As much of the expansion and growth of Myanmar's economy in its current transitional phase relates directly to water (i.e., enhanced production and trade in agricultural products, hydropower generation, and the expansion of national and regional green transport systems via rivers and ports), the anticipated growth in cities, industry, and cultural/eco-tourism will pose trade-offs for water use, and potentially impact water quality and therefore human and ecosystem health. The World Bank therefore categorizes the current investment project as a Category A project, requiring full environmental assessment due to its spatial extent, its focus on river basin planning and civil works to be carried out under Components 2 and 3. According to the World Bank, a Category A project is likely to have significant adverse environmental impacts that are sensitive, diverse, or unprecedented.
APPLICABLE SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS
Environmental Assessment OP/BP 4.01
World Bank documentation states that Environmental Asessment OP/BP 4.01 is triggered because the project supports a diverse set of activities related to sustainable environmental management in Myanmar. Specifically, [t]he project may support the preparation of (pre) feasibility studies for investments that could be financed in future phases of the proposed series of projects. These potential future investments (i.e., in irrigation, hydropower, navigation, delta management, municipal water supply or wastewater management systems) could have adverse environmental and social impacts.
Natural Habitats OP/BP 4.04
World Bank documentation states that Natural Habitats OP/BP 4.04 is triggered primarily because of the positive impact that is anticipated as a consequence of better management of the river's water resources. At the same time, however, some project activities may have negative impacts on natural habitats. World Bank cites as an example that channel enhancement works or works associated with the upgrading of the hydromet system could potentially affect aquatic and riparian habitats.
Physical Cultural Resources OP/BP 4.11
World Bank documentation states that the project will carry out minor civil works under the channel enhancements and hydromet modernization sub-components. The channel enhancement activities will be carried out within the river bed and hydromet modernization activities will upgrade existing facilities. As a consequence, no PCRs impacts are anticipated. Nonetheless, given Myanmar's rich cultural heritage there is a possibility that PCRs could be unearthed or affected. Thus, this policy is triggered.
Indigenous Peoples OP/BP 4.10
World Bank documentation states that [t]he Ayeyarwady basin is home to diverse groups of ethnic minorities who are dependent on the river for livelihoods and subsistence. As a result, some activities associated with the river channel enhancement work (Component 3) could temporarily disrupt livelihoods activities along the banks of the Ayeyarwady River. Thus, this policy is triggered.
Involuntary Resettlement OP/BP 4.12
World Bank documentation states that during construction of the channel enhancements some people who use the Ayeyarwady River banks may temporarily be affected. Further, under the potential investments to be prepared (Subcomponent 1.2) there could be future land and other property loss, thus triggering Involuntary Resettlement OP/BP 4.12.
Projects on International Waterways OP/BP 7.50
World Bank documentation states that the Project on Internationwal Waterways OP/BP 7.50 is triggered as the proposed project investments are located in the Ayeyarwady River Basin. The Ayeyarwady River is an international waterway, fed by two tributaries originating within China and India, and flowing into the Andaman Sea which is connected to the Indian Ocean.
The World Bank states that Forests OP/BP 4.36 is not implicated because no activities are anticipated in forest areas. Additionally, Pest Management OP 4.09 is held to be inapplicable because the project activities are not expected to use pesticides, nor to lead to increased usage of pesticides. As the Project will not finance any activities related to the construction of dams nor affect operations of existing dams or affiliated reservoirs, the World Bank holds that Safety of Dams OP/BP 4.37 does not apply. Additionally, World Bank documentation states that no activities are planned in any disputed areas, rendering OP/BP 7.60 (Projects in Disputed Areas) inapplicable.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS RISK ASSESSMENT
Although the World Bank does not specifically flag labor rights as a source of concern in its investment documents, Myanmar has a long history of forced labour issues with respect to development projects. According to the Human Rights Documentation Unit of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, the ILO and the UN have both expressed concern regarding the continued widespread use of forced labor in Burma, particularly in ethnic border areas. Development project sites are of particular concern as they typically involve an increase in the number of army battalions in an area, An article titled, Under the Iron Thumb: Forced Labor in Myanmar reports that [t]he issue of forced labor is of particular concern. Forced labor is employed primarily in development projects, agricultural enterprises, and the military. It is used to impose collective punishment on civilians, to build highly profitable development that strengthens military rule, and to allow the military access and logistical support in the most remote regions of insurgent-occupied territories. Although forced labour is outlawed in Myanmar, a recent report by the Karen Human Rights Groups noted that in several recent development projects in Myanmar, [v]illagers described forced labour at project sites, suggesting that the practice still exists in some areas.
