Urgent; Stop disastrous World Bank project in Tibet

Date sent: Mon, 03 Jul 2000

Dear folks,

I have a very urgent plea to make to you; PLEASE spend some of your time the coming days to help cancel the World Bank financed Western China Poverty Reduction Project. This project involves the resettlement of 60.000 Chinese people into a territory in Tibet now occupied by 4.000 Mongolian and Tibetan nomadic people.

Last week, a very critical, if not to say devastating report on the project by the Independent Inspection Panel of the World Bank was leaked, creating a huge turmoil in the Bank. The report showed that Bank staff knowingly violated many of its own safeguard policies and procedures in the design of the project (for more details on all this see below).

The Board of the World Bank is supposed to make a decision on how to proceed -or not- with this project coming THURSDAY JULY 6. Given all the problems with the project, well documented by the Banks' own Panel, NGOs and Tibet support organizations demand that the project will be canceled.

The coming days are crucial to achieve this. I know you are all incredibly busy people but it is very important that Friends of the Earth International joins the efforts put pressure on the Bank to cancel the project. Please contact your countries' representative in the Board and demand the project to be canceled. Also inform media, parliamentarians in your country about this project so as to create maximum public pressure on the Bank.

The rest of this long message contains all the information you need to proceed with doing so.
You find:

Keep me informed about what steps you take and what you might need in terms of further support, information etc.

Please remember we have little time; Thursday is the day. If we manage to cancel the project it will not only save Tibet from a bank financed human and ecological disaster. I t will also put crucial pressure on the Bank to take its own safeguard policies serious, or otherwise forever give up the pretension to have them.

So, this is at stake. Gentlemen, ladies, the hunt is on; mount your horses..

Greets, Johan

Short Background on the Project
(from Bank Information Center)

All possible information can be found at the following websites:


Brief Project Description:

The project involves: a) resettlement of some 58,000 poor Chinese farmers from eastern Qinghai Province to western Qinghai's Dulan County, home to Tibetan and Mongolian nomadic herders; b) development of irrigated agriculture in an arid, high desert landscape through the diversion of snowmelt, construction of a dam, and pumping of groundwater; c) development of rural infrastructure (roads, drinking water supply and electricity); among other things.

Project Cost $311 million
Loan Amount IBRD $60 million
IDA $100 million

Status of the Project:

Approved by the Board of Directors June 24 1999, in a rare vote in which the United States and Germany voted no, and France, Canada, the Nordics, and the Austria/Belgium group abstained. President Wolfensohn and the Board agreed, however, to delay implementation of the project pending the outcome of a citizen claim to the World Bank Independent Inspection Panel.

Brief Problem Description:

The resettlement of 58,000 poor Chinese farmers into a Tibetan and Mongolian ethnic region and the development of irrigated agriculture on approximately 20,000 hectares over an wide area in Dulan County on the Tibetan Plateau.

The transformation of a high desert landscape with scarce water resources and saline and sodic soils, into irrigated agriculture, could lead to desertification, destruction of wildlife, increased use of pesticides and fertilizers, and disrupt Tibetan and Mongolian nomadic cultures.

Violations of Bank Policy:

Information Disclosure, Environmental Assessment, Indigenous Peoples, Resettlement, Natural Habitats, Agricultural Pest Management, Retroactive Financing and Investment Lending.

Elaborated Social Impacts:

The transfer of 58,000 Chinese people into a Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous area will double the population of Dulan County, and further dilute the ethnic populations of both indigenous groups. Largely due to previous population transfers in this area, the traditional populations have already decreased significantly. After the project is implemented, the Mongol population will decline from 69% to 4.5%.

Language, religious and cultural identity, and the nomadic way of life will all be seriously impacted, and the cultural survival of both the Tibetan and Mongol minorities is at stake. Moreover, the influx of farmers into an area populated by nomads will increase the struggle for access to water and land resources, which could further exacerbate ethnic tension in the region.

The Bank's Indigenous Peoples Policy (OD 4.20) requires that project affected people be consulted when projects affect indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. Yet under Chinese government authority, there is no possibility for effective consultation. China's laws penalize those who oppose the will of the government, and make it extremely difficult, if not dangerous, for citizens to express their real concerns about government-sponsored initiatives.

