In late 2014, the World Bank announced its intention to re-engage in Cambodia after it had suspended all lending in 2011 over mass evictions in Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak lake community. It is expected that in mid-2016, the World Bank board will consider 4-5 several projects for approval to re-initiate its lending to Cambodia. LASED II, if approved by the World Bank Board, would be one of the first projects that marks the Bank’s re-entry into Cambodia.
LASED II is the second phase of an earlier project (LASED) which aims to transfer private state land to Cambodian citizens falling within the bottom 40% of the poverty range, or who are deemed “landless.” The project will focus on the existing eight Land Allocation for Social and Economic Development (LASED) sites and six Japan Social Development Funded sites established under the original LASED project, as well as one additional site in Kampong Thom Province. “The total area is proposed to cover approximately 17,000 hectares with 5,400 households.”
According to the World Bank, the project activities and interventions are expected to focus firstly on the scaling up of agricultural support activities and provision of remaining infrastructure in the existing social land concession (SLC) sites, and secondly, on development of the new sites which includes planning and provision of social and rural infrastructure and service delivery. Its main purpose is “to provide infrastructure where it is still missing, link up to and harmonize the agricultural service delivery approaches under the project with national research and extension systems and scale up livelihood support activities to project beneficiaries.” The land for these SLCs will be coming from three sources: 1) cancelled Economic Land Concessions (ELCs); 2) recovered illegally occupied lands; and 3) degraded forestland. However, none of the cancelled ELCs in LASED I has been made available for new SLCs.
Location: The project is proposed to cover a total of 14 Social Land Concession sites in Cambodia, in the provinces of Kratie, Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Kampong Speu and Battambang. These include the existing eight for the first phase of Land Allocation for Social and Economic Development (LASED) sites and six Japan Social Development Funded sites, as well as one new/additional SLC site in Kampong Thom Province. The total area is proposed to cover approximately 17,000 hectares with over 5,000 households affected.
Resources needed: Land acquired. As noted above, the project is proposed to cover 14 Social Land Concession sites in Cambodia.
Risk Assessment: Category B.
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 B is assigned to a project if it has “potential adverse environmental impacts on human populations or environmentally important areas - including wetlands, forests, grasslands, and other natural habitats.”
APPLICABLE SOCIAL & ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS
According to Bank documents, the following environmental and social safeguard policies are triggered:
Environmental Assessment OP/BP 4.01 - this safeguard is triggered due to potential impacts from civil works including community infrastructure and agriculture and livelihood activities, particularly during the implementation phase. Typical impacts for small scale civil works include land clearance, erosion and sedimentation of water bodies, dust and waste generation, etc. Additionally, agriculture and livelihood activities may impact land and soil.
Involuntary Resettlement OP/BP 4.1 triggered because some land taking might be required due to infrastructure investments. However, potential impacts regarding evictions are unknown as the precise locations of new infrastructure development have not been determined at this stage.
Physical Cultural Resources OP/BP 4.11 - triggered because the infrastructure investments may impact on unknown, buried physical cultural resources.
Natural Habitats OP/BP 4.04 triggered because infrastructure investments and the land use plan implementation may impact on the natural habitat such as wetlands, natural ponds or remnant forests/remaining forest patches.
Forests OP/BP 4.36 triggered because the infrastructure investments and the development of new SLC site(s) may [have an] impact on remnant forests.
Indigenous Peoples OP/BP 4.10 Previous World Bank documentation stated that it had not yet determined whether this standard will be applicable. However, recent documents state that "ethnic minorities are not present in the present SLC sites under LASED. For the new SLC site, ethnic screening was conducted and did not find any IP community (the Khmer Loeu or hill tribes) in project areas (including its potential recruited villages)."
Safety of Damns OP/BP 4.37 - triggered because "the project may finance
construction of embankments (i.e., weir or water storage facility) for small scale gravity irrigation in the prioritized communities, which would be identified during project implementation." The exact sites and number of embankments was not known at the time of writing.
