once said that the most sophisticated technology required to feed his people was the wheelbarrow. Like anyone at all acquainted with the problems of food production in the Third World, he fully realised that a return to something approaching traditional agriculture was the only real option.

The increase in yields achieved by the use of fertilisers has also been grossly exaggerated. It is actually quite small when compared to the massive chemical inputs required to achieve it. The miracle strains developed in the Green Revolution have permitted increases in India of no more than 50 per cent in wheat yields and 25 per cent in rice yields,28 while the consumption of fertilisers according to Banerjee and Kothari 29 has since their introduction increased from 212,000 tonnes in 1960-61 to 4,263,000 tonnes in 1982-83, a more than twenty times increase in two decades.

Banerjee and Kothari do not consider that the Green Revolution has done anything to improve the lot of the rural poor. Practically all independent authorities on world agriculture would agree with them. Thus Caldwell writes: “I think it is safe to conclude that . . . in important respects (the Green Revolution) has intensified rather than helped alleviate the problems associated with feeding the world’s rising numbers.30

Lappé and Collins agree.31 “The process of creating more food has actually reduced peoples’ ability to grow or produce food” they write. Susan George also states that “the Green Revolution has been a flagrant example of a ‘development’ solution that has brought nothing but misery to the poor.”

In any case, though yields have increased in certain areas as a result of modern agricultural technology, in many of these areas they are now beginning to fall. Thus agricultural yields per hectare in Algeria, Nigeria, Zaire, Mozambique, Zambia, the Sudan and Tanzania were actually lower in 1980-82 than they were in 1950-52, in the last named country by as much as 27 per cent.32

Lester Brown explains why this has happened:

“Yield raising technologies such as chemical fertiliser and improved varieties have been adopted to at least some extent in all countries. But in some, these inputs have been more than offput by soil erosion. The addition of low fertility land of the cropland base, shorter fallow periods, declining rainfall inappropriate farm policies.”33

In the long run, this must inevitably happen wherever such technologies are introduced. Because of their inherent environmental destructiveness, they can only lead, in the long run to reduced rather than increased yields.

This is already beginning to occur in the USA. Perennial irrigation is causing soil salinisation problems in many parts of Southern California and is threatening the very survival of commercial agriculture in this area. Modern irrigation schemes based on the use of waters from the once seemingly inexhaustible Ogall-ala Aquifer34 have led to so serious a fall in the water-table that, throughout many areas of the Southwest such as the high plains of Texas and Arizona, farms are going out of business everyday. At the same time, the intensive cultivation of maize and soya beans in the midwest is leading to such serious soil erosion that what was once the most fertile agricultural area in the world will, at current trends, be almost entirely deprived of its top soil within the next 40 or 50 years.35

What effect, one must ask, can similar agricultural methods be expected to have on the incomparably more vulnerable soils of the dry tropics?

What makes matters worse is that the adoption of modern capital-intensive agricultural methods invariably leads to growing indebtedness and bankruptcy, again as it is doing in the USA where, what was once the richest farming community in the world, is now largely bankrupt with debt of over $300 billion, nearly half the total of the external debt of all Third World countries put together and a sum that is equally unlikely ever to be paid back. Again what chance has the incomparably poorer and more vulnerable farming community of the Third World of avoiding similar fate?

The truth is that there are no hardware solutions to the problems of feeding the world or, as we shall see to any of the associated problems of the Third World, which, being largely caused by the breakdown of social and ecological systems, can only be solved by social and ecological strategies, which, unfortunately, happen to be neither ‘economic’ nor politically expedient.

Let us see why this must be so with regards three of the problems that Mr Botafogo claims the World Bank is now so successfully dealing with.

Can Development provide clean Water?

One of the reasons why Mr Botafogo insists that development is so necessary is that “only about a quarter of the people who live in developing countries . . . have access to clean water.”

This is why, at the United Nations Water Conference held in Mar Del Plata, Argentina in 1977, it was agreed to set up the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, whose goal it was to assure that everybody had “clean drinking water” by 1990. Unfortunately though what it actually set out to provide was piped water which is, of course, a very different thing.

