The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on July 20, 2017, approved the Inspection Panel’s recommendation to not investigate two complaints about the Irrigation System Enhancement Project in Armenia. The project is designed to convert four pump-based irrigation systems into gravity irrigation with the aim of reducing electricity use and costs. The Panel had received Requests for Inspection of the project in March and May of 2016 from residents of Goght and Garni villages, respectively, alleging potential negative impacts on the supply of irrigation water, inadequate consultation and participation processes, and impacts on tourism. Shortly after the Panel’s eligibility visit in June 2016, Bank management informed the Panel that the government of Armenia was proposing modifications to the project that required the Bank’s reappraisal of it. As a result, the Panel decided to defer its decision for up to 12 months on whether an investigation of the complaints was warranted, and the Board approved the Panel’s deferral in July 2016.
Since then, the Panel had remained in regular contact with the Requesters and met with Bank management periodically to discuss the proposed changes to the project and the progress made in implementing those changes. The Panel conducted a field visit to Armenia in June 2017 and met with the Requesters and other community members in Goght and Garni, the mayors of both communities, and representatives of the World Bank country office in Yerevan, the State Water Committee and the Finance Ministry. Based on those discussions and other information, the Panel on June 28 recommended not to investigate the complaints. In making its recommendation to the Board, the Panel took into account: (i) the design changes proposed by the government to both irrigation schemes and the Bank’s appraisal of them; (ii) the views of the Requesters and other community members about the design changes; and (iii) Bank’s management engagement with the affected communities since the Panel received the Requests in 2016. The Panel expressed its view that the changes to the designs of both irrigation schemes – changes based on proposals presented by the affected communities – provide adequate assurances to prevent potential harm from the Bank project. The Panel, however, stressed the importance of continued engagement with the affected communities to ensure they are well informed about different aspects of the project and its development. The Panel also highlighted the importance of timely implementation of the design changes and full transparency of water usage. The Panel said it is crucial that water-flow measuring devices, envisaged in project documents, are provided and that affected communities can access the data to monitor the availability of their permitted amounts of irrigation water. For more details, click here