Elaborated Impacts on the Environment:

The Bank's Environmental Assessment Policy states that "A full EA is required if a project is likely to have significant adverse impacts that may be sensitive, irreversible and diverse." Moreover, Bank management is obligated to assign a "Category A" to projects that include dams and reservoirs, irrigation, land clearance and leveling, reclamation and new land development, resettlement, river basin development, and the use of pesticides, among other things.

All of these elements are present in the Project, yet Bank management assigned it a "Category B", requiring only a simple environmental analysis. The agricultural and irrigation development components of the project aim to turn arid desert into agricultural oases, depending upon maintenance of the irrigation system by inexperienced farmers.

Potential irreversible impacts include: desertification, soil salinization, pollution and adverse health affects from pesticides and fertilizers, groundwater depletion and pollution, and loss of traditional grasslands used by nomadic herders. The diversion of scarce water resources to irrigation may destroy wetlands and affect wildlife.

The construction of a 40 meter dam to create a reservoir for the irrigation project also poses environmental risks that have not been adequately studied. Finally, the project threatens to catalyze the development of extractive industries, including coal, oil and gas development and mining.

The lack of a full environmental assessment raises serious doubts about the technical basis upon which the project was developed and approved as well as its long-term sustainability. Finally, well-documented policy violations call into question the Bank's commitment to compliance with its own "safeguard" policies.

Report of Inspection Panel

The World Bank's independent Inspection Panel Report (IP Report) on their 8-month investigation the project was delivered to Bank management and Board members on April 28th. On June 22nd, Bank Management sent their response to the IP Report to the Board of Executive Directors.

Though the IP Report and Management's Response are still technically confidential, the Financial Times obtained a copy and published the Executive Summary of the IP Report on their website. As a result, hell brooke loose. (you can find an extensive summary at www.savetibet.org)

The Executive Summary is a scathing indictment of the project. It documents a "climate of fear" in the project area - Tibetans are unable to speak freely about their opinions about the project for fear of reprisal. The Summary also enumerates severe violations of 6 out of 9 of the Bank's most fundamental safeguard policies, including those on Indigenous Peoples, Resettlement, Environmental Assessment and Information Disclosure Policies, among others. Moreover, the Report apparently raises important questions about fundamental institutional problems, and in particular the chronic weaknesses in the Bank's application of its environmental and social policies in China.

Response of Bank management

The response of the Bank management to the allegiations in the inspection panel report was also leaked. Management response centers on the need for more research by new experts -as if their own Inspection Panel are not experts..- but not to delay the start of the project. Most of the probles with the project can be 'retor fit'. This reaction shows that Bank managmeent hasn ot understood the very nature of the safeguard policies, which are supposed to guide the design of any project in the Bank, rather than serve as a checklist afterwards.

Let me know if you want a detailed review of the response

What to do?

As said, next Thursday July 6 is the Board decision that will deal with both the Inspection Panel report and management response and try to find a way out of the mess. Dana Clarck, who coordinates the campaign for Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) in Washington wrote about the possible outcome of all this:

the "fall-back" position for many offices seems to be allowing Management to proceed with their proposed social and environmental studies, but to impose a condition that would require Management to report back to the Board, at which time the Board would have to make yet another decision about whether to proceed with the project itself. Note that this is different than Management's recommendation(which is to simply be allowed to conduct the studies and move forward, with the studies being only for the Board's "information").

The "fall-back" of allowing studies but denying Management the right to decide whether to proceed is awfully wimpy considering the wealth of evidence they have that this project is fundamentally flawed. Obviously, though, this is the "safe" position for Board members, because they don't have to approve the project or offend their China. This is an expensive ($3 million) and time-wasting (15 more months!) alternative. We should discourage this "fall- back" option as not in the best interests of the Bank or the local people (but perhaps not trash it completely, because it is definitely better than the status quo/proposal by management).