At Mar Del Plata, the price tag on the Decade was $140,000 million, more recently and more realistically the price has been estimated at $600,000 million, though, because of the failure to raise this sum of money, the more modest figure of $300,000 million now tends to be quoted,36 which nevertheless involves quadrupling the present expenditure on piped water. Needless to say the provision of piped water to most areas of the Third World does not solve any real problems. People are not used to it, most of the inhabitants do not want it, neither do they have the capacity nor the desire to maintain all the piping, which often simply disintegrates.

Widstrand describes a common situation in an East African village:

“It is a new and hot, shimmering day. Nothing much happens in the village; there is a smell of stale beer and dust. Suddenly on the road large dust clouds: a procession of landrovers approaches the village. Out of the vehicles spill a crowd of county councillors, district officers, local politicians, and sweaty, but competent, experts. Someone gives a speech, telling the villagers that now development has at last caught up with them and they shall have water, the toil of women shall finish and health, economy and what-not shall sprout. Competent technicians unpack the machines and a day of infernal noise begins. The surprised laity invite their guests to a meal of beer and goat meat, more speeches, departure of the caravan, but for some experts, who in a few days’ time produce water out of a pump. They depart: “Here is your water, look after the installation and phone us if something goes wrong.’ Phone! After some time the diesel runs out, the pump disintegrates, and everything is as before. After all, no one really liked that clear cold water which hurt their teeth. Water should be brown, muddy, tasty and more filling. And, by the way, during the rainy season it is much closer to go to the river than to the pump.”37

It is probably a good thing that all this piping should disintegrate because, among other things, once people have access to piped water their consumption invariably increases. Thus in the USA, average water consumption before the introduction of piped water was something like 10 gallons a day per person, very much what it is today, in large cities such as Madras. Since then, however, it had gone up by the middle seventies to 160 gallons per day and in some cities to as much as 560 gallons, such as in San Diego, California.

The main limitation to food production in the Third World, we must remember, is water availability, and every drop that is wasted by people having access to piped water, means that there is that much less available for agriculture and drinking purposes in rural areas with no piped water.

In any case piped water, as already intimated, is not necessarily clean. Indeed in the USA it is now known that much of the available drinking water is contaminated with industrial and agricultural chemicals.38 This is now becoming a major issue and, in the meantime, more and more people are buying expensive bottled water in the supermarkets.

Sources of drinking water in the Third World are also being increasingly contaminated. Consider the following quotation from Anil Agarwal’s State of the Indian Environment.

“Shockingly high levels of pollution exist along vast stretches of the Yamuna river. Everyday, its 48km portion through Delhi, picks up nearly 200 million litres of untreated sewage. Twenty million litres of industrial effluents including about half-a-million litres of DDT wastes enter the Yamuna in this stretch.

“From Delhi to Agra, the Yamuna is unfit for drinking and bathing. A survey by the Central Board for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution predicts that if the sewage from Delhi’s 17 drains are not treated properly and soon, it will be highly polluted from Delhi to Allahabad.”39

Such is the cost of development, and what good, one might ask, can it do to abstract water from such rivers in order to make it available throughout the country as piped water? Surely very little, yet the provision of piped water is the only solution to the problem of water shortages which the World Bank can provide, for it is the only one that involves the massive sale of hardware:- hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars of it.

How should one then solve the water problem? The answer must surely be to refrain from abstracting water that is badly needed for the survival of rural people in order to provide water for irrigating export crops, for satisfying industrial demands and for its wasteful use in big cities.

Even more important, the answer is to undertake massive reafforestation programmes, as it is the terrible deforestation of the last decades, that has, more than anything else, created the water shortages of today.

N D Jayal 40 makes the point clear.

“During the current International Drinking Water Supply Decade fewer people in East Asia have access to clean and adequate water than they did in the 1970s. This has happened in spite of heavy financial outlays for drinking water schemes. “Technological solutions for supplying scarce drinking water have failed to be adequate since the water crisis is the result of a failure to sustain water availability.

“This has resulted primarily from a rapid destruction in recent years of the vegetation cover which earlier ensured the recharge of ground water.

