Nepal: Discussion on Involuntary Resettlement

Introduction

This discussion took place intermittently over around 2 months, from late May 2021 until late July 2021.

 

-----------------------

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 27 May 2021

Greetings good colleagues! This paper on involuntary resettlement in Nepal was presented at an International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) conference on 18-21 May 2021. I am an anthropologist, nurtured into all things involuntary resettlement largely while working at the World Bank. More recently I worked on the EIA for a proposed large hydro project in Nepal that would entail substantial resettlement, and this led to my interest in understanding the evolution of hydro power in Nepal. I am especially interested in your views on the broader national, regional, and international contexts for the hydro power sector, with a focus on the future. I look forward to hearing from you.

-------------------------

Dhruba Pant
Date: 28 May 2021
The paper is important in raising the the issue of 'involuntary resettlement' in hydropower development in Nepal. It would be interesting to further analyze the issues in involuntary resettlement as it differs across the hydropower projects1

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 28 May 20212
Thanks, Dhruba. You refer to issues that differ across hydropower projects. Could you give some examples of which issues you have in mind?

-------------------------

Michael Cernea
Date: 29 May 2021
For Lars T. Soeftestad

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 30 May 2021
Thanks Michael. Good to hear from you!

------------------------

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 8 June 2021
Thanks for your interesting comments, to be addressed next. For now, I want to share a LinkedIn Pulse article published a few days back: "Involuntary resettlement in Nepal: A personal quest". As the title hints, this is a personal reflection on my work on involuntary resettlement in general, and in Nepal in particular. I trust it will shed some further light on the body of work presented in the paper. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/involuntary-resettlement-nepal-personal-quest-lars-soeftestad/

-------------------------

David Halmo
Date: 1 June 2021
Lars, thanks for the opportunity to comment on your paper. It is indeed distressing that there is such a lack of information on resettlement in Nepal, and that your inquiries were unsuccessful. Despite your statement that the GON prefers to avoid resettlement, based on your Table 3, there appears to be quite a number of people being resettled or at least economically displaced by the listed projects. While cash and other compensation has been paid in several cases, there is no way to know whether such compensation was/is adequate. Are there any projects with benefit-sharing? "Resettlement was minimized" usually means the numbers are underestimates. Who finances or is financing these projects? Is the WB, ADB, IFC, or other MDFIs involved? Public-private? Are the IEEs and EIAs all internally conducted by gov't ministries; if not, who are the firms conducting them? I assume it's mostly internal given the non-transparency, but if MDFIs are involved in the funding, there are requirements in the IR policies for public disclosure, are there not? Another question is, what in fact is Nepal's legal and policy framework for land acquisition, resettlement and compensation? Do they meet the standards of MDFIs? Bill Partridge and I have summarized Tagliarino's findings on country legal systems and found them woefully lacking in our book, Resettling Displaced Communities (Lexington Books, 2020). Finally, we argue in RDCs (pp. 153-156) that the common assertion that there is little or no replacement land available to be generally wrong. If people are willing to put their minds to it, replacement land can be found, purchased and even created using a little creative thinking. Thanks again for inviting comment.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 13 June 2021
David, Thanks for your pertinent comments and questions. Admittedly, this is a mouthful! :-)

  1. It is indeed distressing that there is a lack of information on resettlement in Nepal. The issue is, however, only partly the lack of information. Beyond this, it is that nobody seems to know if such data are collected, and if so, by whom. Furthermore, that those approached do no find it necessary to respond to requests for information. Recall the informant who informed me that it is necessary to know people, which can be interpreted to mean that somebody, somewhere, have such data (cf. para 8).
  2. Table 3 refers mostly to the number of households that will be affected. It also in some cases lists households that will be displaced, but note that there is often a large difference between affected and displaced households. Consider also that this is a select list - most hydropower projects in Nepal so far have caused no displacement, and very few local people were/are negatively affected. In the case of Nalgad Hydropower Project which I worked on (cf. para 7), it seems that a majority of households who will lose land and/or built structures opt to stay on, and subsequent decisions to move will accordingly be considered as cases of voluntary resettlement (cf. para 4). The last couple of projects listed in Table 3 are proposed/planned, and have met with substantial criticism because of their major negative social/cultural impact on the local people. You are correct in stating that it is not possible to know beforehand if the compensation received is adequate (cf. para 10).
  3. The paper does not focus specifically on benefit-sharing. Several small projects, all run-of-the-river type projects, where the operator is locally based and staffed, will likely focus on some type and level of benefit-sharing, including that electricity is partly or wholly made available locally instead of disappearing into the national grid.
  4. The term "resettlement was minimized" certainly underestimates the reality. This fact can possibly be understood as a rationale for using this expression. Oftentimes it stands alone, that is, it is not followed by quantifiable data. This would mean that there was no formal and officially sanctioned displacement, and that whatever resettlement did take place (or were to take place in the future) were individually motivated (cf. para 2).
  5. The World Bank Group has been involved, but I believe less today. Asian Development Bank is involved, as are bilateral agencies. In addition to financing projects, these donors are involved in, inter alia, policy work, research, and training.
  6. I am afraid I do not have data on any public-private arrangements.
  7. IEEs and EIAs are, to my knowledge, done by third party agencies/firms (not by public sector), while the TORs will be prepared by/in consultation with the public sector. An example: I worked on the EIA for the proposed Nalgad Hydropower Project, hired by the Australian infrastructure consulting firm SMEC, which worked under a contract with the Govt. of Nepal, that also finance the work.
  8. In the case of external/international financing there are obviously requirements and conditionalities (I know them best from the World Bank, as I used to work there, including on involuntary resettlement). I assume that these requirements and conditionalities are followed. If you here are thinking of the fact that the Govt. may not have policies on gathering and analyzing data on involuntary resettlement for the sector as a whole (cf. para 1), this would not be in contravention to agreements on specific projects (all relevant stakeholders will receive such data in internal project reports).
  9. Nepal has relevant laws that detail frameworks for land acquisition, compensation, and displacement. These laws do meet the standards of, importantly, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (they actually provided inspiration for the underlying ideas and even the specific language in these laws). Thanks for the reference to Bill's and your book (give him my regards).
  10. On the availability of replacement land: there are different views on this with respect to Nepal. A simple calculation of population size versus availability of agricultural land would seem to indicate that there is - or certainly will be (in the future) - lack of land. However, the perhaps more important consideration is the _quality_ of the available land, and which produce it may be used for. A further consideration is that as demand for replacement land increases so will prices, which means that fewer and fewer people will be able to afford it (cf. para 2). In other words, compensation received for loss of productive resources, that is, various types of land and structures/buildings, will increasingly not suffice to achieve replacement of the amount and/or quality of land.

