The Requesters allege they are suffering or may suffer harm from the World Bank-financed Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydro Electric Project in India due to non-compliance with the Bank’s safeguard policies on Physical Cultural Resources, Involuntary Resettlement, Environmental Assessment, and Safety of Dams. They allege 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 also state that their cultural identity is at risk of being lost. Furthermore, the Requesters allege the compensation for resettlement is was inadequate. They claim that resettlement activities have caused a loss of livelihood and income. They allege that 16 households were forcibly evicted. They further allege that the water supply at one of resettlement locations is limited to 2 hours/day. Additionally, the Requesters allege that the Project design has not accounted for extreme weather events and disasters in the Project area, which they claim may cause economic and physical harm. They raise concerns relating to the safety of the Vishnugad Pipalkoti dam. They state that alternative sites for the muck dumping were not adequately analyzed.
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.
The Panel noted that this third Request presents new evidence or describes new circumstances that relate to: i) physical cultural resources and the allegation that muck dumping is threatening the stability and the existence of the Lakshmi Narayan Temple, ii) the allegation of worsening economic conditions of community members, and iii) the allegation of limited accessibility to water sources by community members. The Panel also notes the Requesters’ claim that they are not being heard on these issues. The Panel has performed initial due diligence and confirmed that this Request meets the admissibility criteria.
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 at the resettlement locations. The Panel submitted its recommendation to the Board of Executive Directors on October 21, 2022
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 India Limited 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 that 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.
The Board of Executive Director approved Panel’s recommendation on November 4, 2022.