“For example, in India, in the state of Maharashtra alone 17, 112 villages were identified as facing drinking water problems at the beginning of the Sixth Plan. There are 15,302 villages likely to be covered in the ensuing Seventh Five-Year Plan. The rapid depletion of ground water resources has, however, increased the problem villages with no source of drinking water to a staggering 23,000 villages. This situation prevails in smaller or larger measure in almost all the states of the country, and is especially critical in the fragile Himalayan region.”

Unfortunately, reafforestation, which alone can reverse this fatal trend is, as we shall see, something that the World Bank cannot fund.

Are the World Bank’s Social Forestry Programmes of any use to the Poor?

Mr Botafogo insists that the World Bank “is concerned about ensuring an adequate supply of wood products to the poor and recent projects have been designed to help meet this need.” He refers of course to the Bank’s much vaunted social-forestry projects, which are supposed to be a major departure from normal commercial schemes.

It is undoubtedly true that the World Bank has funded many social forestry projects, but unfortunately they have been of little help to the poor. On the contrary, they have, in general, made their life that much more difficult and have even contributed to their further impoverishment. Let me explain why. To begin with the term ‘social forests’ is most misleading. They are not forests, they are plantations, monocultures, in fact, of fast growing exotics. What is more they are not social because the benefits derived from them are not at the disposal of local societies or communities. They are grown for commercial purposes, on land belonging usually to rich farmers, and their produce is sold on the market at a price the poor can rarely afford. The tree normally planted in ‘social forests’ is a species of eucalyptus. It is chosen because it grows so quickly, because it is safe from the depredations caused by cattle who will not eat its leaves and, because its stem is straight with no side branches that can be broken off and taken away by villagers for use as firewood. It is thus useless both for providing free fodder and also for providing free firewood, benefits which are both previously derived by villagers from natural forests.

Nor does it provide villagers with any of the other benefits that natural forests previously provided, such as humus with which to fertilise their fields, as the eucalyptus has a poor and acidic litter which forms little humus, nor wild fruits and berries, nor herbs for medicine and for natural dyes, nor wood for making bullock carts or building materials. The eucalyptus normally used has still further disadvantages. It uses up a lot of water, indeed R K Gupta41 notes that it is actually used both in the Punjab and Haryana for the reclamation of waterlogged areas. Not surprisingly, when grown in arid areas, it can only cause the further drying up of the land—seriously affecting crops and further reducing available water supplies.

Unfortunately, its cultivation has proved only too profitable, and as a result, it is often grown on fertile agricultural land to replace less profitable food crops, which means a further reduction in local food supplies. Unfortunately too, its cultivation requires very little labour which has meant an increase in local unemployment.

Not surprisingly 42 in many areas, poor peasants have got together to raid eucalyptus plantations and uproot the seedlings which they would be unlikely to do, if, as Mr Botafogo insists, such projects were designed to serve their interests.

Vandana Shiva, H C Sharatchan-dra and J Bandyopadhyay43 carried out a study to see the exact effect of social forestry programmes in a specific area, the Kolar region of Karnataka. They found that because the sales price of eucalyptus was high—as compared to that of firewood—it was supplied exclusively to a few paper mills and one rayon factory in the region. In fact, they note,

“about 80 per cent of the eucalyptus from Kolar is earmarked for the polyfibre industry in Harihar. What remains after dressing the eucalyptus for use by the rayon industry is sold in the urban markets of Bangalore as fuel. This leaves hardly any eucalyptus for the consumption of the rural population. In sum, the growth of eucalyptus plantations in Kolar has made no positive contribution to the satisfaction of the fuel needs of the rural people. On the other hand, because of the decline in traditional species like Honge, the supplies that were once available are becoming increasingly restricted. If that trend continues, the firewood crisis will worsen during the years to come, despite the impressive growth of eucalyptus plantations in the villages.”

