Accountability Counsel, together with the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP), is supporting communities in Sindhuli District aggrieved by the World Bank-financed Khimti-Dhalkebar high-voltage transmission line. The transmission line is one component of the larger Nepal Power Development Project, for which the World Bank approved a US$ 84.11 million loan in May 2003. The 220kV transmission line will span 75 kilometers across five districts in central Nepal, impacting more than 114,000 people.
Completion of the transmission line has been delayed, in part due to opposition from affected communities. When communities tried to raise concerns about the project through peaceful protests, they were met with excessive force. In early April 2013, the Government of Nepal deployed armed police forces to Sindhuli District to ensure opposition to the project did not obstruct surveying and construction activities. During one protest, armed police beat women from local villages so severely that some required treatment at a Kathmandu hospital.
In July 2013, 103 indigenous and non-indigenous families of Sindhuli District filed a complaint with the World Bank’s accountability mechanism, known as the Inspection Panel. The communities questioned why they had not received information about the line nor been consulted before construction began. They questioned why the World Bank and Nepal Electricity Authority, the implementing agency, did not choose alternatives that would divert the line away from homes and schools, as recommended under the Bank’s own policies. They also expressed concern about impacts on their health, safety, economic livelihood and community life.
Ultimately, the communities requested the Inspection Panel to immediately investigate the World Bank’s role in the project and demand that the Bank: stop project construction until all affected people had been consulted; provide a study of alternative routes for the line to avoid human settlement; provide compensation to those who had already lost land and agricultural produce; and provide independent and credible information on health and safety impacts.
In October 2013, the Inspection Panel recommended that a full investigation be carried out, with a focus on violations of Bank policies during planning and implementation of the transmission line, as well as requirements for studying alternative project design. Instead of immediately beginning an investigation, the Panel announced that the investigation would begin after April 30, 2014 to allow Bank management the chance to implement an action plan to address community concerns. More than six months later, with the action plan still not implemented, the Panel commenced its investigation in May 2014.
In July 2014, the Panel visited the affected communities.
In July 2015, the Panel released its findings, concluding that the World Bank violated several of its policies, including the failure to inform and consult affected communities, assess alternative routes for the transmission line, assess the capacity of the local agency implementing the project, and provide adequate resettlement support to forcibly-displaced families.
In response, the World Bank released an action plan, which is supposed to bring the project into compliance with Bank policies. Many of the Bank’s proposed actions are forward looking and do not address the harm caused by this project.
During the first week of April 2016, the Government of Nepal indicated that they wanted to restart construction on the World Bank-financed Khimti-Dhalkebar high-voltage transmission line project that had been halted as a result of community complaints about lack of information and consultation on their forced displacement. This led to protests by affected communities on April 10, 2016, when about 160 people took part in a peaceful sit-in outside government offices. On the morning of April 10th, several leaders were invited inside to discuss their demands, and upon exiting, 6 of them were arrested. They were released the following day, and as a condition of their release, they were required to sign documents giving their consent to the project.
Also on the 10th, police forces were sent in to disperse protesters, and several dozen people were injured. Photos from a local news agency are found here.
This comes as the World Bank engaged in its Spring Meetings in Washington and as the Bank considered additional loans to the Nepal Electricity Authority, the same entity responsible for the violence in this case.
Accountability Counsel team members traveled to Nepal to investigate this situation. You can read more about it here.