-------------------------

Dhruba Pant
Date: 30 May 2021
Thanks, Lars. Involuntary resettlement due to hydropower development differs across the geographical regions. Hydropower in the lower hills tend to encourage the people to resettle in the close by economically prosperous regions or in the terai, as the financial compensation they receive is higher. whereas the people from the remote high hills receive lower financial compensation due to the land value in these areas. Therefore, involuntary resettlement needs to by analysed in terms of its effect on the livelihood of resettling households across the regions and its effect to fully understand its dynamics.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 12 June 2021
Thanks for your reply, Dhruba, and I'm sorry about the delay in answering. How does location (topographically / degree of remoteness) contribute to determining land values? While the context is involuntary resettlement, it has so far oftentimes been voluntary, that is, individual households decide to move and purchase land. How does this factor into the dynamics of involuntary resettlement?

Dhruba Pant
Date: 10 June 2021
Thanks, Lars. In case of hydropower development, wherein the local communities are affected, the following are the issues that needs to be addressed properly, that seems to be lacking at present. Adequate compensation packages and in time for those whose land and other property are acquired. Accounting of the loss of livelihood due to the project and compensation for it. Families/communities who have been displaced and have to resettle in new area needs to receive compensation that is adequate to start new livelihood.

-------------------------

Tom Balemesa
Date: 2 June 2021
Thank you, Lars, for the opportunity to comment on your paper. The dynamics in Nepal are a learning stock. In the first instance there seems a lot of infrastructure developments that could be unregulated by agreeable international standards. Here I refer to the IFC, WB, Equator principles and others. Secondly how do these relate with the customary laws and practices of Nepal? The relationship between the projects and the customary practices, institutional and legal regimes need to be analyzed. My third issues is on the funding of the projects- are they funded by Nepal itself or foreign donors? This is because the funders of the projects could dictate the conditions for the implementation of the projects. Lastly, I would also think benchmarking from Nepal's neighbors could be a good practice.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 13 June 2021
Thanks, Tom, for your comments, which I respond to in the order you have listed them.

  1. I am not certain I understand. You seem to imply that a lot infrastructure projects in Nepal may be "unregulated". And by that you seem to imply that they do not follow "international standards". What is the source for this statement?
  2. They relate well. Any and all IEE / EIA address this, if and when necessary. You seem to imply that this is not done in Nepal. On what do you base this assertion?
  3. Funding for hydropower projects as a rule come from the outside. You imply that source of funding - whether domestic or international - could determine how projects are implemented in Nepal. I don't think so. What makes you state this?
  4. Again, I am not certain I understand. By "benchmarking" you mean perhaps learning? Further, you do not detail who should do this benchmarking, and who should use it. The reality is that, among the stakeholders involved in hydropower development, both international and domestic NGOs are well aware of what is going on in this sector. Likewise, international engineering firms and donors, whether multilateral or bilateral, are on top of this. There is a constant sharing and exchange of relevant knowledge and information, and on an international level, not just among Nepal's neighbors.

Tom Balemesa
Date: 12 June 2021
Thanks Lars. To clarify in order;

  1. 'Unregulated' I meant the projects could be implemented in a sporadic way- so to say there is no much check on the sequencing and there could be pressure to absorb the funds.
  2. No comment
  3. My thoughts are that funders of projects dictate the standards to follow alongside the local policy, institutional and legal frameworks.
  4. Yes, and thank you for the clarification.