The following questions may be relevant to determining whether you or your community's labor rights have been adversely affected by the investment project:
- Can all members of your community apply for jobs in the context of the investment project?
- Are your wages sufficient to meet your basic needs and those of your family?
- Have you been forced to work against your will or without adequate compensation?
- Are your working conditions safe and healthy?
- Are there children under the age of 15 working on any aspect of this development project?
- What opportunities (legal or other) are available if you consider that your working conditions are not just and favorable?
RIGHT TO WATER
Degradation of the quality of the Ayeyarwady River has been well documented. The 2011 Universal Periodic Review reported that [m]ore than 25 percent of the population lacked access to safe drinking water, and recommended that Myanmar ensure access by all children, in particular those in remote and rural areas, to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation systems. In a recent report by Irrawady.com, it was stated that, as a result, [p]eople living along the riverbank face a scarcity of clean water. As the project involves substantial work on the structure of the river, it may impede local communities' access to the river, and thus their right to water.
The following sources may be relevant to determining whether you or your community has suffered a violation of your right to water as a result of the investment project:
- Has your access to good, affordable, clean and safe water in sufficient quantity been affected since the beginning of the investment project?
- Has your access to appropriate sanitation facilities been adversely affected by the project?
- Does Myanmar have a policy or program in place to ensure that the project activities do not affect people's right to water?
- What opportunities (legal or other) are available if you feel that your right to water has been affected?
RIGHT TO FOOD
According to Aquastat's 2011 Survey of Myanmar, [t]he population of Myanmar is estimated to reach 86 million by 2025, against 50 million at present. Increasingly food will be necessary for the country's growing population. Agriculture is an important source of food security, as 18.6 million people, or 67% of the economically active population in 2009 worked in the agricultural sector. The 2011 Universal Periodic Review for Myanmar reports that, according to the World Food Programme, Myanmar faces severe problems with access to food, particularly for vulnerable groups such as landless labourers, small-scale farmers, households headed by women and marginal households.
With respect to the current investment, World Bank documentation recognizes that, agriculture in the Ayeyarwady Basin has historically been the mainstay of the Myanmar economy and that Myanmar's wealth of land and water resources have made the country food secure. Further, the Ayeyarwady River Basin, the primary location of the projects, is home to diverse groups of ethnic minorities who are dependent on the river for livelihoods and subsistence. If river modification activities lead to increased flooding or alteration in river patterns, families that rely on the river for subsistence could suffer a violation of their right to food.
The following sources may be relevant to determining whether you or your community has suffered a violation of your right to food as a result of the project:
- Has your ability to subsist on your own land been affected since the beginning of the investment project?
- Has your access to good and affordable food in sufficient quantity been affected since the beginning of the investment project?
- What opportunities (legal or other) are available if feel that your right to food has been affected?
RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
World Bank documentation states that [t]he Ayeyarwady is Myanmar's largest river basin and has been described as the heart of the nation. Today the basin accounts for over 60% of Myanmar's landmass, accommodates 70% of its population, and transports 40% of its commerce. It is a river of global proportions, with an average annual flow equivalent to roughly 85% of the Mekong. Groundwater resources in the basin are believed to be even greater than surface water resources.
However, according to recent reports by Irawaddy.org, the Ayeyarwady River has become severely degraded in recent years. A local environmentalist, Maung Maung Oo, stated in a recent article that [w]atershed areas of the upper segment of the Irrawaddy River have been destroyed due to the deforestation that results from wood production and mining. The main victims are the river and the people who live alongside it.
With respect to the current quality of the river, World Bank documentation recognizes that [s]ediment is a major challenge and appears to be compromising navigation on the river. The Ayeyarwady has the 5th highest sediment load of any major river in the world and many believe that the rate of sedimentation is rapidly increasing as a consequence of deforestation in the river's fragile upstream landscape and widespread land use changes across the basin. Additionally, World Bank documentation indicates that [w]ater quality and quantity are increasing concerns. Water quality concerns are being raised with regard to mining activities and the growth of cities and industrial zones. Water scarcity is an issue only in the basin's 'dry zone' today, but conflicting demands are anticipated if Myanmar continues its current rapid growth. Lastly, severe weather, storms and floods is another set of concerns in the Ayeyarwady Basin. The 'dry zone' is prone to droughts, the valley and delta experience extensive flooding, and the coastal zones are vulnerable to sea level rise and cyclones such as cyclone Nargis which in 2008 killed an estimated 138,000 people and affected 2.4 million.
