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 Inspection Panel and Accountability Mechanism Resolutions, following Board approval, the Accountability Mechanism Secretary (AMS) offered the opportunity for dispute resolution to the Requesters and the Borrower (the Parties). On April 12, 2022, the AMS reported to the Board, the Inspection Panel, and Bank Management that the Parties had voluntarily agreed to engage in the process. The Panel thus held its compliance process in abeyance until conclusion of the dispute resolution process in accordance with the Inspection Panel and Accountability Mechanism Resolutions.
On April 11, 2023, the Parties reached agreement within the stipulated period and signed a Dispute Resolution Agreement. The agreement was drafted and signed in both Nepali and English languages and contains mutual commitments in relation to the resolution of a number of specific issues raised by community representatives. The Parties have stated that the agreement is reached in full and final settlement of their dispute and have elected to keep the terms of the agreement confidential.
The Parties have requested the DRS to follow-up periodically on the implementation of the commitments undertaken as part of the mediation agreement, for period of up to two years.
Given that the Parties have reached agreement through dispute resolution in this case, the Panel issued a memorandum closing the case and takes no further action.