-------------------------

Dev Kumar Sunuwar
Date: 2 June 2021
Dear Lars, thank you so much for opportunity to comment on your paper. The major disputes in hydropower sector in Nepal is between local Indigenous communities and government including multilateral banks such as WB, which has operational policy on Indigenous Peoples mainly in relation to their traditional land, right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). One of the concerns raised is non-implementation of its policy including WB's policy on 'Involuntary Resettlement in Nepal' not offering local and Indigenous Peoples, the land for land compensation, also that projects not obtaining broader affected community support through FPIC as required under Bank's policy. And often, there is not a clear ways or procedures in Nepal, i guess is how the 'involuntary settlement, compensation and adverse livelihood, including 'social and environment impacts of the project are being dealt with. The SIA and EIA are done merely for formalities.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 14 June 2021
Hello Dev, thanks for your comments. Admittedly, you present rather critical arguments, especially directed at the World Bank's involvement in projects that affect indigenous peoples. While important, in the larger context it is but one of several important considerations. You do not mention the source for your criticism. However, chances are you refer to the Bank's Power Development Project, and more specifically the 220 kV Khimti-Dhalkebar Transmission Line, where people in Sindhuli district submitted a complaint stating that their homes, lands, and livelihoods had been affected. The complaint focused on issues related to indigenous peoples, consultation, disclosure, resettlement, and compensation. This case was investigated by the Bank's Inspection Panel. Its report concluded that the Bank had been "confronted with many issues arising from the security situation in Nepal, in addition to the specific characteristics of the project and the project areas". It furthermore referred to cases of non-compliance with Bank policies as being "primarily a consequence of reduced engagement of the Bank, together with the weak capacity of the NEA (Nepal Electricity Authority)". The Panel found that the Bank had followed its policies correctly in several areas, including using an Abbreviated Resettlement Action Plan and applying its policy on Indigenous Policies. On the other hand, the Panel found non-compliance as regards assessment of alternative transmission line routes, analysis of the institutional capacity of NEA to conduct environmental assessments, and measures to build its capacity to implement the recommendations of the environmental and social studies. (Source: press release, from a discussion by the Bank's Board of Executive Directors, dated 13 July 2015.) Your second-to-last sentence, where you assert that there is "not a clear ways of procedures in Nepal", is far from clear. You do not give the source. Furthermore, I gather you do not blame the Bank for this. Note that SIA since several years are being done as part of EIA. Your very general statement that "SIA and EIA are done merely for formalities" lacks source, and as it stands, I disagree strongly.

-------------------------

David Halmo
Date: 8 June 2021
Lars, thanks for the link to the LinkedIn paper. Some comments which may be relevant to your revising the IAIA paper.
It would be useful to contextualize your experience with the Nalgad EIA. When did you do it? Submit it? How long have you been waiting for acceptance? By whom?
The social and cultural aspects of hydropower projects were negligible for virtually all projects globally in the beginning, until roughly 1980 when Michael Cernea's "Social Issues Associated with Involuntary Resettlement..." was approved by the WB Board as OMS 2.33, and then diffused to the other MDFIs in subsequent years (e.g., ADB in 1995 or thereabouts).
As the international standard diffused and evolved as policy, some countries gradually followed suit (although most have made only minimal efforts), which I suspect led in part to the evolution in Nepal of EIA and inclusion of social concerns (i.e., see the Arun III case).
While few, there are sources out there which analyze the hydropower sector (in Nepal) from the perspective of IR. For example, there is a Master's thesis available online as a Lund University Working Paper by Tobias Fast ("Another Dam Development Project?"). Can't tell you how thorough it is, having only just found it myself.
I guess I would argue that while it appears that Nepal has made attempts, through the development of an EIA process and other legislation (e.g., 1977) to come into at least minimal compliance with the international standards set forth in WB and ADB policy, they still lack the resources and expertise (?) and/or political will to implement such standards effectively on the ground. Perhaps the reason for lack of transparency in providing IR data? Please correct me if I am wrong on this.
In terms of "creating a body of facts and lessons learned that can provide guidance to future cases of IR, I suggest you search the literature on the cases of Arun III and before and after, both official documents of the WB and its Inspection Panel (Arun III), academic journals like Hydro Nepal and NGOs like International Rivers (Lori Udall wrote about Arun III). Of course, lessons which might guide future IR efforts can be gleaned from any number of project cases globally (Bill Partridge and I summarize roughly 41 in our book).
I agree with Eddie Smyth that "hydropower operators and relevant public sector organizations" desire "to not push displacement, but instead make it voluntary" does NOT make it voluntary. In China, poverty alleviation resettlement projects give people the option of staying rather than relocating, but soon withdraw all government services (electricity, water, schools, clinics, any kind of maintenance, such that those who chose to stay soon find themselves in ghost towns, literally abandoned by the government, and end involuntarily relocating anyway. The lack of data on IR and compensation in Nepal is a real problem, though, as I previously commented. Nor do IAIA requirements for conference papers allow for any kind of substantive discussion.
Hope all this helps.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 16 June 2021
Hello again, David, Thanks for your continued interest in this paper!

