Bangladesh: Indigenous peoples submit complaint against World Bank’s Bangladesh Trade and Transport Studies Project

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    Indigenous peoples on Wednesday submitted a complaint to the World Bank’s Inspection Panel demanding an investigation into the violations of their rights and the Bank’s safeguard policies in the implementation of Bangladesh Trade and Transport Studies Project financed by the Bank.

    Representatives of indigenous Chakma, Marma, Tanchangya and Lushai peoples living in Rangamati district of Chittagong Hill Tracts, which are likely to suffer under the project, filed the complaint to the Panel – an independent complaints mechanism of the Bank.

    The project, which is part of larger South Asia Trade and Transport Facilitation project of the Bank, includes dredging of inland waterways, improvement and construction of seaports and construction of roadways in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Bangladesh’s law recognizes the Chittagong Hill Tracts as a ‘tribal inhabited region’ while the project will also affect a few non-indigenous Bengali communities resettled in the project area later.

    The complaint cites absence of free, prior and informed consultation and meaningful engagement with the indigenous communities and issues related to rights over lands, forest, environment and cultural sites within the project. The project thus “has been in clear violation of the indigenous peoples’ rights and norms under regional, national and international law, and also not in conformity with the process required under the relevant safeguard policies of the World Bank, including OP/BP 4.10”, the complaint reads.

    Indigenous peoples and their organizations had earlier raised concerns about the project with the World Bank in a letter in June. The Bank, in its response a month later, had referred the concerns “related to inadequate consultation with indigenous communities, and environmental and social sensitivities” to the implementing agency, Local Government Engineering Department. A consultant firm managed by the Department to carry out the study conducted two additional local consultations in August after the study was basically complete.

    “Nonetheless, those local consultations were solely inadequate to resolve concerns of the indigenous communities related to the project,” the complaint states. On the other hand, the communities never heard directly from the Department itself despite follow up after obtaining relevant project documents.

    The complaint was filed with support from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Coalition for Human Rights in Development, which can be contacted for further information as the complainants have asked for confidentiality of their identities.

    Contacts
    Prabindra Shakya, Human Rights Campaign and Policy Advocacy Programme Coordinator, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, prabin@aippnet.org, +66-90-319-7751 [in Thailand], Twitter: @aippnet

    Gretchen Gordon, Coordinator, Coalition for Human Rights in Development, ggordon@rightsindevelopment.org, [in Washington, DC, USA] Twitter: @RightsinDevt

    Click here to download the complaint.