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.


South Sudan plans to build new capital in former game park

Updated 18 min 20 sec ago
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South Sudan plans to build new capital in former game park

  • The new capital, to be named Ramciel, will be located in Lakes State and will be built in an area that was previously a rhino sanctuary in the forest
  • The initial planning for the project is being funded by approximately $5 million from Morocco and will be carried out by South Korea

JUBA: South Sudan is planning to construct a new state capital in a central location in what was a wildlife park, a move that officials say will make the seat of government more accessible to the people, the government said on Wednesday.
“We’re not supposed to have our capital near the borders. The capital is the center of everything and it needs to be easy for everyone to come,” government spokesman Michael Makuei told The Associated Press.
The new capital, to be named Ramciel, will be located in Lakes State and will be built in an area that was previously a rhino sanctuary in the forest. The land is currently uninhabited and lacks basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity.
The initial planning for the project is being funded by approximately $5 million from Morocco and will be carried out by South Korea. Morrocan and Korean engineers will visit the site this week to begin demarcating areas for roads, utilities, markets, residential areas and key government installations.
Plans to move the capital from Juba, where it is now, to the new city have been in the works since before South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, said the government. Morocco’s decision to contribute to the project was discussed during King Mohammed VI’s trip to the war-torn nation in February, 2017.
The executive branch will move to Ramciel, while Juba will remain South Sudan’s commercial center as well as either the judicial or legislative hub, he said.
Five years of civil war have devastated South Sudan, killing almost 400,000 people and displacing millions. The power sharing agreement signed by warring parties in September is the latest attempt at peace, although implementation of the accord has been fraught with delays and there has been continued fighting in parts of the country.
At least one South Sudan analyst says the move to the new capital should not be a priority.
“Roads, health, education, economy and a stabilization agenda should top the list,” Augustino Ting Mayai, a researcher at the Sudd Institute in Juba.