  1. I worked on the Nalgad Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) intermittently from late 2016 until late 2018. My input basically involved: (a) helping organize and implement the public consultation process, including preparing info. material to be shared with local people, traveling in the project area to conduct public consultation meetings, and document and report on them, and (b) organize a large-scale socioeconomic survey among local people, including drafting survey forms, discussing with data people to optimize the forms for data entry, organize printing of forms and related material, hiring and training several local field assistants, and organize data collection. The work on the socioeconomic survey was discussed within the EIA team and approved by the team leader, often following discussions with SMEC senior staff members and the Client (the Govt.). This internal communication oftentimes would go on for a substantial time before a decision was reached.
  2. I agree that social and cultural aspects of hydropower projects started from zero and gradually grew, and that Michael's early work and input was crucial (he is actually following this discussion). I learnt this first hand when I began working on hydropower myself in the mid-80s, and especially after I came to the World Bank in the early 90s. The paper gives an all-to brief reference (because of space limitations) to how the focus on social, cultural, and environmental concerns evolved and became an integral part of hydropower development in Nepal. Your term "diffusion", partly via Asian Development Bank (ADB), would appear to be a valid characteristic. The relatively early focus on and formalization of EIA appears largely to have been a result of domestic work, supported by some external financing (see reference in the paper).
  3. I am aware of Tobias Fast's thesis, but have not yet read it. West Seti is used as a case. Another potentially relevant thesis is: Sanju Koirala, "Hydropower Induced Displacement in Nepal" (Ph.D. thesis, University of Otago Dunedin, New Zealand, 2015). Briefly thumbing through it, I noticed that it too uses West Seti as a case. I have invited both to join this discussion.
  4. I believe you are correct in suggesting that Nepal may lack resources, expertise/human resources, and the political will to be involved in and follow up on preparatory work (on EIAs) and implementation (cf. my comment elsewhere in this discussion on a report by the Bank's Inspection Panel). Assuming that sector-level data on IR are indeed collected, the lack of transparency (read: sharing) may or may not be ascribed to these facts. At this point I really cannot be certain about the causality/ies involved. Having said that, it certainly makes sense to assume that there is a connection. The set of variables that the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) maintains and regularly updates cover any and all engineering, financial, and technical issues. These variables are at the core of the rationale for hydropower development in Nepal, and are accordingly important. As for social and cultural variables (including IR and compensation), it would appear that they are considered to be marginal. I gather that the NEA may not have staff who have expertise in these areas, and that could contribute to pushing this agenda. Social and cultural variables may even be considered as externalities that require time and resources, and that accordingly best are treated as marginal. I am generally knowledgeable about the Arun III saga, but agree that it would be useful to dive deeper into the discussion of this project.
  5. I agree with you both about voluntary displacement versus IR (kindly share the source for your quotations). The language on this in the paper amounted to try and point out a seeming gradually evolving difference between the theory (as promoted by the Govt.) and the practice (as evident in actual project implementation work on the ground).
  6. Yes, the lack of data on IR and compensation is a substantial problem, including that it is not clear if such data are collected and, if so, by whom and for what purpose. Finally, for all the good advice shared so far in this discussion, incorporating this into the paper is not really possible given the limited length requirements for IAIA conference papers. 

David Halmo
Date: 16 June 2021
Hello, Lars, thanks for the replies. Sources for the muddled distinction between "voluntary" and "involuntary," in the context of China's PAR, include:

  • Longyi Xue, Mark Wang and Tao Xue, "'Voluntary Poverty Alleviation Resettlement in China", Development and Change 44:5 (2013).
  • Kevin Lo and Mark Wang, "How Voluntary is Poverty Alleviation Resettlement in China?", Habitat International 73: pp. 34-42 (2018).
  • Brooke Wilmsen and Mark Wang, "Voluntary and Involuntary Resettlement in China: A False Dichotomy?", Development in Practice 25:5 (2015).

My apologies, my comments were based on the assumption that you were revising the paper for publication, which is true if IAIA is planning to publish conference proceedings or some such. You might consider also expanding the paper further for publication in IAIA's journal Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal. I think it would make a welcome and much needed addition to the literature, and foster further discussion of the state of IR in Nepal. Thanks again for inviting comment.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 16 June 2021
David, I'm finally able to comment in a timely manner! :-) Thanks for the references on "voluntary" versus "involuntary" resettlement. I am not clear as to why you apologize? Your assumption that we are in the process of revising the paper is correct. IAIA has given us until the end of this month to submit a final version (which will still have to follow the same guidelines as per length). Publishing the paper in IAIA's journal Impact Assessment would be an option, but it is my understanding that in this case the process is that IAIA may invite the paper, not the other way around (that we submit it). If so, I do not know if the same guidelines on length would apply. Because of this, we may be interested in the possibility of publishing it elsewhere in an expanded version. Thanks very much for your kind support, David!