The main problem with World Bank funded social forestry programmes is that they are commercial. Their produce must be bought and unfortunately the vast bulk of the people in a country such as India cannot afford to buy it. For firewood to be really available to local people, it must be provided free as it previously was from the real social forests with which they were once surrounded. This point is noted by Dr Vithal Rajan44 in his report “Social Forestry in South India in the 1980s”, and the principle is further elaborated on in S Banerjee’s and S Kothari’s article (on page 257 of this issue).

The trouble of course is that real social forests i.e. natural forests, whose produce (including water) is freely available to the rural people make no contribution to the formal economy. In particular they do not provide the financial return that do plantations of fast growing exotics—which are misleadingly termed: social forests—and that is why the World Bank cannot fund them.

Can Development halt Population Growth?

Mr Botafogo insists that development is necessary to control population. He tells us that the central message of the World Bank’s 1984 World Development Report was that “economic and social progress (a term used synonymously with development) helps slow population growth.”

Population growth must indeed be halted. That is essential, since it is at present completely out of control. Consider that, according to the World Bank, the population of Ethiopia—the country where famine has taken the greatest hold—is expected to increase to 231 million i.e. to six times its present level, until it begins to taper off around the year 2045, while that of Sub-Saharan Africa, is expected to double, from 385 million in 1980 to 770 million by the year 2005.45

That all this will actually happen is of course sheer fantasy. The impact of human activities on the world environment is already far greater than it can support and it simply cannot increase by very much more.

Indeed, at least ten years ago, Paul Ehrlich made it clear that he regarded the notion that the world population would double between then and the year 2001 as “the most frequently repeated imbecility of today.”46

Of course the thesis that development reduces population growth is yet another convenient myth for the development industry. It is justified on the grounds that, because the poor are insecure, they must have as many children as possible to look after them in their old age. Development, of course, makes them rich and secure, hence it will reduce their need for so many children. This argument is strengthened by the fact that population, though it escalated during the industrial revolution in Europe, subsequently slowed down and is not far from replacement level in most western industrial countries. The same “demographic transition”, it is confidently asserted, will also now occur in the Third World.

This argument of course cannot stand up to serious examination. To begin with, it is conveniently forgotten that a growing population is not intolerable per se but because of the increasing impact it must have on its natural environment. This impact however, is not simply function of its size but also of its level of material consumption. (See G Hekstra’s article on p. 240 of this issue and in particular the cartoon.)

To reduce the former by increasing the latter is thereby self-defeating—it has no effect on the total impact.

In any case though population growth in the West has indeed fallen with rising affluence, this does not mean that it will do likewise in the Third World?

A meeting on the subject organised by the American Association for the Advancement of Science 47 concluded that it would not. In general, the transition period from a peasant to an industrial economy, the participants insisted, is marked by rising not falling birth rates. The reason is that the changes that occur during such a period must inevitably increase insecurity by destroying the extended family and the community, by eroding traditional cultural patterns, and, they should also have added, by degrading the physical environment on which people depend for their livelihood. In such conditions people will tend to have more children not less. Previously so long as these resources were intact, people felt very secure and their population remained stable over long periods of time. What is certain is that this ‘demographic transition’ is not occurring in the Third World today. As Lester Brown notes 48 “the ‘demographic transition’ that has marked the advance of all developed countries may be reversed for the first time in modern history.

“African countries have now moved beyond the first stage of this transition with its equilibrium between high birth and death rates. But virtually all remain stuck in the second stage, with high birth rates and low death rates. In this stage, population growth typically peaks at three per cent or so per year.”

If development is seen as a means of controlling population, it is also because it permits the manufacture and distribution of birth control devices. Needless to say the adoption of a hardware solution to the population problem is very convenient to the development industry. It involves the expenditure of vast sums of money, with a corresponding increase in economic activity. Indeed the World Bank estimates that to achieve “a rapid fertility decline” goal in Sub-Saharan Africa would mean increasing the amount of money spent on ‘family-planning’ by twenty times—by the end of the century.49 Think of the massive increase in the exports of pills, condoms, IUCs and other forms of anti-birth gadgetry! But there is no reason to suppose that this would have any effect. Indeed if the first argument—that people want more children because they are insecure—is true then the second cannot be. Either people have more children because they want them so as to provide them with the requisite security or else the extra births are unwanted ones, which Third World people simply do not know how to avoid having. It is clearly only in the latter case that the massive distribution of birth control devices could conceivably serve any purpose for what would be the point of providing them to vast numbers of women who actually want the children whose birth these devices are designed to prevent? The World Bank cannot have it both ways.

