ADB Compliance Review Panel calls for urgent action to help families living along the railway

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB)'s Compliance Review Panel has released a new report calling upon the bank to “take urgent steps” to address the grievances of families impacted by the ADB-financed project to redevelop Cambodia’s railway
Evicted Cambodian Family

(Phnom Penh) – The Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Compliance Review Panel has released a new report calling upon the bank to “take urgent steps” to address the grievances of families impacted by the ADB-financed project to redevelop Cambodia’s railway who have not yet received resettlement assistance.

The Railway Rehabilitation Project has impacted approximately 18,000 people living alongside Cambodia’s 642-kilometers of dilapidated railway tracks. At least 1200 families, encompassing approximately 5160 people, were required to move to project-sponsored resettlement sites, while the rest were made to cut the portion of their land, houses and shops that lay within the 3.5 meter “corridor of impact” and allowed to remain in the residual railway right-of-way for at least five years.

After receiving a complaint from affected families in 2012, the Compliance Review Panel conducted a 17-month investigation, which concluded that many of those who were relocated were impoverished by an ill-conceived resettlement process that failed to provide adequate compensation, infrastructure at resettlement sites, and assistance to restore lost incomes and livelihoods.  In response, the ADB Board approved a series of measures recommended by the Panel to provide redress to the displaced families and bring the project into compliance.

The investigation and resulting remedial action plan did not, however, address the plight of hundreds of families who were considered “partially-affected” and allowed to remain temporarily in the right-of-way. Many of those families have found themselves living in cramped conditions – with less than 30 square meters of living space – and no security that they won’t be forcibly evicted in the future. Other families still remain in the corridor of impact and refuse to move the resettlement site 20-30 kilometers away from their current homes, where they have seen their former neighbors driven into destitution.

Frustrated by the lack of attention to their plight, in August 2015, twenty-three affected people requested a new investigation by the Compliance Review Panel.

After conducting an initial assessment, including a site visit, the panel found that the complaint was not eligible for further investigation because it did not present new evidence that wasn’t already considered by the panel in its previous compliance review report.

However, the panel stated the “complainants grievances are real and persistent” and that “they need to be – and can be – adequately and urgently addressed.” According to the panel, there was still “prima facie evidence of noncompliance with ADB’s operational policies and procedures and prima facie evidence that this noncompliance with ADB policies has led to harm or is likely to lead to future harm.”  The panel called for these grievances to be dealt with under the existing remedial action plan that was adopted by ADB’s board following the previous investigation.

The Compliance Review Panel also stated that families who do not wish to relocate to the resettlement site outside of Phnom Penh have a right to receive an alternative resettlement solution. According to the Panel, if, “even after the improvement of the facilities of the resettlement site, an affected person still does not wish to move to the offered resettlement site because it is too distant and would be disruptive to their livelihood, that person ought to be offered an equitable and commensurate compensation package or alternate site that will place the person in the same position as before the project impacts were felt.”

“Now that the Compliance Review Panel has clearly stated that people have a right to choose resettlement options that will not make them worse off, we hope ADB and the Government will get to work finding a fair solution for these families who have been living under threat of demolition for nearly ten years,” said Eang Vuthy, Executive Director of Equitable Cambodia, whose organization is assisting the complainants.

“The Panel made a smart move by issuing this response to the complaint, which makes it crystal clear what is required of ADB and the Cambodian Government, without the need for another lengthy investigation,” said David Pred Managing Director of Inclusive Development International, who has been monitoring the Railway Project resettlement process since 2010. “If ADB is forking over $800 million in development financing to Cambodia over five years, it can surely demand that the poor families who have to give up their homes and jobs to make way for ADB-sponsored projects are adequately compensated and resettled.”

The Compliance Review Panel’s Report on Eligibility is available at the following link:

http://compliance.adb.org/dir0035p.nsf/alldocs/JABM-A295PQ?OpenDocument

The complaint is available at the following link: https://www.inclusivedevelopment.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Cambodia-Railway-Complaint-2-30-August-2015-.pdf

More information about the Cambodia Railway project is available at:

www.inclusivedevelopment.net/railway

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