March 1, 2001
Mr. Isaac Osuoko
Environmental Rights Action/Oilwatch Africa Network,
13, Agudama Avenue D-Line,
P.O. Box 13708,
Dear Mr. Osuoka,
REF: WEST AFRICA GAS PIPELINE PROJECT
Thank you for your letter of December 18,2000, addressed to Mr. Wolfensohn regarding the West Africa Gas Pipeline Project. Mr. Wolfensohn has asked me to respond on his behalf to the concerns raised by your organisation and the organisations and individuals listed in the attachment to your letter. These concerns are based on the assessment and perceptions of the affected communities, and the listed organisations and individuals, that the project would aggravate environmental devastation, human rights violations, communal conflicts, and impoverish the communities in the gas fields and along the pipeline routing.
This envisaged regional pipeline represents an investment of about US$510 million and is intended to transport gas from Nigeria to key import terminals in Benin, Togo and Ghana. The pipeline, as envisaged by the investors, would extend for approximately 800km, predominantly offshore, with the exception of a 57km link to the Escravos Lagos Pipeline and spurs to Cotonou, Lome and Tema. Initially, the principal gas consumers would be Ghana's thermal power generators.
The Bank provided technical assistance to the governments of Ghana, Togo and Benin during the early phases of the project (1995-1999) to help these governments examine the concept and assess its feasibility. The Bank funding for the technical assistance expired in mid-1999. Thus far, the Bank's involvement has been to assist the concerned governments explore the project area and the project's potential contribution to the development of the West Africa region. Currently, the World Bank has no commitment to support the project beyond these initial phases and has not reflected the project in its lending program.
Because the project's viability depends on a complex set of technical, economic, environmental and social factors, discussions are continuing among the sponsors and the four governments on the conditions under which the project would be feasible. The World Bank Group is maintaining contacts with the principal parties. For the Bank to be in a position to consider further this project, it would have to be satisfied that it is technically, economically and financially viable and complies with the Bank's safeguard policies and fiduciary requirements. The responsibility for preparing environmental assessments, resettlement plans, indigenous people's plans and other documentation rests wit the project developers. They are fully aware that any form of World Bank Group support would depend, among other things, on compliance with Bank policies, including an analysis of alternatives: and environmental and social management plans to diminish adverse effects identified by the environmental and social analyses. These plans would also need to adhere to the Bank's guidelines.
The Bank is committed to public consultation and disclosure
of environmental and social information and would, should it consider supporting
the project, engage with borrowers in a full and open consultation process
in all four countries. The Bank's procedures require public consultations
with populations likely to be affected by the project and NGOs in the countries
in which the project will be sited. The Bank will ensure full disclosure
of both the consultation process and the outcomes. The procedures
also require public disclosure of the environmental and social documentation
in each of
the four countries and through the World Bank's InfoShop prior to appraisal of any project proposed for World Bank Group support.
With regard to concerns about human rights violations and communal conflicts. It is our experience that poverty reduction and sustainable development will succeed only in the presence of open and responsive systems of governance. We are therefore committed to ensuring full and open public consultations during the preparation of the projects that we support so as to ensure that they do not undermine the welfare of the affected populations.
Thus, in the event the World Bank Group becomes involved, its decision would be based on, amongst other considerations, a full environmental and social impact assessment that would have to be carried out, and an environmental and social management plan that would have to be developed through a participatory process and in accordance with the Bank's guidelines and procedures as explained above.
Finance, Private Sector & Infrastructure Africa Region