As a result of riverine degradation, there is increased concern regarding the environmental and social implications of development projects on the river. The 2011 Universal Periodic Review for Myanmar reported that [t]he Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar noted reports of human rights abuses - land confiscation, forced labour, right to a healthy environment and the right to water - associated with large-scale development projects, in relation to oil and gas industries, mining and the building of large-scale dams. Aquastat's 2011 survey of Myanmar states that the development of industry and increasing population density will cause increasing river pollution and health risks for people living close to the rivers. World Bank documentation itself notes that [c]onstruction on what would have been the first mainstream dam (a large storage-backed hydropower dam at Myitsone) was halted in 2011 in response to public concerns regarding environmental, social and livelihood impacts.
With regards to the current investment, World Bank documentation states that some project activities may have negative impacts on natural habitats, for example channel enhancement works or works associated with the upgrading of the hydromet system could potentially affect aquatic and riparian habitats. This is especially problematic due to the location of the project within the Ayeyarwady River Basin, which is home to an extraordinary range of ecosystems, and flora and fauna, including the charismatic and endangered species such as elephants, tigers, leopards, sea turtles, crocodiles, waterfowl and migratory birds, and the Irrawaddy dolphins.
Additionally, the World Bank states that the Ayeyarwady River is an international waterway, fed by two tributaries originating within China and India, and flowing into the Andaman Sea which is connected to the Indian Ocean. However, Bank documents state that because the planned investments will not involve any adverse impacts on the quality and quantity of waters in the Ayeyarwady River the proposed project falls within the exception to the riparian notification requirement. To this end a Memo to RVP requesting agreement on the exception to this notification requirement will be prepared by the team by project appraisal.
A number of civil society organizations have objected that the classification of the river as an international river could create conflict with China and India over management of the river. In response, on May 16, 2014 a World Bank official apologized for referring to the waterway as an international river, considering that 90 percent of the land basin area and population are in Myanmar.
World Bank documentation states that, as part of the investment activities related to sustainable environmental management of the Ayerarwady River Basin, the project may support the preparation of (pre) feasibility studies for investments that could be
financed in future phases of the proposed series of projects. These potential future investments (i.e., in irrigation, hydropower, navigation, delta management, municipal water supply or wastewater management systems) could have adverse environmental and social impacts. The Terms of References (TORs) of these studies will require consideration of environmental and social safeguards provisions in line with relevant World Bank operational policies. World Bank pledges that, [i]n case the river basin planning process identifies priority investments for which feasibility studies and/or designs will be supported by the project, ESIAs will also be prepared for such investments according to the [Environmental and Social Management Framework].
Additionally, [r]iver channel enhancement works are planned under the project to increase the 'least available depth' of the river during the low flow season; currently only small or lightly loaded vessels are able to pass through several sections of the busiest stretch of the Ayeyarwady (from the cities of Mandalay to Nyaung Oo) during the low flow season. The work is likely to involve the construction of small groins within the riverbed that will serve to concentrate the dry season flow into a narrower and hence deeper section of the river bed in order to facilitate safe ship passage. According to International Rivers, hydrological modification has resulted in habitat fragmentation within dammed rivers; downstream habitat effects caused by altered flows, such as loss of floodplains, riparian zones, and adjacent wetlands, and deterioration and loss of river deltas and ocean estuaries; deterioration of irrigated terrestrial environments and associated surface waters; and dewatering of rivers, leading to reduced water quality because of dilution problems for point and non-point sources of pollution.
World Bank documentation for this project states that, with regards to possible future development of the region, [h]ydropower development remains a focus of significant interest. The Ayeyarwady River alone is believed to have 38,000 MW of potential installed capacity. Of the country's total estimated potential of 100,000 MW, only 2,660 MW of hydropower has been installed to date. Myanmar has tremendous opportunities to develop hydropower, but currently lacks the data and decision support tools needed to understand the basin-wide impacts of these developments and the tradeoffs of alternative development options. However, as reported in a recent study by the Burma River Network examining preliminary assessments of seven proposed dams on the Ayeyarwady, hydropower will have severe negative impacts on livelihoods and habitations of grassroots people of the region; disappearances of some wild rice varieties and their ancestors; disappearance and forever loss of the cultural heartland of the Kachin people. Additionally, [e]coregions which are nationally important, regionally significant and globally outstanding will be directly affected by clearing and logging of the inundation areas and construction activities for a series of dams in Kachin State.
