The Request relates to the construction of a 74-kilometer-long transmission line financed by the project between Bharatpur and Bardaghat, in particular its section in the Binayi Triveni Rural Municipality Ward No. 2, approximately 200 kilometers west of Kathmandu. The Requesters state that a transmission line was rerouted and now passes through their densely populated community, which includes indigenous and non-indigenous residents. They claim that they were neither meaningfully consulted nor provided any information about the project and allege that the current alignment of the transmission line causes adverse impact on community members’ homes, schools, cultural and religious sites, agricultural lands, environment and economic activities, and threatens their health and safety. In regard to involuntary resettlement, the Requesters are concerned about i) land acquired for the tower pads, and ii) land affected by a 30-meter-wide right of way easement along the corridor of the transmission line.
The Panel registered the Request on November 30, 2021, and Bank management submitted it response to the issues raised in the Request on January 14, 2022.
The Management Response explains that the planning and original alignment of the Bharatpur-Bardaghat transmission line goes back more than 20 years and that many of the related problems and conflicts that the project aimed to address are legacy issues. Management states that it has been aware of the community concerns since well before the Request was submitted and has worked with the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) to help address them. The Response notes that due to various factors – such as a lag in forest clearances, disagreements between the contractor and the NEA, the political situation and disputes with local landowners – the transmission line was not completed by the time the project closed on October 31, 2021. The Management Response further notes the Requesters’ long-standing opposition to the transmission line and their wish for it to be rerouted. Management states that the Bank has agreed on an action plan with the NEA to address outstanding safeguard obligations and that the NEA has agreed to implement a communications plan by April 2022 intended to address health and safety concerns in an accessible manner.
A Panel team, following strict COVID-19 protocols, visited Nepal from January 26 to 31, 2022, to inform its eligibility assessment. In its February 16, 2022, eligibility report for the Board, the Panel noted that there are conflicting assertions between the Requesters and Bank management, and that without an investigation it is not possible to assess whether management has dealt with the issues raised appropriately, sufficiently demonstrated it followed policies and procedures, or whether Management’s proposed actions adequately address the matters raised in the Request.
The Board approved the Panel’s recommendation to investigate on March 3, 2022.
Under the updated Inspection Panel resolution and the resolution creating the World Bank Accountability Mechanism (AM), following that Board approval the AM Secretary, acting as head of the Dispute Resolution Service (DRS), offered the option of dispute resolution to the complainants and borrower and reported to the Board, Panel and Bank management on April 12, 2022, that the parties had voluntarily agreed to engage in the process.
Now that they have agreed, the Panel will hold its investigation in abeyance until the process is concluded. If, at the end of the process, the parties reach agreement, the Panel will issue a memorandum closing the case and take no further action. However, if the parties do not eventually reach a dispute resolution agreement, the Panel will commence its investigation.
The maximum length of the DR process is one year from when the AM Secretary reports on the parties’ willingness to pursue dispute resolution. If both parties agree, the process may be extended for up to an additional six months. Like the Panel, the DRS, which facilitates the dispute resolution process, honors requests for confidentiality from the complainants.