Indian environmentalists have joined critics of Dr R.K. Pachauri, the head of the UN's Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, accusing him of damaging the country's environment and protecting "polluter" corporations who fund his research institute.
Dr Pachauri has been fighting to salvage his reputation since it was revealed that his recent climate change report included false claims that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035.
But environmentalists in his own country have failed to rally around him and have instead launched their own attacks on a man they claim is harming endangered forests, depleting scarce water reserves and promoting power companies which emit the carbon gases that cause global warming.
They said his consultancy group, The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), had built a university on The Ridge, a protected forest threatened by construction in New Delhi, and is a contractor for the Commonwealth Games Village which campaigners say could severely damage the Yamuna river, the capital’s “water lifeline”. Leena Srivastava, Teri's executive director, said the local government had given environmental clearance for the university construction.
Several campaigners said Teri had failed to declare conflicts of interests when it had produced favourable reports or given environmental awards to companies that funded its projects. Teri denies the claims.
Gopal Krishna of the Toxics Watch Alliance told The Daily Telegraph that Teri had promoted "waste to energy" companies which generated power by incinerating waste, in spite of UN concerns that the process led to the emission of dangerous toxins and carbon gases.
Pollution from one such plant had caused miscarriages, asthma, and severe sickness in local villages, he alleged.
"There's a conflict of interest because Teri was funded by Thermax, an incinerator company," said Mr Krishna. Ms Srivastava said Teri was "technology neutral."
Himanshu Thakkur of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, said he began to investigate Teri after it had given an award for "environmental excellence" to the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation for its power project in the remote Uri district of Jammu and Kashmir.
He discovered the corporation had a poor record in the area and that it had been criticised in neighbouring states for insensitivity to national park forests. He also discovered that the company had paid Teri £125,000 to fund a chair in its new university on Delhi's endangered Ridge.
His evidence persuaded the panel that had awarded the prize, which included J.S. Verma, the former Indian chief justice, to withdraw the award. Teri then formed a new committee and confirmed the prize prompting Justice Verma and three other judges to resign in protest. A Teri spokeswoman said the jury had not had the authority to withdraw a prize.
Mr Thakkur said: "The suspicion [is] that Teri's award 'greenwashed'...[the] poor environment performance." A Teri spokeswoman said the claims were "completely baseless".
By Dean Nelson
07 Feb 2010
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