The wide range of works, including hydropower, that could be financed by the investment are extremely concerning, as they have the potential of creating significant adverse ecological impacts that could impede on the right to a healthy environment. The following questions may be relevant to determining whether you or your community has suffered a violation of your right to a healthy environment as a result of the investment project:
- Has the government provided information to you regarding the disposal of solid waste, hazardous waste, and other waste products, and what impact is this likely to have on the local environment?
- Has the government informed you of an environmental action plan in place for reducing adverse ecological effects on local communities?
- What options do you have (legal or otherwise) if the environmental impacts of the proposed operations become a problem for local communities and/or the local ecosystem?
RIGHT TO HOUSING & PROPERTY
Business and development projects have substantially increased in Myanmar following government reforms and cessation of armed conflict. However, according to a recent report by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) that analyzed 809 local testimonies regarding development projects, this increase in development is often accompanied by land confiscation and forced displacement occurring without consultation, compensation, or, often, notification. Such projects include hydropower dam construction, infrastructure development, logging, mining and plantation agriculture projects that are undertaken or facilitated by various civil and military State authorities, foreign and domestic companies and armed ethnic groups. Villagers consistently report that their perspectives are excluded from the planning and implementation of these projects, which often provide little or no benefit to the local community or result in substantial, often irreversible, harm.
This is especially concerning due to Myanmar's long history of conflict stemming from land disputes. Over the past few decades, Myanmar has endured long runs of what is referred to as land grabs conducted by the Burmese military, resulting in the forcible removal of farmers from their land. The Myanmar Times reports that these land grabs are continuing, with the new government passing new land-related laws and policies that enable corporations to gain access to farmland for large agribusiness concessions. According to the Myanmar Times, the national government's Land Acquisition Investigation Commission cannot accept any land grab cases from before 1988, or any case deemed 'legal' according to the laws in effect at the time, which sets a dangerous precedent for what is considered a 'legal' land seizure.
With respect to the requirement of consultation, under emerging principles of international law, that requires any actor wishing to initiate a development project to consult with all potentially affected communities to understand the human rights and livelihood impacts of the project, the KHRG report states that [v]illagers reported that they were not consulted or informed before a project began, nor given an opportunity to enter into dialogue or request additional information. In some cases, villagers said that only village leaders were consulted or that partial information was provided about the realities of the project and how it would affect their land or livelihoods.
KHRG also reported a consistent lack of fair compensation, stating that [v]illagers described not being offered compensation, nor provided with an opportunity to negotiate for compensation, following development-based destruction of their land. Villagers also described undue pressure to accept compensation offered and negotiations during which development actors committed to compensation that was never paid or only partially paid.
Lastly, development projects in Myanmar have also been associated with the use of physical force to compel relocation. In its report, KHRG states that [v]illagers described explicit orders issued by military and civilian government officials for communities to relocate from targeted project areas, such as those to be developed for agri-business, infrastructure development or dams, and said that such orders were frequently accompanied by threats of violence for non-compliance. Other villagers described being forced of necessity to relocate due to the destruction of livelihoods and environmental degradation in or near project sites. Additionally, [p]hysical security threats were also described to occur around project sites, where local military authorities often had a financial stake in the project in question. Villagers described coercion to accept terms of compensation for confiscated land, and threats of physical harm for refusing or trying to negotiate the amount of compensation. Villagers described forced labour at project sites or providing money to pay for the project itself. In some cases, new projects have led to a denial of humanitarian access, where schools and hospitals were destroyed by new construction or closed in advance due to direct orders or threats of relocation.
Furthermore, according to the KHRG report, villagers also described other obstacles to seeking redress, including an inability to afford and a lack of awareness about formal legal remedies.
With respect to the current investment project, World Bank documentation states that during construction of the channel enhancements some people who use the Ayeyarwady River banks may temporarily be affected. Further, under the potential investments to be prepared, there could be future land and other property loss. Therefore during preparation, an ESMF will be developed and will include a simple Resettlement Policy Framework (RPF) which can be used to address any land acquisition and voluntary land donation issues that may arise.
The following questions may be relevant to determining whether you or your community's right to property and adequate housing has been adversely affected by the investment project:
- Have you and your community had an opportunity to input on resettlement plans and provide suggestions about alternatives to relocation to the government?
- Has the land and/or housing provided following relocation been adequate and of an equal or better quality than the land and/or housing previously occupied?
- If you were resettled, do you feel that you received adequate compensation for your land, housing, or crops?
- What options do you have (legal or otherwise) at your disposal in the event that you feel that your right to property or adequate housing has been compromised?