David Halmo
Date: 16 June 2021
Lars, thanks again for the replies. I thought you were revising to go right to the IAPA journal with an expanded piece. I am a peer reviewer for the journal, and the length guidelines are something like 25-30 double-spaced pages. Good to know the journal may invite the paper to be submitted. Thanks for providing the additional information on the Nalgad project. Best of luck with the paper!

-------------------------

David Halmo
Date: 9 June 2021
Lars, a couple of questions. Is the Nalgad Hydro project the same as the Nalsing Gad Storage Project? If so, the Nalgad Power Company website states the number of houses to be located as 150, and the number of PAPs as 825, based on pre-feasibility studies. Lastly, is China involved in the financing, building, or other aspects of the project? Perhaps part of the reason for the non-transparency?

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 16 June 2021
David, here is a response to a further comment from your side (I'm sorry about the delay in responding).

  1. Yes, the two names refer to the same project. Some years back the name was changed from Nalsing Gad Hydropower Project to Nalgad Hydropower Project. The name Nalsing Gad continues to be used, however. The reference to "storage project" is not official, and may be used to separate it from the majority of run-of-the-river type projects. Also, projects with reservoirs or storage dams are a novelty in Nepal, and this may be a further reason why the reference to "storage" continues to be used.
  2. The figures on resettlement and PAPs on Nalgad Power Company (NPC)'s website are from unreliable studies done around 2012. The numbers in the paper's Table 3 are from the draft EIA submitted in summer 2019. The NPC should have updated the figures on the website. The official reason for not doing is likely that the EIA is not final (an unofficial reason may be that the 2012 figures are lower). A possible final version of the EIA was submitted in April 2021. I have not seen these reports (there are some 8 in all), and do not know if the figures on resettlement and PAPs may have been revised (there is no reason why they would be). ‘
  3. China is not involved in Nalgad. The Govt. signed a contract with Japan to finance the dam in 2019, as a case of public-private partnership (a Japanese engineering firm will build the powerhouse). I am not aware what has happened since. Given the very substantial delays so far, and the further hurdles (the EIA has to be finalized, and NPC has to apply to NEA to receive a construction license, etc.), it will likely still take time before construction can start. As for the lack of transparency – that is, my request for data on compensation and IR – this rests with the Govt. and NEA alone.

PS. According to a statement in 2019 by NPC, likely referring to the 2o12 figures mentioned above, the project will cause few problems in terms of rehabilitation and resettlement. The socioeconomic survey in 2018 does not support this.

-------------------------

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 17 June 2021
Greetings colleagues! Those among you that recently joined the discussion may have missed my LinkedIn article, "Involuntary Resettlement in Nepal: A Personal Quest". A footnote has a link to photos and videos from public consultation meetings and the socioeconomic survey in the project area, including in the valley to be submerged. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/involuntary-resettlement-nepal-personal-quest-lars-soeftestad/

-------------------------

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 20 June 2021
Greetings colleagues! I would appreciate it very much if you would point out any mistakes, misunderstandings, unclear statements, and/or vague formulations in the paper. This includes Table 1, "Projects and Implementation Phases": Are the logic of the progression of the listed phases correct? Is the description of the various phases correct?

David Halmo
Date: 21 June 2021
Hi Lars, in response to your most recent request, let me make some suggestions on the paper, if I may.

  1. The goals set out in the abstract do not match the order of presentation in the text. For example, presenting a history of IR is listed first in the abstract, but appears third in the text after "Background" and the 3 subheadings under "Nepal's Hydropower Sector."
  2. Regarding this latter heading and discussion, I suggest collapsing the Beginning, Formalization and Expansion sections into one brief coherent paragraph. This will/should leave more space for IR-related discussion.
  3. While table 3 and the associated text presents "a body of facts" as is currently known, the paper ends with "Issues and "Concerns" regarding the lack of data available and the possible reasons for this, but there are really no lessons learned presented that would help guide future cases of IR or establishing acceptable levels and types of compensation, as stated in the abstract. Most current policies require compensation at replacement value. Perhaps some brief recommendations?
  4. I would attempt to tie the passages regarding the WB and IR to the most recent ESF and standards on IR, rather than the 2004 Sourcebook. While valuable, it probably does not reflect the changes, if any, in the wording. I suspect the major principles remain the same.
  5. If you can, move table 1 to follow the paragraph in which it is referenced. Currently, it appears at the bottom of page 2 but is not referenced until about a third of the way down on the next page (p.3). My only comment on Table 1 in terms of logic is that, as a rule, IEE/EIA should be conducted as early on in the process as possible (one assumes social components are/should be included in the EIAs).
  6. A few nitty picky things: Spell out words at first (e.g., "Min". for Ministry," Env". for Environmental (pp.2-3); page 1, second paragraph under Background, one "l" in "imperiled"; page 4, first paragraph below Table 2, delete "It follows that" and begin sentence with "References to..." line four of same paragraph should read, "It follows that the term..."

Hope all this helps. Do let me know when it is published.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 27 June 2021
First, sorry for not responding in a timely manner. A computer crash meant I couldn't access this for some days. David, thanks very much for your incisive comments. It never ceases to astonish me: being in the middle of it means one does not have the necessary distance to the subject matter. Reviews like this one are absolutely necessary to help pinpoint lacunae, issues, and language that need to be revised and changed. Thanks again!

