The Requesters allege that they are suffering or likely to suffer harm from the Nachtigal dam. The Panel notes there are two projects of relevance to this dam: (i) the Cameroon Nachtigal Hydropower Project (NHP) and (ii) the Hydropower Development on the Sanaga River Technical Assistance Project, both supported by the World Bank. The Requesters allege that there is non-compliance with World Bank policies and procedures, causing or potentially causing harm to the communities’ means of subsistence, their education, health, and nutrition. The Requesters allege a lack of meaningful consultation, inadequate resettlement measures in relation to both physical and economic displacement, loss of income-generating activities for fishermen, sand miners and fishmongers, untimely and inadequate compensation for land and crops, lack of accessibility to agricultural land, inadequate housing, destruction of sacred sites, loss of medicinal plants and water resources used for healing and rituals, and environmental damage. They also allege that the project activities are causing an increase in social harms including theft, juvenile delinquency, commercial sex work, marital conflicts and divorces in their community.
The Panel registered the case on July 25, 2022, and Management submitted its Response to the Request on August 26, 2022.
The Management Response explains that Management is aware of the Requesters’ allegations and that the project implementing agency, the Nachtigal Hydropower Company (NHPC) is addressing them. Management notes that the risks and impacts described in the Request are not uncommon for a project of this scale, that it anticipated them, and prepared several Environmental Assessment instruments to address them. To address additional environmental and social issues that were identified during supervision, NHPC committed to a binding Supplementary Corrective Action Plan with time-bound actions. The Project is using an adaptive management approach based on comprehensive monitoring and corrective actions. Management acknowledges that mitigation and compensation measures have experienced some delays, but claims they are being implemented with comprehensive stakeholder input and supervision by the project financing agencies. Management notes that project progress was affected by the need for additional consultations, the longer than anticipated development of Individual Livelihood Restoration Plans (ILRPs), and work delays due to Covid-19-imposed restrictions and a shortage of high-quality cement. Management notes that the Sanaga River Technical Assistance Project contains no physical investments other than some meteorological equipment and is only financing studies and panels of experts.
A Panel team visited Cameroon from August 26 to September 7, 2022, to inform its eligibility assessment. In its September 27, 2022 eligibility report for the Board, the Panel notes the strong support for the Project by all stakeholders—including the Requesters—and the unanimous view of the Project’s benefits for the community at large. The Panel recognizes the steps that Bank Management is taking to address some of the alleged harm, and that the Lenders hired an Independent Environmental and Social Consultant to advise NHPC on actions to implement. The Panel notes that the Lenders asked a separate consultancy tasked with undertaking the annual evaluation of the Resettlement Action Plan and Livelihood Restoration Plan to increase their sample to include all categories of PAPs. The Panel understands that several fisheries studies are underway, as well as a strategic environmental and social assessment for the Sanaga River basin to understand basin-wide, cumulative impact.
The Panel notes that, despite the extensive measures being undertaken by the Project under scrutiny by the Lenders, allegations of harm relating to loss of livelihood activities, compensation, and livelihood restoration were raised consistently by significant numbers of fisherfolk and sand miners in several villages. The Panel notes the widespread concerns from downstream sand miners and fishermen who claim to have lost their livelihoods due to the diminishing fish and sand resources in the river. The Panel also notes the policy requirement to compensate PAPs prior to the occurrence of impact and it is unclear to the Panel whether the compensation provided was, in fact, timely. While the Panel understands that the Project considers the compensation package to include both transitional support and capital for livelihood investment, it is unclear to the Panel and the PAPs what portion of the compensation is intended to assist households in transition between old and new activities and what portion serves as investment capital for new income-generating activities.
The Panel notes that almost everyone the Team encountered who had implemented ILRPs claimed their project had failed. The Panel notes concerns from several PAPs that they had either no or limited contact with the NGO engaged to support the development and implementation of ILRPs. The Panel is not assured the NGO has sufficient capacity to provide the required level of technical support to all those needing it. Large numbers of fisherfolk and sand miners contended that the measures put in place by the Project were inadequate to achieve livelihood restoration.
Based on the Panel observations and review, the Panel recommended carrying out an investigation into the alleged issues of harm and related non-compliance with World Bank operational policies and performance standards, as per OP/BP 4.03 on Performance Standards for Private Sector Activities.
The Board approved the Panel’s recommendation on October 19, 2022.