RIGHT TO CULTURE
World Bank documentation states that, as the project will carry out civil works
under the channel enhancements and hydromet modernization subcomponents [g]iven Myanmar's rich cultural heritage there is a possibility that [physical cultural resources] could be unearthed or affected. As a result, the World Bank states that [d]uring preparation, the ESMF will include a [physical cultural resources] assessment and mitigation guidelines including Chance Finds Procedures if appropriate, a [physical cultural resources] Management Plan will be developed to provide detailed mitigation measures.
The Ayeyarwady River is an important symbol, both religiously and culturally, to many ethnic groups in Myanmar. The source of the Ayeyarwady is at the convergence of the N'mai (Mayhka) and Mali (Malihka) rivers in Kachin State, in northern Burma. According to Kachin legend, the meeting of the rivers is where the Father Dragon and his two sons Hkrai Nawng and Hkrai Gam were born and are settled. The Kachin believe that if the waterway is broken, the dragons will stir and create a natural disaster. Any obstructions or alterations in the river have the potential to infringe on local communities' rights to culture/religion.
The following questions may be relevant to determining whether you or your community's right to culture has been adversely affected by the investment project:
- Were you informed and asked to provide input prior to the destruction of any valuable cultural heritage sites or relics for construction of any components of the project?
- Has your access to cultural institutions been affected since the beginning of the investment project?
- Has your ability to maintain and use your traditional customs been affected since the beginning of the investment project?
- What opportunities (legal or other) are available if you feel that your right to take part in cultural life has been restricted or denied?
- Has your community has been discriminated against because of its culture?
RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
According to minorityrights.org, [t]he main ethnic groups living in the seven ethnic minority states of Burma are the Karen, Shan, Mon, Chin, Kachin, Rakhine and Karenni. Other main groups include the Nagas, who live in north Burma and are estimated to number about 100,000, constituting another complex family of Tibetan-Burmese language subgroups.
Although the World Bank does not identify which specific ethnic groups may be impacted by the project, documentation states that [t]he Ayeyarwady basin is home to diverse groups of ethnic minorities who are dependent on the river for livelihoods and subsistence. Therefore, [s]ome activities associated with the river channel enhancement work (Component 3) could temporarily disrupt livelihoods activities along the banks of the Ayeyarwady River.
Although Burma/Myanmar has ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which provides for free, prior, and informed consent prior to land acquisition, resettlement, and project development, Burma has yet to enshrine the right of individuals to participate in decision making regarding projects that affect them in its national laws. A recent study examining the extent that ethnic minorities in Burma were able to participate in infrastructure and industrial development projects reports that, out of a random sample of 261 individuals surveyed, close to 90% of those surveyed did not receive any information about the development project before it was started by a decision maker; [a]pproximately 80% of the total survey population did not know who to contact or where to go to find out more information about the project; [l]ess than 1% said a public forum was held by a project decision maker where the local community could attend; [c]lose to half (44.1%) felt unsafe seeking further information about the project, while 45.2% were not sure whether it was safe or unsafe; [and] [l]ess than 1% experienced positive impacts from the development project. The study further noted the disproportionate impacts that indigenous groups face in such projects, stating that the negative impacts of development projects, which most often include rape, forced labor, portering, land confiscation, and forced evictions, are not isolated to the immediate victims, but have a ripple effect on successive generations of ethnic nationalities.
World Bank documentation states that during preparation, an ESMF will be developed
to ensure protections for ethnic minorities and project affected people, as well as to outline steps to conduct free, prior and informed consultations. Additionally, [a]n Indigenous Peoples Policy Framework [IPPF] will be developed as part of the ESMF to guide the design of mitigation measures in the event that project activities affect ethnic minorities. The project preparation process will involve consultations with a sample of ethnic minorities and/or ethnic minority organizations as part of the SA and to inform the preparation of the IPPF embedded in the ESMF. World Bank further asserts that [d]uring implementation, Indigenous Peoples Plans (IPP) will be developed for all relevant project activities. In addition during implementation, as mentioned above, a basin wide SESA will be conducted which will contribute to the project's efforts to create stakeholder forums and promote communications and outreach.
The following questions may be relevant to determining whether you or your community's rights have been adversely affected by the investment project:
- Have you been discriminated against as an indigenous community?
- Has the project interfered with your ability to maintain your political, economic and social structures in accordance with your cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies?
- Have you been able to participate in decision making regarding the development and sustainable management of your environment?
- If relocated, was this after you had given your free, prior, and informed consent to be resettled?
- Were you given adequate compensation as part of the resettlement action plan for the project?
- If your rights were violated, do you have clear information on ways (legal and otherwise) of seeking justice, remedy, or compensation?