ADB Financing and Challenges in Manipur
India’s Neoliberal Policy and IFIs: The government of India adopted an aggressive neo liberal economic framework, in 1990s leading to significant changes in India’s politico-economic framework. The geographical advantage of Manipur in India’s North East has generated massive focus, especially to expand trade and investment cooperation between the countries and dominant economies of South Asia and South East Asia. Indeed, the Government of India, while signing Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN countries at Ventianne in Laos in November 2004 also subjected the North East region as gateway to South East Asia for Trade and investment. There has been an aggressive move to connect the region with South East Asia, as evidenced by the aggressive construction of the Trans Asian Highway and the Trans Asian Railway, all passing through Manipur.
After the post 1991 phase of economic liberalization, International Financial Institutions (IFI’s) intensified their presence and reach in Manipur and across the region as part of larger move to integrate India economically with the larger economies of Asia Pacific region with expanded activities in trade, finance, transport, information, tourism etc. The Asian Development Bank’s 2003 Country Strategic Plan for India includes a special emphasis on India’s North East region and the plan outlined that the region offers a strategic location to promote cross-border regional cooperation with several neighbouring countries in South Asia and South East Asia. ADB is also directly involved in preparing Vision 2020 for the region without participation and consultation of indigenous peoples of the region and also something, that envisioned privatization and commodification of their land and development processes.
The IFI’s focus in the NE region is evident from the large number of projects in a range of sectors, infrastructure, energy, tourism, urban development, agriculture, water management and subsequent policy reforms etc. The IFIs also targeted NE in their sub regionalization process, including the region in its South Asia Sub Economic Cooperation (SASEC) to complement and integrate the similar initiatives, the Greater Mekong Sub Region (GMS). ADB argues that SASEC has massive energy potential, vast resources of minerals, oil, forest, livestock, fertile agriculture land, important ports and cheap skilled labour. The World Bank conducted a study on Water and Natural Resources Management in India’s North East in 2006 with an aim to promote private sector investment and participation in water and natural resources management in the region. ADB also project North East as gateway to South East Asia for trade and investment and to integrate South Asia economies with South East Asia. The ADB maintains that a missing and crucial element for trade creation in the SASEC region and subsequent progress and development of the region is the development of the private sector infrastructure, particularly the market, trade, finance and information infrastructure along physical corridors etc.
IFI’s and road projects in Manipur: International Financial Institutions (IFIs), primarily the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation are increasingly synonymous with Manipur’s so called ‘development’, with their tacit financial and technical supports on range of sectors, viz, roads, tourism, power, governance etc. While the Governments of India and Manipur projects such facilitation as inherent to reduce poverty, inequality and to eliminate all forms of barriers of its under-development, there’s tacit silence on undeniable aspect of such financing, the need to adhere to best international development norms, including the safeguard policies of these IFIs. Deep controversy persists in project financing by these IFIs across Asia and the long terms implications of their financings are often overlooked.
Road projects in Manipur financed by Asian Development Bank (ADB) pursued under the North East State Roads Investment Program (NESRIP) through its South Asia Sub Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Regional Road Connectivity project, already lands in controversies. Several communities affected by the ADB’s Imphal Ring Road plan already expressed vehement objections and concerns as basic information were denied to them. Communities affected by ADB financed road project in Kasom Khullen in Ukhrul District, Manipur already challenged ADB’s violations and impacts in Manipur High court. The ADB is also preparing to finance the Asian Highway 1 passing through Manipur with its multifaceted impacts.
The Japan International Cooperation Agenda is also preparing to finance the infrastructure development for water supply for Imphal Town from the controversial Mapithel dam built over the Barak River. The key components of the Integrated Water Supply Project (IWSP) will be co-financed by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Government of India, while the project implementation is mostly by the Private corporate bodies. The Ministry of Urban Department, Government of India envisaged funding the tunneling works while JICA envisaged focusing on the component of upgrading existing infrastructure and creation of new infrastructures for the Imphal Town Water supply. The project is under process for financing by a Japanese ODA Loan to be provided by JICA, expected for final approval in the year 2016. JICA has indeed prepared a preparatory survey for the “Imphal Water Supply Improvement Project”, which is a pre-Feasibility report completed in March 2015. The report was prepared by three Japanese Consultancy companies, the NJS Consultants Co. Ltd, Nippon Koei Co. Ltd, Sanyu Consultants Inc. with JICA for PHED, Government of Manipur. As per the Pre-Feasibility report, the project financing and implementation is envisaged for completion on 31st December 2022.
