Letter to Dr. Kim: the World Bank fails to fulfill its promise on consultations in the Lake Baikal Basin

Letter to Dr. Kim: the World Bank fails to fulfill its promise on consultations in the Lake Baikal Basin

To: World Bank President

Re: On MINIS Project in Mongolia

Dear Dr. Kim:

Recently we learned that bidding for Regional environmental assessment (REA) and Environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) of two sub-projects (flow regulation of the Orkhon River and construction of reservoir complex project and Shuren Hydro on Selenge River) has been announced on the World Bank and MINIS Project web-sites[1]. We believe that this is a major violation of the WB rules and many previous agreements and this incident may effectively ruin the WB reputation in the region and any further prospects for conducting valid REA and ESIA in Lake Baikal Basin.

These two dam projects are known to have potential to cause significant environmental and social impact in transboundary Lake Baikal Basin and require careful comprehensive assessments as reflected in 2015-2016 documents of the World Bank Inspection Panel[2](WBIP), 38-40th sessions of the World Heritage Committee[3],  as well as 2006-2016 documents of Mongolian-Russian official meetings held under agreements on transboundary waters, environmental protection and socio-economic cooperation.

The WB Management pledged in its last response to WBIP that " compliance with Bank operational policies in general and OP 4.01 in particular is of utmost importance" and  "consultation with all affected communities, including those in Russia, is a prerequisite for the finalization and clearance of the ESIAs ToRs and hence for the process of consultant selection" and therefore TORs for the REA and ESIA  "for both Shuren and Orkhon projects will only be finalized after the additional transboundary consultation process has been duly completed." [4]

A proposal for consultations with potentially affected people and local CSOs in Russia was presented by the MINIS PMU Director to the expert meeting in Moscow on April 11-12, 2016. MINIS PMU also has held discussions with CSO representatives based in Buryatia on potential participation in the consultations. We believe that holding transboundary public consultations prior to finalization of TORs and bidding was one of important conditions of the WB approval for of the MINIS Project deadline extension from September 2016 to September 2017.

In the opinion of many Baikal Lake basin residents[5]the MINIS Project in the past has deviated from following WB safeguard policies and conducted substandard public consultation processes.  Nevertheless the RwB Coalition still tried to convince many local stakeholders that this time it is important to prepare their proposals for amendments to draft TORs for REA and ESIA, because there is  at last a full guarantee that all concerns if properly submitted will be subject to proper review process when finalizing TORs. In this spirit we attended last round of consultations in Mongolia and negotiations on consultations planning in Russia. Soon after that we were surprised to learn that written comments submitted by the RwB-Mongolia -after consultations in Bulgan Province in April 2016 were not considered when reviewing ToRs and omitted in the response matrices[6] and in September we sent a letter with our concerns to the WB Team Leader[7].

Immediately after the letter was sent we learned that REA&ESIA TOR for both Suren and Orkhon dams were announced for bidding without any prior public consultations in Russia as planned earlier. Reading from the WB Management Update Note to the WB Inspection Panel this is a direct violation  of the "Bank operational policies in general and OP 4.01 in particular" and certainly this contradicts agreements to hold consultations reached by the MINIS Project with NGOs and experts, as well as local and national authorities and agencies in Russia. TORs  displayed on the MINIS web-site now suggest that after ESIA consultant is hired "consultations with potentially affected stakeholders in both Russia and Mongolia to be undertaken as part of a scoping mission prior to the submission of the inception report for the purpose of confirming the adequacy of the contents of this ToR". Such course of action deprives "consultations" of  practical value in terms of informing finalization of TORs and drastically contradicts the position of the WB management officially declared earlier in 2016. Besides the text posted by the MINIS Project questions  "adequacy" of the TORs presently being offered for bidding . We also doubt that those document are suitable for being used it a tender: in our opinion the REA\ESIA TORs offered  for  bidding  have substandard technical quality, include many discrepancies and contain direct incentives for consultant to make biased judgments during the REA phase[8].

We appeal to the WB Management and relevant supervisory bodies as well as to agencies in Mongolia responsible for supervision of MINIS project with the following requests:

· It is necessary to stop immediately bidding processes for the Orkhon and Shuren dam projects because they are conducted in violation of the WB policies and previously reached agreements;

· Based on refined draft TOR prepare and disseminate in the Baikal Lake basin information package for consultations, in due course hold consultations in Buryatia Republic and Irkutsk Province of Russia and then review comments to finalize REA and ESIA TORs for the Orkhon and Shuren dam projects  as described in the Management Update Note to the WBIP on MINIS Project.


Alexander Kolotov,  Coordinator

Rivers without Boundaries Coalition

October 6, 2016

[1] http://www.minis.mn/en/article/active-bid/

[2] http://ewebapps.worldbank.org/apps/ip/Pages/ViewCase.aspx?CaseId=107

[3] http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/754/documents/

[4] The WBIP Second Eligibility Report and Management Update Note to the WBIP on MINIS Project.http://ewebapps.worldbank.org/apps/ip/PanelCases/102-Second%20Eligibility%20Report(English).pdf

[5] http://ewebapps.worldbank.org/apps/ip/PanelCases/102%20-%20Request%20for%20Inspection%20(English).pdf

[6] Response Matrix 18-22 April 2016http://www.minis.mn/en/consultation-hub

[7] RwB-Mongolia letter to the WB Management from September 23 2016 https://www.transrivers.org/2016/1824/

[8] Some of the RwB concerns on TORs’ contents and integrity   were submitted during Spring consultations and have never been reviewed by the WB MINIS Project,  new considerations could be submitted if consultations happen and there is guarantee that all stakeholder comments are reviewed.