Dhaka, Bangladesh - CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network), a Bangladeshi environmental and human rights organization, and NGO Forum on ADB, an Asian-led network of organizations monitoring the ADB and AIIB based in Manila, formally filed a complaint against the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) regarding the Bhola Gas Power Plant (Bhola IPP) (Project Number 000057). This is the first complaint filed against the Bank in its 7 years of operation.
Bhola IPP is a 220 MW Combined Cycle Power Plant (CCPP) that intends to help improve Bangladesh’s power generation capacity and address shortages but according to impacted communities, this is not true.
Grave concerns about the project were raised by impacted communities, particularly on the issue of land grabbing. According to affected families, there was coercion and intimidation from ‘middlemen’ appointed by the project developer, Nutan Bidyut Bangladesh Limited (NBBL) to forcibly acquire their lands at the lowest rates.
Hasan Mehedi from CLEAN explained that “the land acquisition practice was in violation of the Bangladesh Acquisition and Requisition of Immovable Property Act 2017, which stipulates landowners to be entitled to thrice the market price from private companies. The company has also taken more land than they bought”
There were also no records of sales or transactions on the first phase of the land acquisitions made by NBBL.
The project also has harmful environmental impacts. The construction of the power plant, sand, and other structural waste deposited by NBBL has led to the Mandartoli Shakha Khal/River Channel over siltation. The NBBL embanked its northern part with sand sacks and has taken over half of the canal. The sand from the sacks has spilled out into the canal bed, causing siltation and the canal to dry up gradually. As of the moment, the canal is only 1-2 feet deep and has lost its water carrying capacity.
Due to the destruction of the Mandartoli Shakha Khal, monsoon water overflows during high tide. It directly floods the Dakshin Kutba village, where an estimated 400 Betel leaf farms have been destroyed, displacing over 2000 families dependent on agriculture. Over 100 households are approximated to be directly waterlogged and left completely disconnected from public services, communication, health care, and other necessary services.
In addition, there was no proper water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) plan for the labor colony constructing the power plant. The effluent, sewage, and waste are discharged in large amounts into the surrounding villages, leading to uninhabitable living conditions.
The project site has also taken over half of all grazing land in the area, directly impacting goat herders, who are mainly women.
Other problematic issues were also raised by impacted communities ranging from lack of Information Disclosure and Meaningful Consultation, poor and misleading translation of critical documents, and the absence of documentation or outputs from the consultation reports.
Rayyan Hassan, executive director of NGO Forum on ADB, stated “local communities and civil society organizations are exhausted raising these issues to NBBL and AIIB management for the last three years with no meaningful resolution to the problems. This complaint is being sent as a last resort to ensure justice to the aggrieved communities to resolve the problems surrounding Bhola IPP. The AIIB accountability mechanism has never been tested until now, we hope it can deliver on its promised purpose.”