The truth is that birth control is not a technological problem but a social one. Thus even in the absence of sophisticated birth-control technology, our tribal ancestors succeeded in maintaining the stability of their populations for hundreds of thousands of years.

To do so, they exploited all sorts of strategies that were built into their cultural patterns,—such as taboos against sexual activity during lactation, and during the first years of widowhood, the prohibition on widow remarriage among certain casts in India, and many more.

The trouble is that once a society’s cultural pattern is disrupted by development, such built-in cultural controls—the only ones we know to work—cease to be operative, and population growth, among many other things, is out of control.

Is economic Development actually possible?

But even if development were really the universal panacea it is made out to be, is it a real option for the Third World? Are its inhabitants ever likely to enjoy, for better or for worse, today’s level of material consumption in the west? The answer is almost certainly no. We must remember, that when Britain industrialised for instance, conditions could not have been more favourable. Its empire provided it with a limitless source of cheap raw materials as well as a captive market for its manufactured goods. In any case it had few competitors, Britain was indeed the workshop of the world. Today conditions are totally different. The cheaply available sources of the principal raw materials have already been used up. More expensive sources must now be tapped. At the same time, since so many countries are now involved in producing manufactured goods, competition for the remaining raw materials is becoming increasingly intense.

Competition for markets is also increasing so much so that many already industrialised countries such as Britain are being slowly edged out by Japan and other more efficient manufacturers. We know that a developed country can exist in a non-developed world but no economist, seems seriously to have considered whether it is possible for a developed country to survive when all the other countries with which it trades are equally developed.

The historical experience also shows that practically all of the industrial countries of today have financed their industry with funds obtained from agriculture. It is no coincidence that Britain’s Industrial Revolution was preceded, in the 18th century, by an agricultural revolution which vastly increased food production. Unfortunately however, such a surplus cannot be achieved in the tropics today. One reason, of course, is that these countries have become too highly populated and their produce is required to feed their own population.

Another important reason is that ecological and climatic conditions in the tropics would never permit the achievement of the required surplus.

To begin with, rainfall patterns do not favour it, nor do the soils which are usually thin and low in organic content and thus very vulnerable to erosion by wind and water.50 Climatic conditions also favour thriving pest populations which are often almost impossible to control,51 livestock too is afflicted by a wide variety of internal parasites which seriously reduce yields which are typically as much as four times lower than in temperate areas.52

Partly because of the long hot nights, net photosynthesis (photosynthesis minus respiration) is much lower than in temperate areas.53, 54 This is a critical consideration. It means, as Chang constantly points out that,

“environmental constraints make it impossible for the tropics to compete economically with the temperate zone, and this goes a long way towards explaining why all the developed nations lie outside the tropics.” 55

What makes matters worse, is that conditions in the tropics, are becoming still less favourable for sustained agricultural production. Rain patterns today are changing, and for the worse, partly at least, because of global deforestation and the chemical contamination of the atmosphere, while massive deforestation leading to the drying up of streams and springs, together with erosion, desertification, waterlogging and the salinisation of once fertile land are further reducing the ability of Third World countries to feed themselves, let alone achieve the agricultural surplus required to finance their economic development.

That development in the tropics and indeed worldwide must eventually be halted by ecological considerations is the thesis of Dr Hekstra’s article (see p. 240 of this issue). If this is so, then is it not possible that the World Bank and the other associated organisations that spearhead development might not simply be leading Third World countries up the garden path? The latter are being encouraged systematically to exchange the indispensable—their forests, their soil, their water, their culture and, in the long term, their physical survival for the gadgetry, the tawdry mass-produced goods, the junk foods and the rest of the paraphernalia of the modern way of life. But even this only a few can have access to and for a few decades at most.

