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Board Approves Panel Recommendation Not to Investigate the India Vishnugad Hydroelectric Project

India Vishnugard 3

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on November 4, 2022, approved the Inspection Panel recommendation not to investigate the third Request for Inspection related to India Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project.  The Request for Inspection was submitted on July 12, 2022 by 83 community members from Chamoli, Uttrakhand, India.

The Requesters alleged they are suffering or may suffer harm from the World Bank-financed project due to non-compliance with the Bank’s safeguard policies on Physical Cultural Resources, Involuntary Resettlement, Environmental Assessment, and Safety of Dams. They alleged that their village and a 1,000-year-old temple in their village, which has significant cultural and historical importance, is at risk of being severely damaged due to the project activities, including the dumping of muck. They stated that alternative sites for the muck dumping were not adequately analyzed. They also stated that their cultural identity is at risk of being lost. Furthermore, the Requesters alleged the compensation for resettlement was inadequate and caused a loss of livelihood and income. They alleged that 16 households were forcibly evicted. They further alleged that the water supply at one of the resettlement locations is limited to 2 hours/day. Additionally, the Requesters alleged that the Project design has not accounted for extreme weather events and disasters in the Project area, which they claimed may cause economic and physical harm. They raised concerns relating to the safety of the Vishnugad Pipalkoti dam. 

The Panel has previously received two Requests for Inspection on this Project. The first request was received on July 23, 2012, and the second was received on March 1, 2022. The Panel investigated the first Request and issued an Investigation Report on July 1, 2014. The Panel issued a Notice of Non-Registration concerning the second Request on April 20, 2022. The Panel noted that the 2014 Investigation addressed the issues of dam safety, the resettlement of Haat village, and the livelihood rehabilitation package. The second Request was not registered because the concerns raised could not be considered new evidence, as required under the Inspection Panel Resolution. On August 19, 2022, the Panel registered the third Request. Bank Management submitted its response on September 21, 2022.

A Panel team visited India October 4-11, 2022, to inform its eligibility report and recommendation.  The Panel team met with Government officials of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Power, the Archaeological Survey India based in Uttarakhand,  THDC India Limited (THDC) staff, and Bank staff. The Team also met with the Requesters, their representatives, and affected community members in Haat and also in the resettlement locations. The Panel submitted its report and recommendation to the Board of Executive Directors on October 21, 2022, which can be read here.  In its recommendation, the Panel determined that the Requesters and the Request meet the technical eligibility criteria. However, the Panel is of the view that no harm has occurred to the Lakshmi Narayan Temple complex, the main allegation in relation to damage to physical cultural resources, as a result of the Project, and that there are strong commitments by both THDC and Bank Management to preserve it. The Panel noted the community chose where to relocate to.  The Panel also noted that some community members have a misconception that a permanent job equates to livelihood restoration. The Panel believes that household-level economic losses are not supported by the data in the end-term resettlement evaluation report and that several external factors may have influenced the alleged losses in the three years since the end-term evaluation. The Panel considers that any alleged losses therefore cannot be linked to the Project, as this claim come several years after the resettlement occurred and three years after completion of the end-term evaluation, which in effect determined that livelihood had been restored. The Panel notes THDC and Management’s acknowledgement and commitment to improve the shortcomings in water supply and the current Grievance Redress Mechanism.  Hence, the Panel did not recommend an investigation into the allegations made in this Request.  More