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 27 June 2021
On table 1 "Projects and Implementation Phases": my former colleague on the EIA for the Nalgad HP, Michael Holics, shared the following observation in a private email that corrects and expands the language in the Table's phase 4: The trigger for an EIA for hydropower projects is: (1) Projects with more than 50 MW capacity; or (2) Projects resulting in loss of greater than 5 ha of forest; or (3) Projects resulting in displacement of more than 100 persons. Thanks for this comment, Michael!

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 27 June 2021
Do any of you experts out there have further comments on Table 1?

-------------------------

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 28 June 2021
Two key conclusions are gradually being singled out, partly as a consequence of the present discussion. They are:

  1. Availability of Relevant Data. It appears that relevant public sector organizations charged with collecting, analyzing, storing, and/or disseminating data on the hydropower sector as a whole, may not cover social and cultural data (specifically as related to involuntary resettlement, including land acquisition, compensation, and displacement). However, one informant did state that it was necessary to have inside contacts to get at such data.
  2. Voluntary Versus Involuntary Resettlement. Nepal subscribes to the international understanding of what involuntary resettlement is (cf. quote and link in the paper, page 1). Moving from the national level down to the project level, there appears to be cases where the operational understanding of involuntary resettlement, specifically displacement, differ from the national understanding. While it is a goal to minimize displacement, it appears that projects – including operational, under construction, and pipeline projects – report zero displacement. This invokes the muddled distinction between voluntary and involuntary displacement. The cause for this difference between theory and practice, so to speak, may lie with the public sector, and a lacking or certainly inefficient monitoring and evaluation system.

Are these issues or concerns that you have experienced yourself, and agree with? Do you have suggestions for how to address this? How about research that address this?

Dhruba Pant
Date: 30 June 2021
Thanks, Lars, for summarizing key social and cultural issues – compensation, displacement and its impact on livelihood – on involuntary resettlement. There is need for further research on these subjects and cross-country research would be useful.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 30 June 2021
Dhruba, Thanks for your comment. I agree that further research on these issues, including cross-country research, would be useful. The present paper, however, focuses on Nepal. It argues implicitly that we should first address the issues it poses for Nepal. This includes, for example, the two preliminary conclusions listed above. I accordingly invite you, and all others that follow this discussion, to comment on these two preliminary conclusions.

David Halmo
Date: 30 June 2021

  1. Lars, I'm not certain the issue is so much that "public sector organizations ... may not cover social and cultural data (specifically as related to involuntary resettlement, including land acquisition, compensation, and displacement)”. The collection of social and cultural data on land acquisition and compensation, and numbers of those to be displaced, is REQUIRED in all cases in which the borrower has signed a loan agreement with an MFI for projects that involve displacement and resettlement. All MFI policies require a Resettlement Action Plan in addition to the EIA for projects which involve displacement and resettlement, which include the vast majority of hydropower projects (Table 3). Moreover, RAPs must include a full census of PAPs, their assets and valuation, resettlement options (for both physically and economically displaced), alternative resettlement sites, housing designs, etc., etc.). It is also required that all of this information is to be made available to both the lender and the PAPs themselves. In accordance with transparency and disclosure policies, MFIs routinely post RAPs on their project websites. I'm sure you know all this.

Past experience has shown that, in many cases, the social/cultural information in RAPs is shoddy and incomplete, numbers of PAPs greatly underestimated, and data presented out of date, often based on old government records (in the Narmada case, as much as 20 years old).

In the Nalgad case, if an agreement was signed with JICA, these requirements obtain to the best of my knowledge, whether the gov't, engineering firm, or outside consultants have responsibility. It must certainly be the case in the other examples presented in Table 3. So, if "public sector organizations" or whomever are tasked with developing a RAP and collecting the relevant data fail to do so, one could argue that they are in violation of the loan agreement, as the RAP is usually part of the agreement (i.e., that it will be conducted according to the lender's policy specifications). In short, the data SHOULD be available; one should not have to rely on someone with "inside contacts" to get the data. Given that the Nalgad EIA has yet to be finalized, perhaps any RAP has also not yet been finalized. But there are usually milestones or benchmark dates by which these tasks are to be completed by the borrower. In my view, something is going on here that doesn't pass the smell test, nearly 2 1/2 years after your EIA work.

  1. On the issue of VR vs. IR, it is true that operational understandings may be different at the project and national levels. But again, if the project is financed even partly by a MFI, even in a PPP situation, displacement is clearly defined in international resettlement policy, such that any "zero displacement" claim strikes me a bogus. How, in the context of hydropower projects, are people living in a proposed reservoir area not at least economically displaced if they lose even a portion of their land or buildings, which require compensation at replacement value? Or people living downstream potentially economically displaced by changes in river flow and subsequent ecosystem impacts, again requiring compensation if livelihoods (e.g., riverbank gardens, fishing) are adversely affected. Again, the "zero displacement" claim strikes me as too convenient.
  2. While there is a need for continued research on these issues, I would also argue that there is a huge corpus of information that already exists, drawn from more than 60 years of cross-country experience with these issues.

