US Supreme Court takes up dispute over power plant in India

File photo showing the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC (Reuters)
Updated 21 May 2018
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US Supreme Court takes up dispute over power plant in India

  • The justices will hear an appeal by the villagers of a lower court ruling that the International Finance Corp.
  • The plant’s construction and operations did not comply with the environmental plan set out for the project.

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider reviving a lawsuit by Indian villagers seeking to hold a Washington-based international financial institution responsible for widespread environmental damage they blame on a power plant it financed.
The justices will hear an appeal by the villagers of a lower court ruling that the International Finance Corp. was immune from such lawsuits under federal law. IFC, part of the World Bank Group, is an international institution with 184 member countries that helps secure financing for projects in developing nations.
The case revolves around the IFC’s decision in 2008 to provide $450 million in loans to help construct the coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant in Gujarat, India. IFC loans include provisions requiring that certain environmental standards are met.
The legal question before the justices is whether there are limits to immunity for entities like the IFC under the 1945 International Organizations Immunity Act, as there are for foreign countries under a 1976 law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
Lead plaintiff Budha Ismail Jam and other fisherman and farmers who live near the plant sued in federal court in Washington in 2015, saying the IFC had failed to meet its obligations.
They said the plant’s construction and operations did not comply with the environmental plan set out for the project. The local environment has been devastated, according to the plaintiffs, with marine life killed by water discharges from the plant’s cooling system and coal dust contaminating the air.
A district court in 2016 and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2017 ruled that the lawsuit was barred because the IFC is immune from such litigation under the 1945 law.
The court will hear arguments and decide the case in its next term, which begins in October.


Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

Updated 17 February 2019
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Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

  • Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh: A fire tore through a slum in southern Bangladesh on Sunday killing at least 9 people and destroying hundreds of shanty homes, police said.
The blaze broke out in the port city of Chittagong at about 3.30 A.M. and raced through the district of bamboo, tin and tarpaulin homes, said local police chief Pranab Chowdhury.
“At least 470 shanties were destroyed by the fire. So far 9 people have died. They included four members of a family,” fire brigade official Hefazatul Islam said.
Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions.
Rights groups have in the past alleged some shanty town blazes were deliberate acts of sabotage by developers seeking to free up property to construct multi-story buildings.
“We have seen fires are used as a weapon to evict poor slum dwellers and squatters from government or private property,” rights activist Nur Khan Liton said.