One of the significant impacts of JICA financed Imphal Water Supply Project (IWSP) and the French financed Imphal Sewerage Project (ISP) is the impact on the right to life of indigenous Communities of Manipur. The impoundment of waters of Thoubal River for the water supply project and subsequent creation of infrastructures, including tunneling works, laying of pipelines, creation of water treatment plants (WTP) and disposal of treated affluent in Lamphelpat wetlands will have significant impact on the livelihood of indigenous communities. There is clear violation of their community ownership of land, such as forest areas in Mapithel valley and in Lamphelpat wetlands. The submergence and destructive of agriculture and forest land, both by Mapithel dam and the tunneling works will impact on Indigenous peoples livelihood.
ADB financed Imphal Ring Road Project in Manipur: The ADB financed Imphal Ring Road ignites wide controversy with its massive land acquisition moves and lack of consultations with affected communities. The proposed Imphal Ring road, which will be 46 Km long and width of 30 metres, is planned to be constructed within a period of five years at an estimated cost of around Rs. 346 Crores Indian Rupees, with expenditures envisaged at 8.17 Crores Rupees for each kilometre . The project proponents reasoned pursuance of India’s Look East Policy and trade expansion with South East Asian countries, will enormously increase traffic volume and deepen problems and hence the need for Imphal ring road. The Public Works Department, Government of Manipur issued tender notice on 10 September 2014 inviting Consultants to take up feasibility study and preparation of Detailed Project Report for the project. A team of experts from the EGIS International, France led by Transport specialist Eyan Jennings already inspected the condition of roads and crossings in Imphal town on 6 November 2014 to support the project . Representatives of Mr. MK Mohanty, Resettlement Specialist, appoint as consultant by ADB for the project commenced surveys for rehabilitation in Kongba, Langthabal, Langjing, Langol and other areas . Affected communities objected to the survey due to unilateral survey process, lack of consultation, limited impact assessment and the prospect of undervaluing their assets, as had happened in ADB loaned road project in Kasom Khullen in Eastern Manipur.
Officials of the Revenue and Settlement Department of Government of Manipur already commence surveys and collection of land records in villages along the Langol foothills and other areas affected by the plan in outskirts of Imphal Town. Earlier, the project director, NESRIP, Public Works Department, Government of Manipur already wrote to the Deputy Commissioner of Imphal West and Imphal East Districts on 5 May 2014 to commence land acquisition.
The Imphal Town Ring Road project will affect residential areas in Kongba Nandeibam Leikai, Langthabal area, Langol area, Kairang Village in Imphal West and East Districts. The total number of families and agriculture land area to be affected by the project is yet to be fully ascertained. More than Sixty household in Langjing Achouba area will be uprooted completely. An initial assessment indicates that project will affect more than 1000 acres of prime agricultural land in Kongba, Bashikhong, Langthabal, Langol, Lamphel etc in Imphal West and East Districts. Around 500 families will also be affected in the villages of Tharon, Thangmeiband, Tarung, Laimanai, Neikanglong, Grace Colony, Vaiphei Enclave etc, inhabited by various communities, such as Vaiphei, Paite, Meitei, Rongmei etc . The project will destroy part of sacred Langthabal, Langjing, Chingmeirong Cheiraoching and Langol Hills and adjoining forests, which are associated with the history and folklores of Meitei and other indigenous peoples. Many families depending on Lamphelpat wetlands for agriculture and fishing will also be affected. Community grounds, water bodies, forest areas, rich vegetation and other religious structures will also be affected.
One of the serious concerns is the feasibility of the Imphal Ring Road plan with its route concentration right in Imphal City areas itself. One wonders how a Ring road cuts through the new Manipur Secretariat and the Manipur High Court Complex, located right in the middle of Imphal town. Strange route demarcations criss-crossing in zig zag pattern and oddly circumventing narrow conspicuous strip of land in Mantripukhri area left many bewildered? There are concerns the routes are crafted specially to accommodate the concerns and to exclude properties or localities of those rich and privileged few with well connections and patronages of those in power. Hence, any development process that benefits few elites and corporate bodies while victimizing communities at large is simply anti people and cannot be construed as real development. Such development process that victimized communities and destroy their livelihood sources will only foster inequality.