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 8 July 2021
David, thanks very much for your most recent comments. Here are a rather longish set of comments.

(1) Availability of Data on Involuntary Resettlement. I realize that my statement that "public sector organizations ... may not cover social and cultural data (specifically as related to involuntary resettlement, including land acquisition, compensation, and displacement)" leaves something to be desired. Thanks for pointing this out. Some explanation and rewriting is clearly necessary. While I, as you state, know this, these are nonetheless facts that need to be repeated, apparently time and again. 
      The Govt. is charged with reviewing and evaluating draft EIAs (incl. RAPs). As for which organization is responsible, I have so far used the generic term "public sector organization". After a major reshuffling of ministries in 2018, the Ministry for Science, Technology and Environment (MoSTE) was amalgamated with the Forestry Ministry to become Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE). The environment arm of MoFE, the Nepal Environment Agency, is responsible for reviewing and approving all EIAs in Nepal across all sectors. The Agency is seriously understaffed. Equally important, if not more so, is that it is not clear how the Agency is staffed when it comes to reviewing resettlement data. More recently, Covid-19 and the associated pandemic have contributed to delaying work.
       A crucial issue is what happens with the EIA documents once the Nepal Environment Agency finishes reviewing them? Also, does the Agency receive draft EIAs in electronic form and/or in paper form? My guess is that they are received in paper form only. Further, are the data entered into a relational database? My assumption is that they are not. Furthermore, I gather the documents are archived and not used any further. The Govt., through the Agency, is not obliged to analyse and aggregate data from EIAs, including for sector and time periods (e.g., month, quarter, year). This means that the Agency is not able to respond to requests for aggregated data, and maybe not even for individual projects, without investing a substantial amount of work. Hence, chances are that such requests are not honoured. As for the earlier mentioned reference to having an insider contact in order to receive information, this may not be correct.

(2) Voluntary Resettlement versus Involuntary Resettlement. At the project level there may be a temptation to use shortcuts, for example, using less than acceptable survey and data collection methods, using old data, and minimizing actual displacement. I agree that the data and information reported in RAPs in many cases may be lacking, incomplete, or incorrect, that is, "shoddy" or "bogus" to use your terms. As for using older - and, one must presume, more favourable - data, this appears to be the case in at least some documents, as well as on project websites. You refer to Narmada, which I know well (in 1992 I prepared a brief of the Sardar Sarovar dam for the Swedish Govt. in connection with an upcoming discussion in the Bank's Board).
       Minimizing displacement and making it voluntary would be the preferred option for the Client (see para 3 below on this term) and the Govt. The PAPs prefer to stay on, if at all possible, perhaps using compensation money to purchase new land and/or to replace structures. A relevant scenario is where PAPs are to be relocated according to the involuntary resettlement framework, but instead they prefer to move to another location, or not move at all. This apparent dichotomy of voluntary resettlement versus involuntary resettlement in fact covers the realities. Quite apart from whether resettlement is voluntary or involuntary, the goal of creating better outcomes is dependent upon people-centered practices that are embedded in policy, planning, and implementation. Experience from China seems to indicate that resettlers do not necessarily receive enough and detailed information that complies with the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (see references elsewhere in this discussion). It can accordingly be discussed if voluntary resettlement is really voluntary. Further, labelling resettlement as voluntary may suggest or imply that there is little contention and lack of coercion. However, coercion can, in addition to coming from the Govt., also emerge from within the communities that consider resettlement.
       Regarding any inconsistencies in preparing RAPs this is an open issue. That is, the extent to which the official regulations are followed during preparation of RAPs is not known. Accordingly, for now this argument, based on review of a limited number of project documents, has the status of a hypothesis.
       Any shortcuts made in data collection, analysis, and drawing conclusions, specifically in the case of minimizing displacement, should be picked up by the Nepal Environment Agency. The fact that this, in at least some cases, may not happen is likely testimony to under-staffing - and perhaps less than adequate staff capacities - and results in a concomitant lacking review and evaluation capacity (there is actually a substantial backlog).

(3) Project Organizations. The public sector organizations which are in charge of implementing each project, are commonly referred to as "the Client". In any one project it is positioned in between the Govt. and the project implementer (as a rule an engineering firm that, together with external consultants, are responsible for preparatory and implementation activities). The role of this stakeholder, working in collaboration with the contracted engineering firm, including in facilitating and streamlining progress in project work, but also to understand how and why delays may occur, appears to not be addressed in existing research.

(4) The Nalgad Project. The detailed requirements that you present certainly applies to this project (as it does to all projects). The whole process has taken a very substantial time, and it is not over yet (the revised EIA documents, submitted by SMEC to the Client (Nalgad Hydropower Company Ltd.) in April, have apparently not yet been submitted to the MoFE and the Nepal Environment Agency). Some of the reasons for the delays are mentioned in passing above. As for who is responsible, suffice it to state that SMEC, the contractor, to my knowledge bears no responsibility whatsoever.