If this is so, then never in the history of mankind, has a more cynical confidence trick been perpetrated on so many people and with such devastating consequences.
Edward Goldsmith

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  1. E S Ayensu. “Aid to Africa.” Paper presented to the World Commission on Environment and Development, 3rd Meeting, Oslo 21-28 June 1985.
  2. Martin Redfern, The New Scientist, 21 February 1985.
  3. Shelton H Davis, Indigenous Peoples, Development Planning and Socio-Environmental Assessment: Some Lessons from the United States. Canada and Peru. Submitted to the World Bank, October 1984.
  4. Val Plumwood and Richard Routley, “World Rainforest Destruction—The Social Factors”, The Ecologist, Vol 12, No ½, Jan/Feb 1982.
  5. Ricardo Abramovay, “Hunger in Brazil.” Unpublished paper.
  6. Jose Lutzenberger, “The World Bank’s Polonoroeste Project—A Social and Environmental Catastrophe”, The Ecologist, Vol 15, No ½ 1985.
  7. Barbara Dinham and Colin Hines. Agribusiness in Africa. Earth Resources. 1983. London.
  8. F E Trainer. Abandon Affluence. Zed Books. London. 1985.
  9. Richard Franke and Barbara Chasin. “Peasants, Peanuts, Profits and Pastur-alists,” The Ecologist, Vol. II, No 4, 1981.
  10. Francis Moore Lappe and J Collins. Food First, the Myth of Scarcity. Souvenir Press, 1977.
  11. ibid.
  12. M Perelman, Farming for Profit in a Hungry World, Universe Press, New York, 1977.
  13. Francis Moore Lappe and J Collins, op.cit.
  14. ibid.
  15. Patricia Adams and Lawrence Soloman, In the Name of Progress: The Underside of Foreign Aid. Energy Probe Research Foundation, Toronto, Canada, 1985.
  16. Robert Ledogar. “Hungry for Profits”, quoted by Nicholas Cohen and Rene Dumont, The Growth of Hunger, Marion Boyars, London, 1980.
  17. Denys Trussell, “History in an Antipodean Garden,” The Ecologist, Vol 12, No ½.
  18. Gwen Struik, “Commercial Fishing in New Zealand: An Industry bent on Extinction,” The Ecologist, Vol 12, No 6, 1983.
  19. Robert Goodland, Environmental Management in Tropical Agriculture. Westview Press, Colorado, 1984.
  20. Georg Borgstrom, The Hungry Planet, Collier Books, New York, 1967.
  21. R Franke and B Chasin, op cit.
  22. Jill Gay, “Patriotic Prostitutes”, Utne Reader, April/May 1985.
  23. ibid.
  24. F M Lappe and J Collins, op cit.
  25. Jodi Jacobsen, Arms and Debt, the Road to Security? Worldwatch Features, 1985.
  26. Dr S P Dhua, “Need for Organo-Mineral Fertiliser in Tropical Agriculture.” The Ecologist, Vol 5, No 5.
  27. Uppali Senanayake, Personal Communication.
  28. F E Trainer, op cit.
  29. S Banerjee and S Kothari, “A General Profile of Food and Hunger in India”, paper prepared for World Food Assembly, November, 1984.
  30. F E Trainer, op cit.
  31. F M Lappe and J Collins, op cit.
  32. Lester Brown, Reversing Africa’s Decline, Worldwatch Paper 65, June 1985.
  33. ibid.
  34. Nicole Ball. “Deserts Bloom . . . and wither”. The Ecologist Quarterly, No 1, Spring 1978.
  35. J Krohe, “Illinois-The US Bread-Basket. Where has all the soil gone?” The Ecologist, Vol 14, No 5/6 1984.
  36. Decade Dossier. International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade. 1981-1990. Published by United Nations Development Programme, New York.
  37. Carl Widstrand, Water Conflicts and Research Priorities, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1980.
  38. Nicholas Hildyard, The Toxic Time Bomb, Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  39. The State of India’s Environment, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, 1982.
  40. N D Jayal, “Destruction of Water Resources,” The Ecologist, Vol 15, No ½ 1985.
  41. R K Gupta, Plants for Environmental Conservation, Bishen Singh Publishers.
  42. Pandurang Ummayya and Bharat Dogra, “A War against Eucalyptus”, The Ecologist, Vol 13, No 5, 1983.
  43. Vandana Shiva, H C Sharatchandra and J Bandyopadhyay, “Social Forestry—No Solution within the Market, The Ecologist, Vol 12, No 4 1982.
  44. Vithal Rajan. Social Forestry in South India in the ‘80s. World Commission on Environment and Development.
  45. Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues, Famine: A Man-Made Disaster, PanBooks Ltd, 1985.
  46. Paul Ehrlich. “Eight thousand million by the Year 2010.” The Ecologist, Vol 6, No 4, May 1976.
  47. See Science News, 1 February 1975.
  48. Lester Brown, op cit.
  49. ibid.
  50. Asit Biswas. “Climate and Economic Development”, The Ecologist Vol 9, No 6 1979.
  51. B J Wood, “Insect Pests in South-East Asia.” In: R H V Corley, J J Hardon and B J Wood (Editors) Oil Research, Elsevier—Amsterdam, 1976.
  52. Asit Biswas, op cit. op cit.
  53. Environment, Vol 25, No 10.
  54. David Gates, “The Flow of Energy in the Biosphere”, Scientific American, September 1971.
  55. Jen-Hu Chang, “Tropical Agriculture: Crop Diversity and Crop Yields,” Economic Geography, Vol 53, No 3, July 1977.

