Indigenous communities affected by the Tanahu Hydropower Project in Nepal file complaints with the Asian Development Bank and European Investment Bank
Communities allege failure to uphold free, prior and informed consent and inadequate compensation for loss of lands and livelihoods
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 19, 2020
TANAHU DISTRICT, NEPAL — Indigenous communities affected by the Tanahu Hydropower Project in Nepal have filed complaints with the independent accountability mechanisms of the Asian Development Bank and the European Investment Bank — two co-financiers of the project — requesting an independent mediation process. At least 32 affected families or landowners organized under the “Directly Inundation Affected Peoples Collective Rights Protection Committee” calling for ‘land for land’ and ‘house for house’ compensation; re-survey of land left out during the ‘Detailed Measurement Survey’ of the project, and free, prior and informed consent in the project process, among their ten demands, submitted the complaints on Tuesday, 11 February.
The Tanahu Hydropower Project is being developed by Tanahu Hydropower Limited, which is fully owned by the Nepal Electricity Authority. The project will construct a 140-meter high concrete dam with a reservoir about 25 kilometers long on the Seti River in Tanahu District, Gandaki Zone, in Nepal. The SinoHydro Corporation constructed affiliated facilities for the project. The Asian Development Bank, European Investment Bank, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency have provided funding to the project.
Sher Bahadur Thapa, a community member and one of the complainants, states:
“As indigenous Magars, our lives depend on the land and natural resources. The project has and will cause direct and material harm to our ancestral land, our livelihoods, and traditional practices. Our agricultural land, structures in the farms, cremation sites, bridges, roads and trails and our water resources will be directly affected by the project, and we will be displaced once the farming land is full of water.”
Despite policies in place at the Asian Development Bank and European Investment Bank committing the institutions purported to ensure meaningful consultation in projects, indigenous communities affected by the project claim that they were not given a seat at the table. Til Bahadur Thapa, one of the complainants, states:
“We did not receive adequate information and opportunity for meaningful participation and proper consultation in the project. Key documents were not provided to us in our native tongue. The form and rates of compensation were determined without our participation and as a result, are unfair, inadequate, and discriminatory against our families and thus are being imposed on us.”
Indira Shreesh, a lawyer for the Indigenous Women’s Legal Awareness Group, one of the advisors for complainants, notes: “Communities have made many attempts to resolve their concerns with the company, relevant government agencies, and the operations department of the Asian Development Bank. To date, however, their demands remain unresolved. The indigenous communities seek redress through these complaint mechanisms.”
“The balance of power between the affected communities and the project supported by the State authorities remains highly uneven. So, the complainants have moved these complaint mechanisms seeking neutral dispute resolution as per the safeguards of the banks,” adds Prabindra Shakya of the Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (CEMSOJ).
Rayyan Hassan, Executive Director of NGO Forum on ADB observes “The ADB Problem Solving function within the accountability mechanism has often been touted to be biased towards ADB management and project developers. In the case of Tanahu Hydropower Project and the plight of the Magar people, the ADB mechanism has an opportunity to do right and address the harm and resolve the Magar peoples' concerns. We hope that this time the bank delivers on its problem-solving mandate in actual practice.”
According to Tom Weerachat of International Accountability Project, “When multiple development finance institutions co-fund a project, they should uphold the best performance in the preparation and implementation of the project. In reality, the community in Tanahu is struggling to get their rights respected and fulfilled. Complaints from the community affected by the Tanahu Hydropower Project is an opportunity for the financiers and their accountability mechanisms to facilitate a community-led process for problem-solving.”
Advocate Indira Shreesh and Advocate Ritu Thapa Magar, Indigenous Women’s Legal Awareness Group (inwolag [at] yahoo.com)
Prabindra Shakya, Community Empowerment and Social Justice Network (shakya.prbn [at] gmail.com)
Tom Weerachat, International Accountability Project (tom [at] accountabilityproject.org)
Rayyan Hassan, NGO Forum on ADB (rayyan [at] forum-adb.org)