The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has established itself as the leading funding agency in the
With the goal of pro-poor sustainable growth and equitable access to natural resources, the ADB launched the
The holistic approach applied by the ADB to the
According to the ADB, built structures such as dams, weirs, and flood control works could alter water quantity, quality, and timing. (ADB TA Report, October 2005) Said infrastructures have negative environmental and social impacts on the downstream communities, in particular the
The disruption of flooding patterns in the
One example of the negative impact of large-scale infrastructure is the controversial Nam Theun 2 hydropower project. The cumulative environmental impact assessment conducted by the Nam Theun 2 Power Company (NTCP) admits that “Water levels at
Even if the EIA for Nam Theun 2 stated that the impacts will be “small,” if one considers the total number of existing and planned hydropower projects in ADB’s Mekong Power grid, it is not hard to deduct that many small impacts could add up to very significant impacts.
The Tonle Sap Initiative paved the way for the establishment of community fisheries (CF) to promote participatory natural resources management. However, CF members complain about the absence of authority for CFs to enforce regulations. The bureaucracy in reporting illegal activities provides a wide space for the illegal fishers to escape captivity.
CF members also complain about the non-exclusiveness of CFs. Outsiders are allowed open access to CFs and since they have less incentive to abide by the CF regulations, they often engage in illegal, unsustainable fishing practices. This means that CF efforts on the sustainable natural resources management will be undermined lessening the incentive for CF members to adhere to the regulations.
Safeguard Policy Violations
Based on the Report and Recommendations (RRP) of the ADB President on the Proposed Asian Development Fund Grant for the Kingdom of Cambodia on the Tonle Sap Sustainable Livelihoods Project, the cumulative impact of built structures on the Mekong is a main concern of the Bank among the external factors affecting the Tonle Sap.(RRP, November 2005) However, Rosien pointed out that ADB’s view on the impacts of hydropower development on the upstream Mekong on the Tonle Sap is not consistent with the RRP statement. The Final TA Report for the Tonle Sap Sustainable Livelihoods The Project shows that the ADB is merely operating on the assumption that there will be no significant environmental impacts, without having undertaken scientific testing to back this assumption. This violates the precautionary approach, to which ADB subscribes in its Water Policy. If the ADB were following this approach, it could not use the lack of scientific evidence to justify its decisions on infrastructure projects that affect the
This also shows that the Bank has not undertaken cumulative environment environmental impact assessment to determine the effects of upstream development on the
Further, the implementation of the Mekong Power Grid will have substantial negative impacts on the
The failure of the Bank to conduct a cumulative and integrated environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the entire GMS shows the shortcoming of the Bank in factoring the environmental, social and economic impacts of large-scale infrastructures, such as dams, to the Tonle Sap River Basin and surrounding communities.
Based on the independent analysis conducted by the Mekong Watch on the EIA of the Chong Kneas Environmental Improvement Project (CKEIP), the EIA was lacking and significant environmental impacts were omitted. (Rosien, 2006)
Involuntary Resettlement Policy
The ADB came up with a Land Acquisition and Resettlement Framework (LARF) to safeguard communities against negative resettlement impacts caused by infrastructure projects. However, there are certain provisions which are ambiguous. (Rosien, 2006)The ADB conducted consultations only on some of its projects at a very limited extent. Majority of the villagers have little knowledge about the Bank’s projects. Villagers are unlikely to agree with their relocation if the compensation given them will improve their previous situation. Therefore, the Bank should consult with the communities to identify subprojects that will be implemented in a participatory manner.
Other Issues and Concerns
With the present hierarchical and political setup in the communities, there is a great risk that women will not be heard during discussions.
There is a risk of organizational congestion due to the overlaps among the different line agencies/bodies of the government. Poor communication and coordination among these line agencies could hinder the attainment of the goal of sustainable natural resource management.
There is also a lack of participation in the project design. It is not even sure if the recommendations from the different communities on some of the Bank’s projects were even incorporated and adopted.
Lessons to Learn
The inconsistency of the projects, program and approach to the
While in the past, it is clear that the ADB has not conducted comprehensive impact assessments of infrastructure projects, the Bank has now taken a step towards this direction through its recently approved TA on the Influence of Built Structures on the
The ADB should ensure that all stakeholders and affected people of its projects be consulted. Based on the principle of free prior informed consent of the World Commission on Dams, the ADB should conduct meaningful consultations. People should have the right to say no to projects or request for changes in the project design.
The design of the Tonle Sap Initiative requires that the Bank and the different line agencies of the government should work together. However, there has not been a very good track record of inter and intradepartmental cooperation. Without such coordination, the Tonle Sap Initiatives chances for success are not very high.
To ensure voices of women will be considered in the decisions for planning and project design, the ADB should integrate gender perspective in its planning and design for all projects in the
ADB. “Technical Assistance to the
Rosien, Jessica. “Can the Asian Development Bank Save the Tonle Sap from Povert?: An Analysis of the Asian Development Bank’s Operations in the (http://www.namtheun2.com/gallery/libr_eamp/English/chapter%203_sml.pdf, p.6)