OUR RISK ASSESSMENT
Based Bank documents and documentation on issues relating to the original LASED project, media and reports by Cambodian civil society groups in particular, a June 2015 report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) --- this project poses potential risks to the following human rights:
Right to Property and Adequate Housing This right is triggered based on reported issues with the first phase of the project, LASED, and the bank documents' indication that land acquisition may happen. According to the bank documents, the project will use an approach to minimize potential loss of land or assets as a result of the SLC process. The bank documents state that this process will include:
(a) in case a local resident who is a
legal owner of land as defined under the Land Law loses fixed assets or access to agricultural land in the planned SLC area, he/she is entitled to receive compensation for land and assets at the replacement value;
(b) the planning of SLCs would include practical measures to avoid that poor
unauthorized local residents, whose livelihood is dependent on use of land in the planned SLC
area, lose fixed assets or access to agricultural land due to the SLC program;
(c) land loss within a designated SLC area by any unauthorized poor local resident whose livelihood is dependent on use of land in the planned SLC area, and who began to use this land before the cut-off date, would be eligible to obtain land within the SLC not exceeding the land allocation fixed for regular SLC applicants;
(d) land speculators enjoying unauthorized use of land in an SLC area would not be
entitled to apply for land within the SLC, and may only receive compensation for investments
made on up to 5 hectares of the land illegally occupied within the SLC area; and (e) the projectsupported social land concession programs are not used as a form of compensation to mitigate the resettlement impacts from other projects.
National human rights groups have called into question the implementation of the first phase of LASED, documenting human rights issues related to that first phase. According to the Cambodian human rights group LICAHDO, whose staff visited all SLC sites under LASED, land tenure security is not yet guaranteed and villagers reported at the time of LICADHO's visit that no one had received a land title yet. Villagers who have already occupied the land for more than five years were still waiting for and titles and many others may lose their property rights as poor implementation of the project effectively forces them to violate the legal requirements that they must satisfy to apply for the land title. In addition, due to the socio-economic background of the land recipients, most of them had no additional funds to upgrade their housing. GTZ found out that settling-in support was in most cases not sufficient to stabilise the livelihood of land recipients at the SLCs. These issues, and others, were documented in LICADHO's report, On Stony Ground: A look into Social Land Concessions (June 2015).
That report also states: [w]hilst the project objective to allocate residential and/ or agricultural land to 3,000 families has been achieved, LICADHO estimates that less than 50% of the families that received residential land [under LASED] had settled and remain at the sites at the time of LICADHO's visits. Four of the eight SLC sites were not yet functional at the time of the visits by LICADHO and will need substantial financial and technical support to achieve a minimal level of sustainability. Numerous villagers at seven of the eight sites reported limited ability to use the allocated agricultural plots and hence gained no significant improvement in terms of food security. The land that was allocated by Cambodian authorities appears to be at least in part simply not suitable for agricultural purposes.
It is also noted that conditions of land title under LASED may be strict, and evidence suggests that land titles are not being granted even after conditions are met. The Sub-Decree on SLCs (2003) requires that land must be vacant and conflict-free in order to be considered for a SLC. However, vacant state land resources of sufficient size are rare in in rural Cambodia. Overall, the process of land identification, mapping, classification and registration of SLC takes a long time due to bureaucratic procedures and involvement of various institutions at different administrative levels. LICADHO observes that [w]ith the low settlement rates and limited use of agricultural land observed by LICADHO at the end [of] 2014 and in early 2015, many land recipients risk failing to meet these conditions due to poor implementation of the project. Tenure security is by no means guaranteed for a sizeable part of the more than 3,000 land recipients under LASED. This is further compounded by the challenge of integrating existing settlers at the proposed SLC sites.
The World Bank documents highlight issues with LASED, stating some of the [Social Land Concession] communities that would be covered by the project have not yet benefitted from infrastructure investments and therefore lack basic infrastructure support. In this regard, [LASED II] will provide roads, access tracks, water supply, schools and health centers which are necessary for a functioning local community. Further, according to the World Bank, one sub-component of LASED II would support initial development of plots that are allocated to agricultural activities. This is an improvement from the original LASED approach where land development was left to recipients. The LASED Mid-Term Review pointed out that such capital-intensive land development works were often beyond the means of the land recipients thus resulting, in some cases, in delays in the utilization of the allocated land.
As stated by LICADHO, [i]f approved, the new loan [for LASED II] will be the World Bank's first since suspending funding to Cambodia in 2011 after an 18-month investigation by the World Bank's internal auditor into a land-titling project supported by the Bank which discriminated against citizens living in Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak lake area. The Boeung Kak lake dispute is one of the largest and most well-known Cambodian urban land disputes and the auditor's report found that the project failed to protect the housing rights of thousands of residents who were forcefully evicted from the area following exclusion by the land-titling project. At the time, the World Bank pledged that there would be no new funding until a resolution to the Boeung Kak dispute was reached, a condition that has not yet been fully met.
