Monday, August 24, 2009

Letter To Asian Development Bank


Mr. Barry Hitchcock

Country Director of Nepal Resident Mission

Asia Development Bank;

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned Hyolmo indigenous Peoples' representative organizations would like to draw your kind attention on the potential adverse impacts to Hyolmo Indigenous peoples and violation of their human rights and fundamental freedoms from the ADB funded Melamchi Water Supply Mega Project (Herein after referred as the Project) and request to take an urgent action to mitigate the adverse impacts and ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.

For your kind acknowledgement, it is important to illustrate a brief status of indigenous peoples in the project area. The Melamchi Water Supply Project is located at Helambu1 in Sindhupalchok district which is the traditional homeland of Hyolmo, Tamang, Majhi, Danuwar; Gurung etc. these peoples are legally recognized as Indigenous Peoples under Section 2 schedule No.1 of the NFDIN Act, 2000. According to the census 2001, the indigenous peoples comprises 56.2% of the total population in project area. Linguistic datas reflect 89.55% of Hyolmo; 59.62% of Tamang and 6.97 % of Gurung speak their mother tongues in the project area. Hyolmo peoples are governed by customs and customary laws despite the non-recognition of the state laws it has been harmoniously retained and administrated by traditional institutions (Guthi)

Fifty-one hundred million liters of water will be diverted per day from Melamchi, Yangri and Larke rivers to supply water in Kathmandu valley. The aforementioned sacred rivers and lands are important to Hyolmos and other indigenous peoples for their identity, culture, livelihood, survive, environment and existence.

The Project objectives basically are as follows:

  • To improve the water-supply in Kathmandu (KTM) Valley;
  • To provide access to clean and safe water supply ensuring good health sanitation;
  • To establish efficient water supply networking system on a sustainable basis;
  • To reduce water pollution through establishment of sewer and waste water treatment plants;
  • To improve river ecology, religious sites, and cultural Ghats ( Hindus sacred sites) located at river banks by augmenting water flow at Bagmatis and its tributaries;
  • To augment the depleting ground water sources of KTM.

The Project significantly impacts to Hyolmos by displacing them form 17 villages (Nakote, Bolgangh, Dhupkhang, Danaha, Hwatsosa, Pusha, Guangang, Doring,Sarkathily, Parghan, Tarkeghyang, Milimchhim, Phumbochhe, Gocheling, Ghangul, Ichok, , Elmunehsa, ) from the intake site (Dam?) and three tunnels construction. There are number of sacred sites namely Amaa Yangri,Dhupkhang (Milarepa Cave), Dhopadong,Chiri Monastry (The oldest monastry of Hyolmo), Ghocheling Monastry, Ne Ding (Tantrik Cave) Lhaakhang Monastry, Dhuptsu etc. with cultural, spiritual and identity values for Hyolmo. The agricultural lands and spring water source may remain dry, environment and sacred sites will be polluted, Majhis whose livelihood subsistence is fishing will be completely displaced from the projects however peoples never been informed or consulted about the mitigation measures of the adverse impact.

Importantly, Hyolmo Indigenous Peoples are not against to the development inter alia Melamchi Water Supply project, however we are in the position that the Project must be carried out respecting and complying national, international legal and policy framework that guarantee and safeguard our rights.

The interim constitution of Nepal, 2006 recognizes indigenous peoples and guarantees their fundamental right to preserve and promote culture, cultural heritage (Art. 17), right to live in a clean environment (Art.16), right to participate in the state structures on the basis of proportional representation (Art.21), right to information (Art. 27) and right to Constitutional remedy. Similarly, Nepal is a party to international instruments including, CCPR, CESCR, ILO C.169, ICERD, UNDRIP that recognize the indigenous peoples' human rights and fundamental freedoms e.g. rights over lands, territories and natural resources, FPIC, right to participation, right to benefit sharing from the development and projects that undertake in their territories and affect to them. The provision of international law is equivalent to national law, in case of inconsistency the provision of international law prevails national law (Sec. 9 of Treaty Act, 1991). Ironically, none of the aforementioned national laws international laws' provisions and ADB Safeguard Policy on Indigenous Peoples are taken into account in the in the execution of the project.

