From: Pratap Chatterjee <email@example.com>
Subject: kedung ombo -bank says 72 percent in trouble
WASHINGTON, May 4 (IPS) - World Bank staff say that resettlement plans made for the construction of a dam in Indonesia were ''highly defective'' and that 72 percent of the families affected by the dam are now worse off than they were before the project began.
The confidential ''project completion report'' for the Bank-funded Kedung Ombo dam in central Java says 22 percent of the families who moved to Sumatra after accepting a resettlement packageare now better off. All but six percent of the remaining families who accepted money to move themselves are now worse off.
The reservoir of the 61-metre-high Kedung Ombo dam, which was completed in 1989 with a 166-million-dollar soft loan from the Bank, covers an area of 6,700 hectares. It displaced 5,390 families -- or almost 30,000 people -- from 20 villages.
The report, which was obtained by IPS, cites studies conducted in 1993 by the Satya Wacana Christian University (SCMU) which showed that 59 percent of the people who accepted government compensation to find themselves new homes now earn less than their neighbours who refused to move.
Families that moved to sites provided by the government actually earned 25 percent less than their neighbours, according to the SCMU study. The report says that the government is now giving these families money to improve farming practices.
''The most basic flaw in the Kedung Ombo resettlement program was the assumption that 90 percent of the people would join the transmigration program (to Sumatra). As a result project planners had no alternatives when more than 80 percent of the people decid ed to remain,'' says the report.
''Sampling methodologies used in the baseline survey work were highly defective. Most survey interviews appear to have consisted of talks only with village leaders. As official appointees, one of their functions was to promote transmigration,'' it adds.
Sources told IPS that senior Bank staff ignored this problem despite the fact that a number of non-governmental groups, as well as junior Bank officials, pointed out the problems. This is confirmed in the report.
''Contemporary project records repeatedly report that the situation was 'under control' during the 1987-88 period when all other evidence demonstrates that this could not possibly have been the case,'' says the report.
The Bank's Indonesia office issued a statement to IPS to confirm that it felt the report was balanced. It added that the Bank was prepared to implement recommendations included in the report.
''These include more candour, rigorous application of our policies on resettlement, closer supervision, and early discussions with government about the project's concepts to prevent problems from remaining unrecognised or growing,'' says the statement.
When the sluice gates of the dam were shut in 1989 to fill the reservoir, a number of villagers were stranded on the high ground in the middle of the project.
''Dozens of people drowned in the following weeks as people tried to adapt to a lifestyle in a lake with which they had no experience. Many of them were farmers who did not know how to swim,'' a student activist who lived in the area at the time told IPS.
At the time the government offered farmers from villages, such as Nglanji, which were completely submerged, 500 and 800 rupiahs (25 to 40 cents) per square metre of land, including crops.
Some Nglanji villagers sued the central Java administration and the Ministry of Public Works, but their lawsuit was rejected by both a local Semarang district court and an appeals court.
Four years later, the villagers won their battle before Indonesia's Supreme Court which ordered compensation. Late last year, the government appealed the decision and the compensation order was revoked by the Court.
Despite the fact that the project completion report is very critical of the Bank, Indonesian academics say it probably does not go far enough. Arief Budiman, a sociologist at SCMU, says that academics at his faculty are rarely able to get information about projects unless they live in the immediate area.
''The Javanese, with their introvert culture, do not express their feeling openly to strangers. They will not say what they wan t to say to somebody with high educational background coming from big cities who ask them questions that have something to do with government policies,'' he wrote to the Bank earlier this year.
Adi Prasetjo, a local journalist, agrees. He wrote to the Bank to complain that information supplied it by the Indonesian gover nment was inaccurate.
''It is not true that the majority of the affected people had taken the compensation and voluntarily moved out. Even, in Kabupaten Sragen, which was considered the least problematic, the affected people later criticised the government for having pressured them, which action forced them to involuntarily leave,'' he wrote.
Recent research by Indonesian activists also suggests that the families who moved to Sumatra may actually be worse off than those who stayed behind.
''We have to say that the condition of the ex-Kedungombo transmigrants is worse than the condition of those who stay in Kedungo mbo areas,'' wrote Asmara Nababan, executive secretary of the International Non-Governmental Organisation's forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) in Jakarta, in a letter to the Bank earlier this year.
''The land they received is still in the form of swamp which is quite deep and difficult to drain. The location of the land is also susceptible to flood. In addition, the land is also infertile, making the agricultural production very poor,'' says INFID.
''Making things worse, they have conflict of land rights with the local people who claim that they hold ancestral rights over the land,'' the letter adds.
The issue of resettlement is one that affects many Bank projects. An internal review at the Bank last year showed that four mil lion people are to be forced off their lands under Bank-backed projects currently underway or likely to be approved by 1996. It points out that one in seven dollars lent by the Bank goes to projects which include forced resettlement.
According to the report, which was prepared by the Bank's sociologist, Michael Cernea, there isn't a single project in the world where resettled people were able to regain their past income levels. Under the Bank's own directives, resettlement can only be conducted if it results in maintaining or increasing the income of the resettled people.