By: Michelle Arevalo-Carpenter
My mission in staying among the villagers was to assess whether the International Finance Corp.’s Performance Standards on involuntary resettlement and land acquisition are adequately addressing the needs of affected populations. These social standards are to be implemented by any private company borrowing funds from IFC, which is part of the World Bank.
In this case, the borrower is AD Hydro Power Ltd., a company that in 2005 began construction of a hydroelectric project by diverting streams from the Allain and Duhangan rivers, close to these two villages. Staying at a small, family-owned guesthouse in Jagat Sukh, I had the privilege of discussing locals’ thoughts on this infrastructure project in confidence over warm chai. The overall impression villagers have about it is both negative and apprehensive.
There is no doubt that positive development changes have come in the recent years since construction began: employment and wages are higher, water now gushes from taps, convenience stores have a constant flow of customers, Prini and Hamta are now accessible through paved roads, several new homes have been built and many more have been renovated or expanded.
Why then, are so many villagers unhappy with the recent developments? Even as the villages experience the best of days of the construction boom, disappointment looms.
“First came the road,” says Raman, a local in Prini, as he recounts the town’s recent history vis-a-vis AD Hydro Power, known locally as “The Company.” “Then, people sold their land.”