Date: Sun, 26 May 1996 06:21:01 -0500
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Cameroon Loan To Build Roads Will Threaten Baka People
By Korinna Horta, Environmental Defense Fund, 15 May 1996
From: Kenneth Walsh <email@example.com>
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND
Telephone: (202) 387-3500 Korinna Horta
Date: May 15, 1996
Re: World Bank Transport Sector Credit for Cameroon
Attached is a letter I am sending to Mr. Serageldin, the World Bank's Vice President for Environmentally Sustainable Development today. As you will see from the letter, this project implicitly supports road building into the rainforest of South-Eastern Cameroon without having undertaken an environmental impact assessment. Ironically, one of the roads being considered (the Abong Mbang-Lomie road) has previously been in the pipeline of the African Development Bank. Many of you have been part of the international campaign to get the AfDB to carry out a full EIA for the project. The project then was rejected by the AfDB's Board for environmental reasons.
It is incredible that it should reappear as part of a World Bank sector credit without any consideration of environmental risks.
Unfortunately, time is pressing. It was only yesterday that I received a copy of the maps attached to the Staff Appraisal Report (which is not a public document until after approval of the project). Without the maps we had no idea of what the project was actually including. The project is scheduled to go to the Board later this week. Officials in the U.S. Treasury Department have agreed to ask for a postponement of the Board discussion of the project until next week. I hope it will work.
In any case, any letter you could send ASAP to your government with copy to your Executive Director's office will help. All major donor countries opposed the Abong Mbang - Lomie road when it was presented at the AfDB's Board, an argument that should help.
I will keep you posted on this one, best
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE FUND
Telephone: (202) 387-3500
May 15, 1996
Mr. Ismael Serageldin
It has just come to our attention that a major Transport Sector Credit for the Republic of Cameroon will be presented to the Bank's Board of Directors later this week.
The proposed IDA $ 60 million credit, which is part of a financial package of about $ 600 million, will, among other things, support the rehabilitation of a priority network of rural roads. The Staff Appraisal Report states that "roads included in the project will be determined after consultation with project beneficiaries, but will have to be selected within the 10,952 km priority network agreed by the Government" (p.38). The Bank is thereby implicitly supporting the entire priority network.
The Transport Sector Credit was deemed to have no significant environmental impacts and an EIA has not been carried out. Disturbingly though, one of the rural roads (the Abong Mbang - Lomie road) , which is part of the priority network of roads to be rehabilitated under the sector credit, has previously been considered for funding by the African Development Bank and was rejected on the basis of a one-inch thick EIA study!
It seems entirely unbelievable that the African Development Bank would execute a full EIA study for this road project, while the World Bank did not although its sector credit includes support for the same road as well as several other roads into sensitive rainforest areas in South-Eastern Cameroon.
The AfDB commissioned EIA concludes that improvement of the Abong Mbang- Lomie road will lead to enormously accelerated logging activities, the decrease of wildlife populations and that it will profoundly alter the way of life of the indigenous Baka pygmies in the area. The study recommends that rehabilitation of the road not be undertaken before a regional development plan for Cameroon's eastern province has been put in place and the preservation projects for the Dja reserve, a World Heritage Site, as well as a land use plan for the Haut-Nyong department have been implemented. It adds that road rehabilitation should also wait for passage of a New Forestry Law for Cameroon, a law the World Bank has wrestled with as a part of several structural adjustment loans without much success until today.
There are several other roads in the priority network that raise critical ecological and social questions such as the proposed improvement of the road from Gari Gombo to Moloundou. Although the project maps are not detailed enough, it appears that this road may pass in the vicinity of the Lac Lobeke, Boumba Bek and Nki biodiversity conservation project which is being funded by the GEF.
The reason why we have not been able to raise our concerns about this project at an earlier date is that project information has been entirely insufficient. The first Project Information Document (PID) of May 1994 categorized the loan as a category C project with no significant environmental impacts and no mention of rural roads. The second PID of March 1996 categorized the loan as a category B project and refers to the preparation of a mitigation plan to address environmental issues in the road maintenance sector.
The Staff Appraisal Report (SAR) itself only dedicates a few lines to the environmental aspects of the project and includes no discussion of environmental risks. Only the maps attached to the SAR show the location of the priority network of roads and thereby implicitly reveal some of the ecological and social implications of the project. As you may know, SARs are not available to NGOs and the public until after project approval. It was by coincidence that we were able to see these maps just a few days before the project's scheduled Board date. Certainly, this should raise questions about how to improve the Bank's Information Disclosure Policy.
This project appears to violate the spirit of the Bank's Operational Directive (OD 4.01) on environmental assessment and should clearly not proceed without a full EIA and until its consistency with the World Bank's Forest Policy and its Indigenous Peoples' Policy has been fully established.
Korinna Horta Environmental Economist