The Chasma Right Bank Irrigation Project (CBRIP) was approved by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in December 1991. It involves the construction of a 274-kilometer canal along the Indus River that will run through two districts in Punjab and Northwest Frontier provinces. According to the Bank, it will irrigate 606,000 acres of land in D.I. Khan and D.G. Khan Districts in central Pakistan.
The project primarily aims to provide a dependable perennial irrigation supply, ensure efficient distribution water, and provide necessary drainage and flood relief. Aside from the main canal, 72 distribution canals, 68 cross-drainage structures, and 91 bridges will be constructed.
However, the local community held massive protests citing the following complaints: (1) lack of comprehensive and participatory socio-economic, cultural and environmental project assessments; (2) project-induced flooding and resettlement; (3) forced and illegal land acquisition and compensation; (4) lifestyle disruption, in-migration and disintegration of community networks and support systems; (5) termination of traditional irrigation system; (6) project management, irregularities and corruption; and (7) adverse social impacts.
The implementation of the project has been problematic. Due to numerous delays, the project incurred cost overruns. The project cost has ballooned to Rs17,000 million from the original Rs1,570 million. With only 15 percent of the project completed in 1999, there were already extensive delays and cost overruns. (Chasma Struggles, 2003) The project was due for completion in December 2002, but until now the project is not yet completed.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL IMPACTS
According to villagers, the construction of CRBIP has interrupted the natural flow of the floodwater that resulted in massive flooding in the west side of the main canal and in the riverine belt of the Indus River. They attribute the increased ferocity of the flooding to the disruption of kohi nullah (hill torrent streams).
The 274-kilometer main canal cuts through the flow of more than 150 natural hill torrents which come from the mountain range. In addition, some of the flood carrier channels (FCCs), which were built to redirect water flows from these torrents to the main canal or channel the water to the eastern side of the canal (which includes the riverine belt), were also blocking certain hill torrents. Some hill torrents end abruptly before reaching the river, while other torrents were combined into a single channel, increasing the amount and force of water that resulted in massive erosion and silt deposition. (Shanon Lawrence & Mishka Zaman, 2004)
On the eastern side of the Chasma canal, the destructive project-induced flooding broke through the mud banks and dumped water into fields that were still planted with the cotton crop. Many huts and mud settlements collapsed or were damaged by the flood. (Lawrence & Zaman, 2004) This resulted in a loss of income and food insecurity.
On the west, farmlands remained under floodwater for months. Villagers attribute this to the faulty design of the project. The canal and the embankments have blocked the floodwater from running towards the river on the eastern side.
The villagers submitted petitions about the flood damages. However, local officials, elected council members nor the Grievance Redress and Settlement Committee (GRSC) conducted a comprehensive survey of flood-related damages caused by the project.
The strong flood also eroded the surrounding hills that serve as a protective barrier between the hill torrent and villages. It also eroded and degraded acres of arable land. Grazing land was also inundated that resulted in the selling of livestock. Drinking water schemes and tube wells were also washed away by the destructive flood.
Villagers fear the coming rainy season from March to April that could lead to more flooding disasters. Farmers were reluctant to plant the next seasonal crop for fear of suffering additional crop losses and accruing more debt. This led to the loss of income. Farmers also have to hire tractors and other equipment to level and plow the soil in the fields that cracked and hardened under floodwater. (Lawrence & Zaman, 2004)
During floods, the mobility of the villagers was restricted. Some villages were not able to access essential social facilities such as hospitals. The floods also forced men to migrate to cities as day laborers to earn enough income to feed their families.
Floods increased women’s labor. Now, women have additional burdens due to loss of livelihoods and income caused by floods. Destruction of drinking water schemes has also forced women to walk a longer distance to fetch water, dramatically increasing their workloads. Due to the destruction of potable water supply, women have to work double-time to care for their young children afflicted with a stomach illness, causing more pressure to their time and meager finances.
