The World Bank is considering funding a proposal by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, through its Department of Tourism, to re-structure the state tourism sector in a "pro-poor manner, with a view to increasing benefits to local communities and improving the management of its tourism destinations." The project will be implemented by "promoting an integrated area- based approach in which tourist destinations and their iconic heritage assets are planned, promoted, served, stewarded and linked geographically." The project components most likely to trigger environmental and social safeguards are related to construction activities in and around historical sites and environmentally sensitive zones, including investments in the "promotion of new activities (e.g. museums, meditation halls, festivals)," "services provision (e.g. accommodation, sanitation)" and "access improvement (e.g. roads, transportation)".
Location: The Braj Agra Corridor and the Buddhist Circuit in Uttar Pradesh have been identified as the main sites of project implementation. The proposed project destinations are "(i)Agra, Mathura, Vrindavan, Barsana, Nandgaon, Gokul- Mahavan, Baldeo and Govardhan in the Braj Region, and (ii) Varanasi, Sarnath and Kushinagar and Sravasti in the Buddhist Circuit."
Resources needed: Land in densely populated areas
Risk Assessment: Category A.
The World Bank classifies proposed projects based on the type, location, sensitivity, and scale of the project and the nature and severity of its potential environmental impacts. Category A is assigned to a project only if it is likely to have "significant adverse environmental impacts that are sensitive, diverse, or unprecedented." This project is Category A because the project target areas contain World Heritage Sites, nationally designated historic and cultural properties, and "environmentally sensitive zones" and may also impact natural habitats.
Applicable Social & Environmental Standards
Environmental Assessment OP/BP 4.01 -
This safeguard is triggered because the project will fund civil works, such as the rehabilitation of local infrastructure in touristic areas and around heritage sites. Environmental impacts are anticipated during the construction phase.
Involuntary Resettlement OP/BP 4.1
This safeguard is triggered because the project will support civil works including rehabilitation of heritage assets and upgrading of local infrastructure in some densely populated or visited areas. Most adverse impacts are expected to happen during construction stage, especially for improvement of access roads, construction of tourist amenities and household basic services (i.e., toilet), and upgrading of public spaces.
Physical Cultural Resources OP/BP 4.11
This safeguard is triggered because the project will support rehabilitation as well as the promotion of tourism in communities surrounding cultural and historic sites. Activities most likely to have an impact relate to rehabilitation works and the provision of basic services and access to surrounding communities, where lesser known monuments may be present.
Sub-projects have not yet been identified and may also trigger the following safeguards:
Natural Habitats OP/BP 4.04
Some of the project activities may be located in environmentally sensitive areas. Bank documents state that the potential impact on existing natural habitats will be determined during project preparation.
Forests OP/BP 4.36
Some of the project activities involve landscaping of tourist and pilgrimage areas.
Bank documents also voice concerns that [t]he UP Tourism Department has not implemented investment projects supported by the World Bank. Hence their capacity in safeguard policies implementation is weak.
Our Risk Assessment
The Right to a Healthy Environment
Construction activities in and around touristic areas and heritage sites may have environmental impacts. The World Bank is yet to decide if the project triggers the Natural Habitats safeguard as project activities may be located in environmentally sensitive areas.
Right to Property & Adequate Housing
The touristic and religious sites targeted by this project are located in densely populated areas. Construction activities related to the aims of improving access and management of tourist sites include the involuntary resettlement of populations in surrounding areas. Bank documents cite the Taj Mahal in Agra which is surrounded by more than 200 slums with crumbling infrastructure and services, and associated low living standards lost opportunity.
Right to Culture
The rehabilitation of infrastructure and civil works in areas surrounding target sites and the promotion of tourism may have impacts on communities right to cultural resources. Bank documents note [t]he possible discovery of archeological sites or random findings during the execution of civil works requires special treatment. Bank documents also state that sub projects will be located in the surroundings of Sarnath and Khushinagar, two of the four main Buddhist sites in the world, and may also be located in sensitive zones such as Taj Ganj.
Bank financing: World Bank, IBRD Loan, Investment Project Financing
Borrower: Uttar Pradesh Department of Tourism, India
Amount of bank loan or investment: $210 million
Total project cost: $300 million
Mr. Amrit Abhijat
Secretary, Department of Tourism
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