LEPHALALE – The huge loan granted to Eskom by the World Bank had created quite a stir earlier this year. History was made as four members abstaining from the vote. According to the leader of the Inspection panel visiting Lephalale this might have been due to requests by concerned environmental groups and citizens from the affected area. An initial inspection panel visited the area in May and after their report was submitted, the Bank launched a full scale investigation.
The requestors, whose identity is being withheld, are rumored to be local land owners, directly affected by the building of Medupi and associated industries. They are represented by two South African environmental groups, ground Work and Earthlife SA.
The Inspection Panel, consisting of three experts and two administrative members as well as a South African consultant, visited Lephalale at the end of October.
“Our mandate is to investigate the World Bank,” says the panel leader. They do not investigate the borrower, but must investigate the compliance of the loan agreement to World Bank specifications.
In the Investigation Phase the panel meets with the requesters and people affected to learn in detail about the issues, concerns, status and potential harms. As part of it’s fact-finding responsibilities, the panel also meets with World Bank Staff, government officials, civil society organisations, experts and others so that it can fully understand and investigate the claims of the request and make it’s findings about Bank compliance and harm.
The panel consisted of an anthropologist, an expert in procedure, an administrative consultant, a water expert and an environmentalist. They spoke with different groups affected by the project.
Landowners and specifically agriculture are directly affected by the building of Medupi. Issues concerning the sector are pollution (air-, noise-, dust-, light- and visual pollution), water security, illegal sand mining and impact of the tourism and hunting industries. “We do not want to stand in the way of development and progress, but at this stage it feels like farmers are footing the bill. With scarce water resources, we are concerned that irrigation quotas will be cut, when industry or the growing town needs more water. Sand mining threatens farming along the Mogol river.
These issues are a direct result of the building of Medupi. Add to this a lot of industries following and the impact grows exponentially,” says chairman of Agri Lephalale, Francois van den Berg.
According to the municipal manager of Lephalale, Bob Naidoo, his meeting went well. “We discussed the impact of the development on the municipality’s ability to provide services. The panel was surprised to hear of all the inputs we get from industry, namely Eskom and Exxaro,” says Naidoo.
The report should be submitted at the beginning of 2011, when all will await the response form the Bank and possible actions, if need be.