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Correspondence on the Narmada Scheme The World Bank defends its Position

We sent a copy of the Kalpavriksh (pp.269-285 of this issue) article to Mr Clausen, asking how he could possibly justify financing so totally irresponsible a project as the Narmada Valley Scheme. We received this answer, sent to us by Dr Robert Goodland of the World Bank’s Environmental Affairs Department together with an enclosed “Note on Environmental Aspects”.

Dear Mr Goldsmith,

Thank you for your letter of 18 February to Mr Clausen regarding the Narmada Valley hydro and irrigation project in India.

As you will see from the attached “Note on Environmental Aspects”, GOI is addressing these aspects and has completed detailed environmental analyses. The preventive and mitigatory measures financed as an integral part of the project will, we believe, reduce the social and ecological effects you predict so that they are outweighed by the major benefits including agricultural production (310,000 ha irrigated by 2011) and electric power (1,200 MW by 1993 and later 1,600 MW).

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,
R. Goodland
Office of Environmental and Scientific Affairs

*     *     *


Environmental Review Committee (ERC)

1. The ERC (MP) was formed in November 1984 and had its first meeting at the Environmental Workshop on December 3-4, 1984 (formal proceedings terminated due to the gas tragedy). It was recognised that since the full committee has such broad interests, subcommittees are being formed for specific topics which will meet regularly, but would report to the full ERC annually.

Environment Joint Workshops with Gujarat

2. The first Joint Workshop with Gujarat was held in Bhopal on December 3-4, 1984, but formal activities were terminated on the first day due to the gas tragedy. Important decisions included:

(a) Gujarat would form its own ERC and that non-state (e.g. Centre or National Organisation) members would be common to the ERCs in both states;

(b) Future workshops would concentrate on one or two specific topics, working papers would be circulated before the workshop convened, specific plans or action would be evolved with regard to topic problems before the workshop dispersed; and

(c) The next workshop is scheduled for August 1985 with Schistosomiasis as the special topic.

Environmental Staffing in Narmada Planning Agency (NPA)

3. The NPA has outlined the organisation for an Environment Cell under the Public Health Engineer of NPA. This Environment Cell would be:

(a) Under the jurisdiction of the NPA Forestry;

(b) Would have a small office in Bhopal staffed with scientists with experience in specific environmental fields;

(c) Would establish field offices for data collection and water quality (physical, chemical and biological) monitoring at Jabalpur (Barge lake and river reach below), Hoshangabad (Tawa Lake and the river reach below), and Punasa (Narmada Sagar/Omkareshwar) with a monitoring station at Sanaval.

