Another Crime of the World Bank

Jay Moore research at
Mon May 22 08:44:04 MDT 2000

Pygmy comes to UK to oppose oil pipe that will rip through his forest
By Geoffrey Lean
The Independent (UK)
21 May 2000

David and Goliath had nothing on this. For today a pygmy from the West
African tropical rainforest arrives in London to take on the colossus of the
World Bank.

Jacques Ngoun, a member of the Bakolo pygmy tribe of Cameroon, is making a
last-minute attempt to stop the bank financing an oil pipeline that will go
through his forest. Environmentalists and development experts say the
proposed Chad-Cameroon pipeline threatens to bring about an environmental
and human rights disaster.

The governing body of the bank meets on Tuesday to decide on the scheme,
which is being heavily promoted by Exxon, Chevron and the Malaysian
state-owned oil company, Petronas. Mr Ngoun and his supporters - who include
the Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu - are hoping that Clare
Short, the International Development Secretary, will ensure that Britain's
vote is cast against the project, but she has yet to make up her mind.

Simon Counsell, director of the Rainforest Foundation, one of the
organisations hosting Mr Ngoun, believes that this is the first time that a
pygmy has ever come to Britain on an international environmental mission.

The £2.4bn, 650-mile long pipeline would link new oil fields in Chad to the
sea, via Cameroon. The World Bank says that it presents "a big opportunity
for one of the poorest countries on Earth". Its opponents warn that it could
plunge the area into a crisis comparable to the one that oil has brought to
Ogoniland in Nigeria, where the black gold has brought little benefit to the
people, and sparked open revolt.

The scheme has been brought about by the discovery of oil in the Doba Basin
of southern Chad. The oil companies plan to sink some 300 wells, producing
some 225,000 barrels a day. They aim to export it down the pipeline to the
sea, where it would be pumped onto tankers from a floating artificial island
off Cameroon.

The companies would meet almost all of the £2.4bn cost of the project, with
the World Bank providing a mere £115m. But the bank's contribution is seen
as vital to gaining acceptance for the scheme, which would be unlikely to go
ahead without it.

The underground pipeline would pass through the undisturbed and ecologically
fragile rainforest where Mr Ngoun lives. The Washington-based Environmental
Defense Fund says that it will bring a "large influx of people", who will
clear the forest and endanger the hunter-gatherer tribes. The World Bank
agrees that "the risks are high", but says that its involvement is reducing

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