Right to Food
LICADHO notes that while soil quality has been a significant issue, uncleared land is also debilitating to the success of the project. Their report found that across five sites assistance with the project only helped with the labor intensive clearing and land preparation of 0.5 hectares per agricultural plot, regardless of the total size of the plot. The families are often left to clear and till the remaining area without assistance, effectively reducing a 1-3.5 acre plot to a mere .5 hectare area of cultivable land, a number considered insufficient for feeding an average rural family in Cambodia. According to LICADHO: Many villagers reported that they are not able to properly cultivate the agricultural plots they received because of low soil fertility and/or they lacked the necessary tools and manpower to clear the land and prepare it for farming. This resulted in no significant gain in terms of food security. LICADHO further reports that according to the World Bank, as of November 2014 only 41% of total agricultural land is under cultivation. LICADHO's investigations point to an even lower success rate.
Right to Water
In LICADHO's investigations, recipients of social land concessions report a lack of water needed for irrigation on their agricultural land. Maintenance of pumping wells for water supply also poses a problem. As a result, a number of wells are not functional. Bank documents also state that the project may finance "construction of embankments (i.e., weir or water storage facility) for small scale gravity irrigation in the prioritized communities, which would be identified during project implementation."
Right to Health
With regards to LASED, insufficient infrastructure including operating health posts have been reported by LICADHO; therefore sufficient infrastructure for LASED II may also be a concern. Additionally, as reported by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, educed access to medical services for persons forcibly evicted, coupled with a decrease in income means that people in remote resettlement sites cannot afford transportation required to reach medical centers.
Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Kampong Speu and Kratie are two districts within which SLCs are planned, and two provinces that have been recognized by the UN Special Rapporteur and the International Labour Organization as having indigenous communities. Recent bank documentation states that no indigenous peoples will be at the SLC site; however, those bank documents also state that "indigenous people's families living in the existing SLC sites would be fully consulted for project activities plans." This is an issue that warrants close attention.
Right to a Healthy Environment
Though the extent is unclear at the time of writing, this project may involve "land clearance, erosion and sedimentation of water bodies, dust and waste generation," which may impact the right to a healthy environment.
Bank financing: World Bank
Borrower: The Kingdom of Cambodia, to be implemented by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF).
Amount of bank loan or investment: USD $25 million
Total project cost: USD $27 million
Implementing Agency Contact:
Implementing Agencies Name:
Ministry of Land Management,
Urban Planning and Construction
Contact: H.E. Dr. Sareth Boramy
Title: LASED II, Project Director
Name: Ministry of Interior
Contact: H.E. Cheam Pe A
Title: LASED II, Project Coordinator
Name: Ministry of Agriculture,
Forestry and Fishery
Contact: HE. Dr. So Khan Rithykun
Title: Director General,
Contact: Mudita Chamroeun
Title: Senior Rural Development Specialist
Tel: 5721+1316 /
According to bank documents, "community people, Commune Council members, community-based organizations and SLC implementing staff on the ground were consulted on the draft environmental and social safeguard instrument to be used on LASED II, including the RPF and the EA-EMP during technical support mission – appraisal preparations in June 15 to July 3, 2015." There was also a stakeholder consultation workshop on June 23-24, 2015.
Consultations on the updated instruments will continue through Board submission and during project implementation. No other details were provided.
PROJECT-LEVEL GRIEVANCE MECHANISMS
Bank documents, available at the time of writing, suggest that a community participatory approach may address grievances at the project level. We could not find additional information about a project-level grievance mechanism.
ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISM OF WORLD BANK
The World Bank Inspection Panel is the independent complaint mechanism and fact-finding body for people who believe they are likely to be, or have been, adversely affected by a World Bank-financed project. If you submit a complaint to the Inspection Panel, they may investigate to assess whether the World Bank is following its own policies and procedures for preventing harm to people or the environment. You can contact the Inspection Panel or submit a complaint by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about the Inspection Panel and how to file a complaint at: http://ewebapps.worldbank.org/apps/ip/Pages/Home.aspx.