The Environment Cell would depend on other state organisations and universities for specialised services. Staffing will be specified in the next three months (i.e. by end-June 1985).

Environment Training

4. NPA proposes a three-tier staff training operation:

(a) A three-day course for senior administrators and senior technical officers to be run twice yearly at the State Government Academy of Administration, Bhopal. Each course would be attended by 20-25 officers. A course programme has been worked out. The first course will be held from September 10-12, 1985 and the second from February 4-6, 1986.

(b) A six-day course for middle-level officers to be run twice yearly at the Academy of Administration. Each course would be attended by 30-40 officers. A course programme has been worked out. The first course will be held from August 5-10, 1985 and the second from January 6-11, 1986.

(c) A two-week course for officers of the rank of Assistant Engineer and below. The course would be organised in collaboration with the Environmental Planning and Co-ordination Organisation (EPCO), Bhopal, and would be attended by 30-40 officers. A course programme has been worked out. The frequency of the courses and the date of the first course have yet to be decided.

Information Booklet on Environmental Aspects of the Project

5. NPA has requested EPCO to produce such a booklet and work is in progress.


6. NPA has produced a volume entitled “Integrated Development of Reservoir Fisheries in Narmada Basin” (138 p). The report discusses:

(a) all available information on the existing situation on the river (considerable work has been done by central and state organisations since 1958)

(b) the proposed reservoir projects and management of fish habitats;

(c) impact of impoundment on upstream fisheries;

(d) fisheries development in the four reservoirs;

(e) phasing of the development programme.

NPA has requested the Fisheries Department to carry out surveys of the existing situation (in November 1984 to January 1985) on four reaches of the river. The terms of reference were given in detail. The reports are under preparation.

7. NPA has requested the Fisheries Department to select a number of deep pools which will be managed as fish sanctuaries. NPA is preparing a budget for the proposed fisheries programme.


8. NPA has commissioned a study of the limnology of the river by Bhopal University, and the report has been received. Bhopal University has also produced a proposal and budget for a longer term study, which is being reviewed by NPA.


9. A report has been commissioned by NPA from Dr Tiwari, ex-Chief Conservator of Forest (MP), covering all aspects of Forestry and Wildlife.


10. Following the wildlife analysis commissioned by NPA, an existing sanctuary which will border the Narmada Sagar Lake on the north side will be upgraded to a National Park. Forest lands on the south side of the lake will be designated as Bison Sanctuary. Bird sanctuaries are planned for islands which will be created within the lake.

Zoological and Botanical Inventories

11. NPA has accepted a proposal from the Botanical Survey of India to carry out a three-year survey of the plant population of the Narmada Valley. The proposal includes a budget for the operation. NPA is negotiating with the Zoological Survey of India to study and inventory the animal population of the Valley. A proposal is expected. These works will supplement measures which will be carried out by the Forestry Department.

Public Health

12. At the request of the NPA, the Director of Medical Services, MP, has produced a status report on the incidence of water-related disease (by districts) in the Narmada Valley area. The report covers the years 1982, 1983, 1984 and gives data on incidence of cholera, gastro-enteritis, malaria and filaria. The report also gives district information on the number of villages known to be infected with guinea worm and the number of cases reported in June 1984.

13. NPA has received a proposal for a research project on human schistosomiasis in relation to the Narmada Valley Development from Dr M.C. Agrawal, College of Veterinary Science, Jabalpur, which was sent to WHO, New Delhi for comment. The proposed Agrawal study (estimated cost Rs 810,000 has a duration of 3 years). The National Institute of Communicable Diseases has designed a reconnaissance and risk assessment study of schistosomiasis in India, scheduled for late 1985.


14. Present NPA policy is that important temples (and similar artifacts) in the reservoir area will be moved to new sites. Provision will also be made for rerouting the “Narmada Pilgrimage” together with the traditional stopping places.

Afforestation and Soil Conservation

15. A report has been prepared by the Forestry Department on afforestation and soil conservation requirements of the Narmada Basin (MP) giving a 20-year programme of works and cost estimates. A similar report by the Agricultural Department is being prepared.


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