(5) Research. In response to the call in this discussion for more research, I too do not quite see the necessity for this. In particular, there does not seem to be much need for cross-cultural and international comparative research in order to throw light on the present situation in Nepal. There are a very substantial amount of research available that cover projects in a great many countries. We would accordingly do well to study and apply existing research before embarking on new research.

(6) Conclusions. I have pointed to two potential main conclusions or hypotheses: (1) challenges in the Nepal Environment Agency as regards analysing EIAs and making such data available, and (2) on voluntary resettlement versus involuntary resettlement. The first hypothesis covers both project level data and aggregate data. It would be in the Govt.'s interest to create and maintain a relational database on resettlement, not only to serve the research community and the interested public, but for purposes of national-level planning.
      These are separate hypotheses. The first hypothesis, and explanatory variables, are located primarily at the public level, while the second, and explanatory variables, are located primarily at the project level. At the same time, they are also connected, in that the Govt., in the final analysis, are responsible in both cases.
       These two preliminary hypotheses are based upon consulting documents for a few select projects, as well as discussions with informants. Further research, that is, reviewing a larger cross-section of hydro projects (operating, under construction, and pipeline) in Nepal, together with interviewing relevant stakeholders, including staff at Nepal Environment Agency, would be necessary in order to assess the merits of these two hypotheses and draw firm conclusions. I would like to focus on this next.

-------------------------

Dhruba Pant
Datge: 11 July 2021
Lars, Thanks. You may be right that the government environment agency may lack sufficient staffs with required expertise, that is a constraint in analyzing the impacts outlined in the EIA study. At the same time I doubt if the EIA study reports are taken as formalities to fulfill the requirement to get the license. Beside, we cannot expect government employees digging into these reports seriously, as they have several other responsibilities to fulfill. Therefore, there is a need to collect, collate and analyze the available information on involuntary resettlement and look into the current situation. I came to know about the involuntary resettlement issues while I was leading a study on 'Benefit Sharing Mechanism in hydropower Projects: Lessons from Nepal and India' (available in Academia). Since, the scope of the study did not cover involuntary resettlement, I thought that needs to be studied based on the discussions with the hydropower affected households/community at the local level. As you brought the issue for discussion, it was timely as we see the comments on the discussion.
 
Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 28 july 2021
Dear Dhruba, belated comments on two of your statements: (1) a main purpose of EIA reports are to advise on issuing construction licenses, and (2) we can expect government employees "digging into these reports seriously", moreover, there are or should be dedicated staff whose responsibility it is to do just that.
 
Dear Lars, What I meant to say is that if the EIA reports seriously look into the resettlement issues, which is very social and if not, the government staffs who are supposed to look into the deficiencies in the report are paying adequate attention while approving the EIA report.

-------------------------

Lars T Soeftestad
Date: 28 July 2021
Dear colleagues,
This discussion has been very interesting and useful. It has presented new insights and ways of looking at this material, and I am forever grateful to you for this. I would like to thank you especially, David Halmo, for your incisive and substantive constructive criticism.
Now that the discussion is closing some little housekeeping is in order. The revised paper will be available in a few days at: https://lars.academia.edu/research#drafts (you can also write me to request
it at: lars@supras.biz). As for this discussion, I do not know what happens after it closes (that is, if it will be available). For this reason the whole discussion is available on my blog (not yet finalized) at: https://devblog.no/en/article/nepal-discussion-involuntary-resettlement.
I will submit the paper to the IAIA journal "Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal" (keep your fingers crossed).
Thanks to all of you again.
Regards, Lars Soeftestad
 
David Halmo
Date: 28 July 2021
Dear Lars, Thanks for making the paper available for discussion. It was indeed a pleasure to participate. Best of luck with the IAIA submission. Look forward to seeing it in print.

-------------------------

Lars T Soeftestad


Notes
(1) A first draft of the paper "Involuntary resettlement i Nepal: A porftolio review" was presented at the annual conferenc of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA), 18--21 May 2021. The paper subsequently went through several revisions, including importantly one that followed a discussion on academia.edu (this articles documents that discussion). 
(2) Image credit: Supras Limited at: http://http:/www.supras.biz).
(3) Relevant Devblog articles at: "Hydropower projects: EIA scoping" at: https://devblog.no/en/article/hydropower-projects-eia-scoping | "Nepal: involuntary resettlement" at: https://devblog.no/en/article/nepal-involuntary-resettlement
(4) Permalink: https://devblog.no/en/article/nepal-discussion-involuntary-resettlement
(5) This article was published 26 July 2021. It was revised 29 July 2021.

Links and Sources
Devblog. 2021. "Nepal: Discussion on involuntary resettlement", at: https://devblog.no/en/article/nepal-discussion-involuntary-resettlement
Soeftestad, Lars T
. 2021. "Involuntary resettlement in Nepal: A personal quest", LinkedIn, 4 June 2021, at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/involuntary-resettlement-nepal-personal-quest-lars-soeftestad/

devblog.no