Management's proposed recommendation makes me think of a person who's told by the dentist that they have a tooth that is rotten to the core, and the person decides to ignore the infection, patch it up with band-aids and expensive pain-killers, and try to wait it out. The more rational approach is to pull the tooth — painful in the short term, but much better in the long run. Sorry for the crude analogy, but this project definitely represents the visible part of a problem that runs much deeper. The healthy thing for the Board to do is to cancel the project.

Your turn!

The best thing you can do in the coming two days is to contact directly the offices of your Executive Director in the Bank (see below for names and details).

Write a letter,on your own letterhead.

Remind your Executive Directors that at the time of the Board vote in June 1999, Bank management was insisting that this project was in compliance with the Bank's social and environmental policies. These assurances have shown to be false. Remind your Executive Directors that at the time of the Board vote, China made assurances that there would be unfettered access to the project area and greater transparency of information, assurances which have also been shown to have been false. These were conditions that led the Board to approve this project, and these broken promises cannot be ignored.

The Inspection Panel report is "scathing" in its findings of incompetence by Bank staff and in the magnitude of the policy violations. This should lead to the Bank stepping back, admitting that it made mistakes and acknowledging that there are serious institutional weaknesses in terms of compliance with important social and environmental policies. The Bank should cancel this project.

At the end of this message you find an example letter - courtesy of International Tibet Coalition- that you can use for your own letter. Go to www.savetibet.org for electronic format.

Later this week, (tomorrow?) I will send around a letter on behalf of FoEI that you can use as well

Apart from this, you can call journalists and get the word out. At the web sites mentioned above there exists a wealth of information to use for press releases.

World Bank Executive Directors

Khalid M. AL-SAAD (Kuwait)
(Also representing Bahrain; Arab Republic of Egypt; Jordan; Lebanon; Libya; Maldives; Oman; Qatar; Syrian Arab Republic; United Arab Emirates; Republic of Yemen)
Tel: 202.458.1030
Fax: 202.477.3537
Email: kalsaad@worldbank.org

Khalid H. ALYAHYA (Saudi Arabia)
Tel: 202.458.0191
Fax: 202.477.1759
Email: kalyahya@worldbank.org

Ruth BACHMAYER (Austria)
(Also representing Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Slovak Republic, Slovenia,Turkey)
Tel: 202-458-4661
Fax: 202-522-3453
Email: rbachmayer@worldbank.org

Andrei BUGROV (Russian Federation)
Tel: 202.458.7080
Fax: 202.477.4274
Email: abugrov@worldbank.org

Federico FERRER (Spain)
(Also representing Costa Rica, El Salvador,Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela)
Tel: 202-458-2090
Fax: 202-522-1575
Email: fferrer@worldbank.org

Godfrey GAOSEB (Namibia) (Also representing Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Tel: 202-458-2107
Fax: 202-522-1549
Email: ggaoseb@worldbank.org

Valeriano GARCIA (Argentina) (Also representing Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay)
Tel: 202-458-2066
Fax: 202-477-3786
Email: vgarcia@worldbank.org

Inaamul HAQUE (Pakistan) (Also representing Afghanistan (informally), Algeria, Ghana, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia)
Tel: 202-458-1084
Fax: 202-477-9052
Email: ihaque@worldbank.org

Jannes HUTAGALUNG (Indonesia) (Also representing Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam)
Tel: 202.458.1197
Fax: 202.477.4116
Email: jhutagalung@worldbank.org

Neil Francis HYDEN(Australia) (Also representing Cambodia, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands,Vanuatu)
tel: 202.458.1018
Fax: 202.477.2007
Email: nhyden@worldbank.org

Matthias MEYER (Switzerland) (Also representing Azerbaijan, Kyrgyz Republic, Poland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan)
Tel: 202.458.7050
Fax: 202.477.9110
Email: mmeyer@worldbank.org

Jean-Claude MILLERON (France)
Tel: 202.623.6505
Fax: 202.623.4951
Email: jmilleron@worldbank.org

Satoru MIYAMURA (Japan)
Tel: 202-458-0098
Fax: 202-522-1581
Email: smiyamura@worldbank.org

