An internal memo, written by the World Bank's chief economist Larry Summers in 1991 (which was meant to be ironic) stated: "I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that ... I've always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City."
The sad reality is that the Bank has always followed this philosophy and continues to do so today.
For decades the World Bank has funded agricultural and health projects that involved the use of toxic pesticides like DDT, lindane and parquat. (See also http://www.whirledbank.org/environment/agriculture.html)
In April 1989, the World Bank approved a US$99 million loan for the Amazon Basin Malaria Control Project to combat the dramatic rise in the incidence of malaria in Amazonia (from 51,000 cases in 1970 to at least 560,000 cases in 1988).
Project components include surveillance, source reduction and vector control projects, community education, and institution- strengthening measures - and the application of 3,000 tons of 75% concentrate DDT over five years.
The Bank ignored the fact that DDT is banned or severely restricted by more countries than any other pesticide, including in Brazil where, as in many other countries, DDT is prohibited for agricultural use.
Ironically one of the major causes of malaria has been traced to construction of new roads into the Amazon, which the World Bank has played a key role in financing. (see http://www.whirledbank.org/environment/logging.html)
Intense pressure from activists for over a decade forced the World Bank to adopt a new pesticide use policy in 1997. For more information on this victory see http://www.igc.org/panna/resources/_pestis/PESTIS.1997.104.html.
Medical Waste Incinerators
In 1999 Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) released a report showing that at least 30 World Bank and International Finance Corporation (the private sector arm of the World Bank) projects involved medical waste incineration that would generate dioxin, mercury and other pollution.
This is despite the fact that this technology is being phased out in the United States and replaced with safer and more economical alternatives.
Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and has been linked to birth defects, decreased fertility, immune system suppression and other hormonal dysfunction.
Mercury can interfere with the development of the fetal brain and is directly toxic to the central nervous system, kidneys and liver.
The projects were being conducted in the following 20 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Comoros, Dominican Republic, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Vietnam, Western Samoa and Zimbabwe.
In India, for example, the World Bank recommended incinerators at hundreds of hospitals throughout the State and that the Bank had not provided any information regarding problems with incinerators or availability of alternatives.
The HCWH report, "The World Bank's Dangerous Medicine: Promoting Medical Waste Incinerators in Third World Countries" is available online at: http://www.essentialaction.org/waste/worldbank.html
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