World Bank approves Chad-Cameroon pipeline project

Sep 14, 2002 02:00 AM

The World Bank has rejected campaigners' demands and concerns expressed by its own internal advisory panel and approved the continuation of the $ 4 bn Chad-Cameroon pipeline project. A member of Chad's parliament and environment groups had called for the project to be suspended until minimum conditions exist on the ground to ensure full participation of the government and civil society in the management of the project.

Earlier this year the Bank's internal but independent Inspection Panel found that the project was not in compliance with parts of at least ten separate bank policies and procedures. But at a meeting on September 12, the board of directors of the World Bank approved a management plan to go ahead with the project, while addressing these discrepancies.
"The findings of the Panel will lead to improvements in the ongoing implementation of this challenging project, which has enormous potential to bring great benefits to the people of Chad and Cameroon," said World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn in a statement issued as the decision was announced.
"It is a pity such a thing is happening," said Delphine Djiraibe, the president of the Chadian Association for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights. Djiraibe argued that it would have been more responsible for the Bank to put the project on hold.
She pointed out that its Inspection Panel had agreed with many of the complaints made by civil society groups about the lack of adequate environmental assessments, the inadequacy of the provisions for allocating revenues from the project and the general human rights situation in Chad.

This $ 4 bn project, in one of the poorest areas of Africa, has been controversial from the start and the World Bank, which is providing $ 140 mm of the total project financing, has constructed extensive project support mechanisms to deal with the potential problems.
A 13-volume environmental assessment has been written about the project and 80 % of the revenues received by the governments are supposed to be allocated to health, education and infrastructure projects. But protests erupted almost from the start in both Chad and Cameroon and provoking Ngarlejy Yorongar, a member of Chad's parliament, to join with 100 other Chadians to file a formal protest with the World Bank's Inspection Panel.

In response to their complaint, the Panel, which is an independent internal auditing body, said that the human rights situation in Chad is "far from ideal" and declared the lack of a cumulative environmental plan a "serious omission". It also expressed "great concern" about the allocation of revenues.
But for Djiraibe and the protesters, the fundamental issue -- also identified by the bank -- is one of control. They are concerned about who, ultimately, is in charge and determining the structure of a project in which the majority shareholders are the large oil companies, Exxon Mobil and Chevron.
This is the underlying problem, says Djiraibe -- the lack of capacity in Chad and Cameroon to control the project. "Right now in Chad nobody is following what this project is doing. The government itself and the civil society do not have the capacity to monitor the project. That means nothing good is going to happen," she said. "The government is well known as a bad manager, there is no transparency, no good governance. And in such conditions, we can't believe that oil revenues will be used to build capacity."

From Djiraibe's perspective, these problems should be addressed before such a massive project is undertaken. "It is better to prevent these problems than to try and go back and correct them after they are already there," she added.
But the World Bank argues that the project is, itself, helping to build greater openness and transparency within Chad. "The broad consultation process undertaken for the project was unprecedented in Chad and opened the way for increased civil society participation in public debates over broad policy issues," argues the bank management in their report.

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