(Oct. 21, 2019) In September 2019, the World Bank Inspection Panel registered eight requests for inspection, all related to the Odra-Vistula Flood Management project in Poland. The requesters, representatives of various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Germany and Poland, allege that the World Bank project harms biodiversity and increases flood risks, among other allegations. In addition, and of special importance in the Inspection Panel process, a number of requesters allege that the environmental impact assessment carried out by the World Bank before the initiation of the Project was insufficient, lacking proper consideration of alternatives and adequate consultation with affected populations.
The project now under inspection was approved by the World Bank Board of Directors in 2015 and is scheduled to be completed in 2023. As stated in the Notice of Registration from the Chair of the Inspection Panel,
[t]he development objectives of the Project are to “increase access to flood protection for people living in selected areas of the Odra River and the Upper Vistula River basins and to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Borrower to mitigate the impact of floods more effectively” [according to the Project Appraisal Document]. The Project triggered the following World Bank safeguard policies: Environmental Assessment (OP/BP 4.01); Natural Habitats (OP/BP 4.04); Physical Cultural Resources (OP/BP 4.11); Involuntary Resettlement (OP/BP 4.12); Safety of Dams (OP/BP 4.37); and Projects on International Waterways (OP/BP 7.50).
Of particular importance to the Inspection Panel is the environmental impact assessment rating of “Category B” given to the project, per OP/BP 4.01. When a proposed project is determined to be Category B, it indicates that the potential adverse environmental impacts are considered to be less adverse than a “Category A” project, thus necessitating narrower mitigating measures to protect the environment.
World Bank Inspection Panel at a Glance
The World Bank Inspection Panel’s mandate is to serve as “an independent complaints mechanism for people and communities who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by a World Bank-funded project.” Since the Inspection Panel’s creation as an independent investigations body in 1993, the Panel has received 150 requests for inspection. Once the Chair of the Inspection Panel registers a request, thus providing official notification of the request to the Executive Directors and the President of the World Bank, Bank Management must provide the Inspection Panel a response regarding the issues raised in the request within three weeks. Thereafter, the Panel will “determine whether the Request meets the eligibility criteria … and shall make a recommendation to the Executive Directors as to whether the matter should be investigated.” The eligibility criteria include the requirement that the requester(s) demonstrate that their “rights or interests have been or are likely to be directly affected by an action or omission of the Bank as a result of a failure of the Bank to follow its operational policies and procedures with respect to the design, appraisal and/or implementation of a project financed by the Bank.”
Updated October 22, 2019.