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Dilution? World Bank draft "undermines" appraisal need for project resettlement due to land acquisition

By Our Representative
Several people’s organizations which took a lead in campaign for bringing in the new land acquisition law for India -- Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – have come together to put up a case against new “efforts” by the World Bank to dilute its existing safeguards on Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement. In a letter, they have said that the Bank’s new draft Environment and Social Safeguards Framework on Land Acquisition, Restrictions on Land Use and Involuntary Resettlement threatens to “significantly increase the risk” for the poor people and exacerbate inequality.
Written by a group of 20 NGOs led by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and addressed to NM Prasad, executive director World Bank, the letter says, the Bank’s draft has sought to the “removal” of the key objective -- of shared prosperity. “The renewed emphasis on compensation for lost assets in the draft is a significant regression in the Bank’s approach to resettlement, going against 30 years of empirical research, much of which has been commissioned and endorsed by the Bank”, it adds.
“Compensation without sustained development support cannot prevent impoverishment”, the letter insists, adding, despite this view, taken by the World Bank, the draft provides “inadequate requirements to assess alternatives, with full participation of affected people, in order to avoid or minimize physical or economic displacement impacts.” The draft will be up for discussion on July 30 at the Bank's headquarters in Washington, and will be finalized next year.
Medha Patkar
The letter says, the draft seeks to undermine its view that projects supported by the Bank should ensure those displaced have “a legitimate public interest/ general welfare value in accordance with the requirements of international law.” It underlines, “The Bank task team must work together with the Borrower to explore alternative project designs to avoid or minimize displacement and to satisfy itself that such alternatives have been adequately considered.”
The letter takes exception to the draft seeking to remove “the requirement for comprehensive household baseline data and other socio-economic studies”, saying, this is “indispensable to resettlement planning, monitoring and evaluation and to ensuring that affected people receive full restitution for all impacts suffered.”
Then, the letter says, the draft wants “the removal of the requirements that the Borrower submit a comprehensive resettlement planning instrument, including all relevant censuses and baselines studies to the Bank”. The new framework “allows the Bank to move forward with financing projects that uproot people from their land, homes and livelihoods, and relinquish the vast majority of its leverage to protect the rights of affected people, with nothing more than a vague commitment from borrowers.”
“This gutting of resettlement appraisal requirements represents the single most dangerous dilution and abdication of Bank responsibility in avoiding and mitigating adverse impacts from displacement caused by Bank-supported projects”, the letter says, adding, “The new draft removes any reference to informing displaced persons about their rights pertaining to resettlement.”
The letter says, the draft also “guts” the “current policy requirements that all sub-projects involving resettlement must comply with Bank safeguards.” Under the new framework, it says, “only sub-projects involving resettlement that are classified - by the Borrower - as High Risk must comply. This means that projects that are classified as having Substantial Risk need not comply.” This is contrast to the “current policy” in which “the Bank requires a satisfactory resettlement plan, including baseline socioeconomic survey information, be submitted to the Bank for approval before the subproject is accepted for financing.”

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