The involvement of private consultant firms and private developers and International Financial Institutions necessary does not mean development and efficient service. The French Government support Imphal Sewerage Project in Manipur has been condemned widely for its extensive delays, environmental impacts and human casualties. The project still remains incomplete and already claimed several lives in accidents due to the multiple holes left uncovered and unattended. The Manipur Sericulture Project financed by the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is also laden with failure and wide corruption aside from other controversies.
Several affected communities already publicly expressed objections to the road widening plan given its alarming multi-faceted scale of impacts. The Kongba Makha Nandeibam Leikai development committee in a meeting on the proposed eviction plan held a meeting on 21 September 2014 last strongly opposed the project as the project implementation and subsequent land acquisition process failed to take their consent. They already sacrificed their land for road construction along the Kongba River banks. And to additional acquire 30 metres at a stretch will only extinguish their habitation space and undermine their identity. Further affected communities of Langthabal submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister of Manipur to reconsider the Ring road alignments and to consider alternative routes . Residents of Langjing Achouba and Langol foothills areas from Tharon to Lanthungching also expressed objections. Despite community objections and submissions, project authorities and ADB failed to consult and discuss alternatives to the project with affected communities. Indeed, the Asian Development Bank through the Public Works Department convened a meeting on 15th January 2015 for communities affected by ADB financed Imphal Ring Road project. However, affected communities were not officially informed for the meeting. The Affected communities resorted to make an open submission to the media establishments of Manipur, urging the Asian Development Bank to desist from financing the Imphal Ring Road Project.
The area demarcated for land acquisition in Kongba, Langthabal, Langol and Langjing etc lies along the flood plains of Kongba River and the Nambul River.
ADB financed Kasom Khullen Road project in Manipur: In the case of 47 Km Kasom Khullen road project financed by ADB, six villagers of Thoubal and Ukhrul Districts will be affected by the road project. The affected villagers have filed a legal petition against ADB on 11 August 2014 on the violation of communities rights . The Public Works Department, Manipur and other units implementing the road project have begun constructing the road. The project authorities of the ADB financed Kasom Khullen road project still failed to conduct a detailed impact assessment of the road project, on which the rehabilitation and resettlement is premised and also to apply its safeguard policies, especially related to indigenous peoples. The ADB funded road project also failed to conduct a detailed Environment Impact Assessment and Management Plan in accordance with the latest safeguard policies of the Bank.
ADB financed Asian Highway 1: One of the affected areas of the Asian Highway 1 in Manipur is the farming communities residing along the Yaithibi Loukon, a prime agricultural land in Thoubal District, Manipur. At least One Hundred (100) Acres of prime agriculture land will be affected by the proposed road expansion plan of the existing highway to the tune of 100 feet for a Four Lane road. The proposed Asian Highway 1 in along Yaithibi Loukon will affect several indigenous communities of Manipur. The communities affected by the ADB’s Ring Road project will also be affected by the proposed construction of the National Sports University at Yaithibi Loukon, which will seriously undermine the survival of small scale farmers. That the ADB’s Asian Highway project will lead to acquisition of homestead land in Sora Village and Langthabal Village in Thoubal River. Around Seventy (70) household and small scale business establishments will be acquired and affected. The acquisition of the agricultural and homestead land will render the villagers homeless and landless and further will further subjected them to impoverishment. The proposed site at Yaithibi Loukon is already envisaged for construction of the Trans Asian Highway under India’s Look East policy to connect with South East Asian Countries. The heavy traffic and congestion envisaged along the Trans Asian Highway route will never provide conducive environment for the healthy growth of sports in Manipur. The communities with further land acquisition by Trans Asian Highway will extinguish the survival of affected communities.
ADB’s involvement in Road Projects and Violations: The Imphal Ring Road project will seriously undermine food sovereignty of Manipur by conscripting huge prime agriculture land and foster food dependency from outside. The project is also marked by absence of detailed socio, economic, health and environmental impact assessment and to define clear options with affected communities.