We have never been consulted or informed about the project to what extent they will be affected or benefited from the project. In relation to this, official webpage of the Project indicates that fourteen consultations were carried out in the 14 affected VDCs but none of the consultation was done with Hyolmos or their interests are taken into account.

Since2004, We have been consistently raising their concerns demanding recognition of their inalienable collective rights over lands territories and waters, cultures, right to means of subsistence, full information, participation, consultation, free prior informed consent, compensation and benefit sharing, having separate and independent study etc. The concerns and demands were formally informed to the MWSP, Government's agencies and other relevant stakeholders three times (20 Sept.2004, 23 Jul. 2006 and 31 Aug.2008) with the submission of memorandums but it was completely ignored.

We have requested several times to have dialogue but completely denied. Despite our objection, Nepal government signed an agreement with Chinese Company to construct tunnel, so we were compelled to make the position not to allow carry out further activities without having consultation and consent with us. We have given an ultimatum to have a dialogue before May 4, 2009 but we have not received any response.

According to the informal information, the first survey identified project intake at Chokpu Ghoo in Melimchim village, but it has been changed to Rebarma which is almost 7 k.m. down from the original place. The shifting of intake site will massively affects to aforementioned villages and approximately seven thousand Hyolmos. There are no consultations or any agreement has been made with IPs in this regard. Hyolmos have rights to be informed and participated in the any project activities including changing site that yet to be occurred.

Finally, we would like to inform you about our concerns, propositions and recommendation for possible initiation to solve the problems amicably and make the project more beneficial and sustainable:

Asia Development Bank

  • Communicate to Nepal government to comply their national, international obligations and ADB requirement to ensure as well as safeguard the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Project ;
  • Suspend and postponed any further support to the project to encourage government to be sensitive to carry out dialogues with indigenous peoples in order to solve the problems amicably that will create broader support, ensure peace and sustainable development;
  • Provide full disclosure in particularly feasibility study, EIA; SIA and relevant documents including any agreements with the secondary party of the of the project ensuring the right to information in the language that the Hyolmos understand;
  • Carryout inspection visit with the involvement of Indigenous experts or expert knowledge on IPs as well as the community representatives;
  • Office of the Special Project Facilitator should involved in facilitating future dialogue and positional negotiating;

Nepal Government and Project Proponent

  • Postponed the project further activities instantaneously to enter into dialogue;
  • Provide full disclosure in particularly feasibility study, EIA; SIA and relevant documents including any agreements with the secondary party of the of the project ensuring the right to information in the language that the Hyolmos understand;
  • Review the findings of the SIA and EIA in particular the false finding that no indigenous peoples are in the project area and affect by indigenous experts or expert knowledge on IPs as well as the community representatives;
  • Provide full disclosure in particularly feasibility study, EIA; SIA and relevant documents of the project ensuring the right to information in the language that the Hyolmos understand;
  • Recognize the right of Hyolmo over lands, territories natural resources by ensuring participation, consultation, free prior informed consent and benefit sharing before any activities are being undertaken;
  • Provide just, fair and equitable compensation and benefit sharing of the project to the Hyolmo communities;
  • Change the name of the Project as Hyolmo Water Supply Drinking Development Committee in order to ensure the identity of Hylomos and their homeland;
  • Ensure the project water intake site will not be shifted in Ribarma without FPIC;
  • Establish a grievance handling mechanism in the project site ensuring the participation of IPs representatives and experts;
  • Ensure the participation of Hyolmos in the project proponents;
  • Carryout independent and comprehensive study to what extent indigenous rights affect or ensure by indigenous experts or experts who have knowledge on IPs as well as the community representatives;

Submitted by:

Hyolmo Khane Pani Sarokar Samitee

Hyolmo Adivasiko Manab Adhikar Sambandhi Samyukta Sangharsa Samitee

Madhyawarty Chetra Prabhawit Sangharsa Samittee ( Helambu, Ichok and Kiwul)

Traditional Organizations Hyolmo

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