SAFEGUARD POLICY VIOLATION
The project was erroneously classified as Category B despite it being large-scale irrigation and water management. According to the Panel, no initial environmental examination (IEE) was produced prior to the conduct of a feasibility study. Further, the environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not completed before the approval of the loan. (ADB Compliance Panel Report, 2004)
By not making a full appraisal of the probable impact of the project, the ADB failed to identify the project’s environmental impacts and neglected to incorporate provisions in the loan agreement warranting the implementation of mitigating measures against adverse environmental impact. Further, the Bank failed to secure the required funding for identified mitigating measures. (CRP, 2004)
For more than 10 years, the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) for CRBIP has not been implemented, nor has a Hill Torrents Management Plan (HTMP) been produced. HTMP serves as a guide flood management based on the traditional “rowed-kohi” system. (Lawrence & Zaman, 2004) The Panel said that “there are still no satisfactory plans or financial arrangements in place for securing the implementation of the plan. Moreover, there has been no adequate process that has enabled the informed and meaningful participation of affected communities of the project area in the implementation of the EMP.” (CRP, 2004)
According to the Panel, the ADB failed to sufficiently understand and address problems relating to flooding; the use of agricultural chemicals; forests and grazing lands; water-logging and salinity; and possible pollution and waste management issues.
INVOLUNTARY RESETTLEMENT POLICY
No Resettlement Action Plan has been prepared for those who were moved even though land acquisition began more than seven years ago. (Lawrence & Zaman, 2004) The resettlement of villagers affected by flooding was not anticipated during the project approval in 1991. The need for resettlement was only identified in 1994; actual resettlement was only conducted in 2001. (Panel Report, 2004)
The Panel Report concluded that no resettlement plan was ever prepared which is a clear violation of ADB policy. The Bank also failed to include the necessary provisions in the loan agreement and budget for a resettlement program. The Panel also said that affected groups were not consulted in the valuation of their assets, nor the ADB provided compensation to protect the interests of the poorest affected persons by the CRBIP.
The Panel further stated that the ADB did not take action to assess accurately the need for resettlement plan after flood risk was identified in 1994; no resettlement plan was prepared. The Panel said that a resettlement program did not become part of the 1999 Loan Agreement on supplementary financing for CRBIP. Further, it said that the ADB did not conduct proper consultation with the affected people in the decision-making and valuation of their assets.
The Panel said that the Bank violated the rights of the affected people to be informed. Many villagers still face the threat of flooding. No new houses were built for the displaced families. Nor proper compensation and rehabilitation of the community were conducted by the ADB to ensure that the resettled families’ living conditions would be restored. (CRP, 2004)
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES POLICY
According to the Panel, the feasibility study and appraisal document do not address the issues on the rights of tribal/ethnic minorities, cultural integrity, and traditional land use control. (CRP, 2004) This can be seen in the disruption of the kohi system by the project.
Also, the Panel stated that the ADB has never made an attempt to apply its Indigenous Peoples Policy and Instructions to the project. It said that the Bank did not come up with any analysis regarding indigenous peoples for this project based on Pakistani Law and the Bank’s policy. Nor a consultative process was done in this regard. The Panel said that it did not find any evidence that specific measures were taken by the Bank to address problems or issues that concern ethnic or cultural identity. (CRP, 2004)
Asian Development Bank. “Executive Summary of Panel’s Report.” Report and Recommendation of the Board
Inspection Committee to the Board of Directors on the Request for Inspection on Chasma Right Bank Irrigation Project (Stage III) in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. July 2004.
Chasma Struggles. Chasma Irrigation Project. 2003. (www.chasma-strugles.net/project/index#concerns)
Lawrence, Shanon and Zaman, Mishka. NGO Visit to the Asian Development Bank’s Chasma Right Bank Irrigation Project (CRBIP) in Pakistan: Trip Report. December 2003.