WWF alarmed at World Bank inaction on BTC pipeline decision | WWF

WWF alarmed at World Bank inaction on BTC pipeline decision

Posted on 31 October 2003    
BTC pipeline right-of-way going through a protected area.
© WWF / Paul Steele
Gland, Switzerland - WWF is alarmed that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank, is caving in to pressure from commercial (BP) and geopolitical interests, as it dithers over whether it will approve funding of the controversial oil pipeline to run from Azerbaijan, through Georgia, to Turkey (BTC). WWF is calling for a NO vote at next week’s vital IFC Board meeting to prevent the funding of a potential ecological and social disaster. In addition, the conservation organization is seeking a halt on any further construction of the pipeline until a full, independent, multi-stakeholder review is completed. "WWF suspects that the Bank is too scared to upset their ‘client’ by challenging the project," said Paul Steele, WWF International 's Chief Operating Officer. "The IFC must not waste this opportunity to examine viable alternatives to the existing proposal. These have not been properly assessed, indeed they have been too easily dismissed by BP and the IFC." WWF has gathered evidence that demonstrates that the World Bank, particularly the IFC, has not applied its own environmental and social standards in assessing the viability of the pipeline. Failure to consider the full impact of this project will leave the Bank and its shareholders with a tarnished reputation. "It is hard to believe that an institution like the World Bank cannot see that this is a train that has already left the station," Paul Steele continued. "There is therefore no possibility to retrofit a solution without calling it back for a thorough review. The IFC and World Bank must not swallow BP’s PR spin regarding this pipeline." According to WWF, BP and consortium members are trying to fast track approvals from the IFC and World Bank which would provide the BTC pipeline with undeserved legitimacy and open the floodgates of commercial banking finance, from banks such as ABN Amro and Citigroup who have indicated their interest in the project. "BP’s track record in high risk areas such as the Arctic and Colombia demonstrates that they can not stop oil leaks occurring and the environment being damaged," Paul Steele added. "The high risk route chosen for this project with seismic activities, landslides, avalanches and the risk of terrorist attacks is unacceptable particularly as it is the poor people of the region and the environment which will have to carry the risk. The IFC apparently finds it acceptable that oil from this pipeline could leak into valuable mineral water resources, wetlands and protected areas – WWF does not." According to WWF, a green light from the IFC for this controversial project would raise the hopes and increase the chances of public funds being approved for other similarly controversial pipelines elsewhere. The conservation organization believes the World Bank has a responsibility to ensure it only supports projects that meet the highest environmental and social standards. Failure to do so in relation to BTC sets an unacceptable precedent for future pipeline approvals and could encourage commercial banks and investors to support similarly questionable projects. For further information: Paul Steele, Chief Operating Officer, WWF International, tel.: +41 22 364 9278 NOTE:  The International Finance Corporation is a member of the World Bank group. Its Executive Board is made up of representatives from key governments. The UK Government has a vote on the Board for example. The Executive Board will meet next Tuesday 4 November to vote on funding of the BTC Pipeline proposal. Originally the vote was to be held on Thursday 30 October but it has been delayed due to NGO pressure.
BTC pipeline right-of-way going through a protected area.
© WWF / Paul Steele Enlarge

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