Complaint to ADB cites decline in housing, food, education

 Shane Worrell and Bridget Di Certo, Phnom Penh Post, Sep. 06 2012

Families have fallen into poverty and children have dropped out of school due to deficiencies in the Asian Development Bank’s rehabilitation of Cambodia’s railway system, according to a complaint filed to the bank’s compliance review department.

According to David Pred, managing associate for NGO Inclusive Development International, families forced to relocate to make way for the project had lodged the complaint to ADB’s Compliance Review Panel, claiming ADB had undercut families and the project had left many unable to provide for their families.

“The ongoing failure of ADB to comply with its policies has meant that vulnerable families who previously hovered just above the poverty line have now been made destitute by a botched resettlement process and can no longer meet basic needs,” Pred said.

The ADB partnered with the Cambodian government to manage the US$143 million railway rehabilitation project of more than 650 kilometres of dilapidated or destroyed railway.

In all, more than 4,000 families across the country have been affected by the project, with about 1,200 of those required to relocate.

According to the complaint, families’ standards of housing, food and education had declined since their relocation.

Pred’s NGO said that families who had to relocate to make way for the project received an average of $757.50 in compensation, however the cost of constructing a “basic adequate 4-x-4-metre stilt wooden house is at least US$1,925.75”.

Compliance review was a “serious process”, the bank’s Compliance Review Panel’s Associate Secretary Geoffrey Crooks said yesterday.

“Such a review would focus on ADB procedure: did ADB do what it should have done in accordance with policies and procedures?” Crooks said, emphasising that the request for review had not yet been found eligible.

If a review is approved, it could take up to more than a year for a thorough review, Crooks said, adding that each review was dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Eang Vuthy, a representative of Equitable Cambodia, said that the human misery and poverty catalysed by the botched relocations was affecting old and young.

“It seems that girls, in particular, are dropping out [of school],” he said, adding there were relocation issues across the country.