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Board Approves Panel Recommendation Not to Investigate Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Sinharaja

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on March 10, 2020, approved an Inspection Panel recommendation not to investigate the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project in Sri Lanka.

In October 2019, the Panel received a Request for Inspection of the project – which is intended to “improve the management of ecosystems in selected locations in Sri Lanka for conservation and community benefits” – from two individuals representing 106 community members of the Kudawa area in Sri Lanka’s Sinharaja Forest Reserve. The Requesters, who requested confidentiality, alleged the project is causing harm to the natural environment and community livelihoods through road construction activities in the Sinharaja, a World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. They expressed concern over the adverse impact of the Kudawa access road construction on several endemic species of fauna and flora and local livelihoods, and also claimed a lack of consultation and disclosure of information

In its response to the Request, Bank management explained that the adverse impact alleged in the Request pertains to civil works that were not included in the agreed project activities, predate the Bank’s involvement and were not reviewed or authorized by management. Therefore, management stated that it considers the impact to be a legacy issue that the project is now helping address.

A Panel team visited Sri Lanka from January 27 to 30, 2020, and held meetings with a range of stakeholders in Colombo and at the project site at the Kudawa access road entrance of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.  
On February 14, 2020, the Panel submitted its Report and Recommendation to the Board. In recommending the project not be investigated, the Panel noted that the existing Kudawa access road rehabilitation was not initially included in the World Bank-funded project, and that the alleged harm raised by the Requesters is focused on a time period before the World Bank was involved.

The Panel understood that Bank management included the rehabilitation of the access road among the project activities in order to assist Sri Lanka’s Forest Department in bringing works in line with best practice, including the implementation of an Environmental and Social Management Plan, conducting consultations with stakeholders and planned joint supervision with the involvement of the affected parties. The Panel noted that since the access road had been included in the World Bank-funded project several design changes and additional mitigation measures had resulted from input received as part of formal consultations and other interactions with interested groups and affected people.