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Board Approves Panel Request to Postpone Deadline for Investigation Recommendation in Nepal Trade and Transport Case

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on September 22, 2020, approved the Inspection Panel’s request to postpone the deadline for its recommendation on whether an investigation is warranted of the Nepal-India Regional Trade and Transport Project in Nepal. Citing its inability conduct its eligibility visit to Nepal due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Panel requested a postponement until four weeks from the date that Bank missions to Nepal are reauthorized and national travel restrictions that would inhibit the Panel team from visiting the project area have been lifted.

The Request for Inspection of the project – whose objectives include improving select trade-related infrastructure – was submitted on April 25, 2020, by nine community members from the Kirtipur Municipality in southern Kathmandu. On May 21, 2020, the Panel received the signature of an additional Requester as well as a letter authorizing someone to represent the Requesters during the Panel process. The Requesters and their representative asked the Panel to keep their identities confidential.

The Requesters claim to be adversely affected by the Chobhar dry port, one of the project’s subcomponents. They allege non-compliance with the World Bank’s policies on Environmental Assessment, Indigenous Peoples, Physical Cultural Resources and Involuntary Resettlement. According to the Request, the dry port will have environmental and social impact on neighboring communities, including Newars, that the project did not identify as indigenous, thus infringing indigenous peoples’ rights in various ways. The Requesters argue the project will also damage Chobhar’s historical, religious and cultural heritage. Further, they allege a lack of effective consultation, disclosure of information and grievance redress. 

The Panel registered the complaint on May 27, 2020. On July 28, 2020, the Panel sought a postponement of its investigation recommendation until August 24, 2020, because COVID-19 and related restrictions prevented the Panel from conducting its field visit and it thus adopted a virtual format that required additional time to complete. On August 18, 2020, the Panel sought a second postponement until September 21, 2020, because it was unable to conduct field verification through the adopted virtual format due to the lockdown that was imposed at the time in Nepal. After conducting its document review and virtual engagements with different stakeholders, the Panel noted the complexity of this case and the need to conduct a field visit to be able to make its recommendation to the Board. It submitted its third request to postpone the deadline for its investigation recommendation to the Board on September 21, 2020.