World Bank Inspection Panel – emerging lessons on environmental assessment

18 April 2017

18 April 2017 | Minutes



  • Chair: Otaviano Canutto, World Bank
  • Zenaib Elbakri, Inspection Panel
  • Julia Bucknall, World Bank
  • Medha Patkar, Narmada Dam Movement, India
  • Prof Richard Fuggle, University of Cape Town


Watch the full video webcast (1:39:11) here and view the third report in the Inspection panels Emerging Lessons Series: IP Lessons Environmental Assessment. The report covers lessons from Panel cases over the last 23 years related to environmental assessment issues.

Zenaib Elbakri, Inspection Panel

  • 118 IPN requests to date, investigated 34 requests, 29 involving env assessments
  • Review also looked at 2 not investigated, but included in samples, as included important lessons
  • One relates to Uzbekistan rural enterprise project, one Tajikistan energy
  • 3 stages, prep, impl, long term impacts
  • 7 emerging lessons, 5 regarding project preparation, 1 project implementation, last relating to sust project development outcomes
  • 1st lessons, adequate screening and scoping essential – early stages in EA process, what category to be allocated to particular project, specific type of env work required
    • Area of influence, categorisation, delineating of project area, etc.
    • Chad-Cameroon petroleum development project, a large scale regional plan
      • Shows cumulative impact and delineating of area issues, did not consider these in project document and env assessment
      • In response to Panel findings, worked with agencies to develop regional plan
    • 2nd lesson, central to preserve social and natural impact, need to maintain both
      • Uzbekistan second rural enterprise project, supported rehabilitation of infrastructure, farmers and agribusiness
        • Mentioned child labour on cotton farm, but no detailed analysis
        • Did not handle risks in detail
        • As a result of IPN work, document was amended, contracted ILO for third party monitoring for the first time
    • 3rd lesson, distinct adverse impact, e.g. forests, water, not always as clear, also transboundary and global externalities, also health and safety issues
      • Argentina Santa Fe Road Infrastructure Project
        • Upgrading of road
        • Project affected people were able to express concerns, but were about on impact on hydrology, affected people were viewed as non experts, so WB deemed insufficient confidence
        • Plan lacked proper description of flooding risks up and downstream
    • 4th lesson
      • Ethiopia Promoting Basic Services Phase III project
        • Didn’t trigger safeguards, as it was considered a kind of budget support P4R type project
        • Major shortcomings in risk assessment acc to IPN, risk mitigation measures not adequate
        • IPN didn’t question financial instrument, but safeguards policies should have been triggered, notably IP
    • 5th lesson
      • South Africa Eskom Investment Support Project
        • Relying on borrower systems, country systems
        • Safeguards diagnostics review was of good quality, but didn’t address gaps in the framework
    • 6th lesson, project implementation, needs expertise and resources
      • Uganda Transport Project
        • Additional finance to existing project
        • Bank missions had noted some shortcomings, but no serious attempt to improve performance
        • Problem of supervision, warning signs were not identified by WB, no solution was proposed to problems brought up, incl health and safety – not appropriate expertise, e.g. no gender specialists involved
        • Impacts included child sexual abuse, sexual harassment
        • Lessons learned and agenda for change document from WB, also being used in other cases
    • 7th lesson, long term impacts, including ensuring strong protection for people and their environment
      • Nepal Power Development Project
        • Shows what happens when community doesn’t have proper understanding of the project, no buy-in
        • Project didn’t include adequate consultation with project affected peoples, lead to widespread misinformation including perceived health impact
        • Growing opposition, including violence, and delays
        • Opposition now less, but effects on cost and impact
  • Concluding observations
    • Importance of having continuous env assessment process throughout the project cycle – need to conduct quality assessments, follow up, plan proper mitigation measures, to ensure project sustainability in the long term
    • Multi-disciplinary expertise is essential, e.g. gender expertise – also on-going dialogue to close the gap between the happenings on the ground and the project teams
    • Social risks and social impacts, can create and exacerbate already complex situations – some new standards in the new ESF, also introduced protection relating to labour, community health & safety
    • Not only high risk projects that can cause significant harm, important to monitor for project risks in other categories
    • All not fallen on deaf ears, WB has issued guidelines for staff on different areas, most recently on management of labour influx, which was a gap brought up in Panel investigations, also gender based violence taskforce

Julia Bucknall, World Bank

  • This is a management issue, not a compliance issue, throughout the project cycle, including for the client
  • Need to systematise throughout everything we do
  • Borrower capacity in supporting agencies, need to bring in with normal working capacity in ministries to make system work properly
  • Hidden risks, where we don’t think there is going to be a big risks, we are trying to pay more attention to this
  • IPN cases has helped us a lot, and the report even if a bit painful – our systems are a lot better because of it
  • How we are responding, we have a certification system of our staff, have to be accredited – we are more systematic about this now to ensure right kind of expertise
  • Can change the rating as you go through the project cycle, circumstances can change, and we can now change the rating more easily
  • Risk not just as how bad it is, but how likely it is to happen, e.g. also if the implementing agency is weak
  • Reports like this tells us clearly what risks there are