Ilkka NIEMI (Finland) (Also representing Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden)
Tel: 202.458.1081
Fax: 202.477.6818
Email: iniemi@worldbank.org

Terrie O'LEARY (Canada) (Also representing Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas,Barbados,Belize,Dominica,Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, St.Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Tel: 202-458-0077
Fax: 202-477-4155
Email: toleary@worldbank.org

Franco PASSACANTANDO (Italy) (Also representing Albania, Greece, Malta, Portugal)
Tel: 202.458.1169
Fax: 202.477.3735
Email: fpassancantando@worldbank.org

Stephen PICKFORD (United Kingdom)
Tel: 202-623-4560
Fax: 202-623-4965
Email: spickford@worldbank.org

Jan PIERCY (United States)
Tel: 202.458.0110
Fax: 202.477.2967
Email: jpiercy@worldbank.org

Murilo PORTUGAL (Brazil) (Also representing Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Hati, Panama,Philippines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago)
Tel: 202-458-0096
Fax: 202-522-1551
Email: mportugal@worldbank.org

Helmut SCHAFFER (Germany)
Tel: 202.458.1183
Fax: 202.477.7849
Email: hschaffer@worldb ank.org

Surendra SINGH (India) (Also representing Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka)
Tel: 202.458.1046
Fax: 202.522.1553
Email: bsingh1@worldbank.org

Pieter STEK (Netherlands) (Also representing Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus,Georgia, Israel, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine)
Tel: 202.458.2052
Fax: 202.522.1572
Email: pstek@worldbank.org

Bassary TOURE (Mali) (Also representing Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea- Bissau, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mauritius, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Somalia (informally), Togo)
Tel: 202-458-7126
Fax: 202-522-1585
Email: btoure@worldbank.org

Xian ZHU (China)
Tel: 202-458-0058
Fax: 202-522-1579
Email: xzhu@worldbank.org

Example letter

President James Wolfensohn
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433 U.S.A.

Dear President Wolfensohn,

It has come to my attention that the World Bank Board of Executive Directors will decide the final course of action on the resettlement portion of the China Western Poverty Reduction project at the July 6, 2000 Board Meeting.

It was on June 24, 1999 that the Board initially voted to approve this project with the condition that funding would not be released until the Bank's Inspection Panel had conducted a thorough investigation of the claim filed against the project on behalf of people living in the move-in area.

At the time of the Board vote, Bank Management insisted that this project was in compliance with the Bank's social and environmental policies. These assurances have shown to be false. Also, at that time, the Executive Director for China made assurances that there would be unfettered access to the project area and greater transparency of information, assurances that have also been shown to be false. These were the conditions that led the Board to approve this project, and these broken promises cannot be ignored.

When the Inspection Panel Report was released confidentially on April 28, 2000, it was the hope of many that the Bank would use the findings in a responsible and accountable manner. Since that time, the findings have not been shared with the claimants, or the peoples of the project areas. There has been no attempt by Bank management to respond to appeals by the claimants, civil society, or parliamentarians around the world calling for transparency and accountability in regards to this project. It is only because the report, as well as the response of management to the Report has been leaked that the world is aware of the monumental mistakes made by Bank staff in the design of this project

The events since the release of the Inspection Panel Report are just another in a series of disappointing and unfortunate actions by Bank Management to salvage and promote this fatally flawed project.

If in fact, the Bank is "an institution committed to results, partnership, and inclusive development", as you say, then there is nothing left to do, but to cancel this project outright, and to call for a systematic review of all other Bank projects in China.

If the project is approved, it will stand as an endorsement of China's policy of cultural genocide of Tibetans and will go against the wishes of the Tibetan people and their legitimate leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

I hope that in the coming days you will read the Inspection Panel Report thoroughly, and choose to exercise your authority to cancel this project outright and to initiate a full review of a Bank financed projects in China. This is the only way that the Bank can live-up to being an institution that ultimately serves the needs of your 4.8 billion clients. They deserve nothing less.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.


Johan Frijns, Coordinator
International Financial Institutions Programme
Friends of the Earth International
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tibet Reports | IMF/ WB Struggles | Texts by Walden Bello | Actions 2001 | www.agp.org