The failure to consult and take, free, prior and informed consent of affected communities is a significant violation of indigenous peoples’ rights outlined in UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007. Affected communities are worried that surveyors from ADB’s consultants and Government revenue department intrude in their villages without consulting them. There have been no efforts on the part of the Government, ADB and their consultants to reach out to affected communities and to inform details of the project and all possible implications on their rights.
The government of Manipur and ADB also failed to apply its Safeguard Policy Statement of 2009. The ADB, cannot under any circumstances, exempt implementation and violate their own safeguard policy Statement for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights and environment etc in Manipur.
The Government of Manipur has failed to consult and take the free, prior and informed consent of communities affected by the Asian Highway 1 project in Langthabal and Sora villages in Thoubal District. The Government of Manipur also failed to apply ADB’s Safeguard Policies Update, 2009 on conducting Environment and Social Impact Assessments, on preparing the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Plan and also on preparing Indigenous Peoples Action Plan etc.
Many communities who eke out their livelihood through farming, fishing and small scale economic activity in areas affected by ADB’s Imphal Ring Road project, the Kasom Khullen Road project and the Asian Highway 1, will lose their livelihood and constitute a clear violation of right to life, as guaranteed both by the Article 21 of Constitution of India, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Failure to complete the rehabilitation and resettlement for the land acquired for the road project, also constitute a clear disregard of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007.
The Asian Development Bank is obliged to furnish all project documents, conduct a holistic impact assessment and to prepare indigenous peoples development plan based on its latest safeguard policies covering rehabilitation and resettlement, environment impact assessment and safeguarding indigenous peoples rights, wherever they are affected by projected supported by them. The ADB safeguard policies, widely condemned for its limitations, are not even applied in Manipur.
World Bank Financing in Manipur:
Conclusion: It’s high time to ponder if Manipur ever will ever leap to meaningful progress with credit financings of ‘development’ projects by IFI’s. Will it ever led to reducing poverty gaps and increased inequality within Manipur itself. The marked rise in inequality in concentration of wealth is an alarming reality in Manipur and with ADB’s thrust for private sector involvement, corporatization of development by destroying the fundamental livelihood source of communities, such division will worsen further.
The direct implication of increased loans in Manipur, of increasing debt of Manipur and its people to IFIs has never been discussed. The Government of India had already withdrawn the Special Category State Status from Manipur in early 2015, which will entail the State Government meeting at least 50% of development financial expenses from its own coffers. With limited resource avenues, Manipur will be compelled to borrow from the International Financial Institutions. The increased involvement of IFI’s is not only coincident but also a clear indication of the pattern of development financings in Manipur, more of seeking conditional loans.
With Manipur listed as one of the most corrupted state with limited resources, the increasing investment from IFI’s will only lead to imposition of more tax and debt servicing from its people. With a range of loan and financings by IFIs, Manipur is simply destined to be trapped in a vicious circle of debt and conflict and an uncertain future. In addition to seeking increased loan from IFIs, Manipur will also be compelled to mortgage its own resources, water, oil and gas, forest, minerals etc to unscrupulous exploitation and destruction by corporates bodies, for a mere loyalties and minimal taxes.
The ADB financed Imphal Town Ring Road, the Kasom Khullen Road, the Asian Highway 1 project, other rural roads and other large scale infrastructure projects should not be constructed without the free, prior and informed consent of all affected communities in Manipur. The Government of Manipur and the Asian Development Bank should provide all the necessary and related information on the plan, viz, the DPR, Impact Assessments, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Plan.
Any forced displacement by ADB’s road and other projects in Manipur will only constitute a violation of Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and provisions of UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007. The impact of displacement will spiral into other large multifaceted impacts. A clear accountability framework is crucial for ADB projects in Manipur so that affected communities can seek redressal and justice.
The project authorities should consider and accept the alternatives suggested by all affected communities. There should be no forceful acquisition of agriculture land, residential areas, wetlands, forest and hills of Manipur for the project. The UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights, 2007 should guide all development decision concerning Imphal Ring road plan and other road projects financed by ADB and other IFIs in Manipur. Given ADB’s road financing pattern, there’s tell-tale evidences that IFI financed projects will lead to widespread impoverishment, reinforce inequality and social conflicts and undermine self-determined development for indigenous peoples of Manipur.
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