Medha Patkar, Narmada Dam Movement, India

  • Save Narmada Dam movement led to this Panel, glad there is an open dialogue at least in this part of the world, at least today
  • Environmental concerns taken up by Panel, as part of WB, need to recognise that lessons are drawn with great courage and commitment
  • Another peak in mountains, understanding that when WB comes into any project, now more in sectors than specific projects, hidden risks are hidden – but brings in huge influence in relation to percentage of budgets that the Bank contributes
  • Social and environmental impacts are serious, but must also look from political point of view, ideological perspective and framework
  • Managing the natural resources and harnessing these, which the report has brought out, in between lines sometimes, e.g. the cultural impacts not taken care of
  • Need to understand that the economic aims and objectives in relation to environmental risks and safeguards
  • Whether investment or policy lending, it remains the same
  • Independent review commission appointed re Narmada Dam concluded that the project would be completed only if it would go through unacceptable means
  • WB had to withdraw – but once fait a complit it will go on and on
  • The principles and solutions are really worth looking into
  • Question re the small number of projects being investigated
  • Environmental and social link, if social gets tagged on to environment the main problems may not be addressed
  • Necessary to bring in env, social and economic, whether funds go to corporations or government, the impacts are the same
  • IFC forum yesterday, they raise their hands and say it is not responsible – its up to the borrower, but who is really the borrower and what is the impact barrier
  • Today the whole position is changing, WB going more and more for sectoral loans, risks not always identified
  • g. in India developing ‘smart cities’, WB is involved, but there are evictions without compensation – also demolishing cultures and habitats, people are not consulted
  • Need to be scoping first, screening later and for scoping to be taken seriously
  • About option assessment, mitigation must not just be within a set framework, necessary to take options assessment with much more depth and understanding, including just not technological choice
  • Need to start from the beginning, if e.g. ‘smart cities’ are treating citizens like objects, not just consultation but consent
  • Need to democratise development process – start with disclosure policy, right to information,
  • Necessary with disclosure on every single aspect, including statistics
  • Form of consultation matters, e.g. in relation to Nepal project
  • Concrete list of non-negotiables is lacking, e.g. on infrastructure growing spreading all over the world, there have to be non-negotiables, e.g. irreversible damage to agricultural land, including food security
  • Shouldn’t just talk about monetary investment, investment also in water, forests, land, biodiversity – also killing of ecosystems, doesn’t discuss decay in biomass from large dams, releasing GHG emissions
  • Necessary to accept not just management, but also about harnessing of human social and environmental resources, that comes first – people as democratic units
  • No concrete evaluation on what changes at the WB apart from in relation to specific projects


Prof Richard Fuggle, University of Cape Town

  • 1990s lessons learned within the WB, after that several lessons learned produced but not in a publication
  • Would like in future should think about that after each IP case, WB, consultants and borrowing country should add to lessons learned, that would be progress
  • Have been involved in over one third of the IPN cases, also having done environmental assessments
  • Need for continuous proactive field based supervision
  • Virtual reality is no substitute for nature, nature deficit disorder – through lure of the small screen, alienating people from nature, screen becomes more real than what exists
  • Have seen this with env consultants, put more faith in computer systems, also WB staff actively avoid getting their boots muddy, looking at the screen instead
  • g. a project in India about waste water treatment plan, all seemed fine at site, but needed to move away from the plant to see the problem at the pumping station, but no one had taken the trouble to check what the problem what about
  • Number of time IPN has been the first from the WB to see a problem, WB staff implementing agencies and supervising engineers need to supervise their projects effectively, need to get out on the ground
  • Ensuring adequate capacity important to do the environmental assessments – do the consultants have the adequacy, can borrowers see through the project, does the WB have the capacity in the teams?
  • Capacity can mean a lack of expertise, but also lack of experience and resources and lack of capacity in the team conducting environmental assessment
  • Borrowers capacity to see through also important, and Bank’s monitoring and supervising capacity
  • Consultant inadequacy, they are generally either engineers or ecologists, or have base in social sciences, but reluctance to include other expertise – need to have spread of expertise
  • Should be far more alert to look at consultant’s capacity and experience, often graduates gets hired to do the assessments with senior staff signing off, graduates don’t always have the experience to set the right scope, etc.
  • Borrowers’ capacity, as well as social, economic influence can also impact
  • Lake Victoria water monitoring, two vehicles to launch boat to take water samples, but also needed vehicle drive around in Nairobi, social pressures meant you need to be seen in a 4×4, so the small car was used at Lake Victoria rather than 4×4 to take the boat out – this wasn’t picked up until IPN was there, no one had checked what is happening in the field
  • Also issue of corruption, need to ask questions on the ground would have identified this
  • Have to recognise that WB management issues have improved, but personal training, preferences and project budget will limit the teams put together – good that it is now recognised, but need to be followed through
  • Give attention to the scope of environmental and social assessment
  • Time is another issue, conduct and timing is frequently out of step with project planning and development
  • Social engineering is often thought to be easier than the project engineering, but easier to modify a project design than to resettle people
  • Up and down stream impact needs to be properly assessed, geographical scale, e.g. Bujagali project, no consideration of upstream impact, not within boundaries of scope