Media Statement: Resettled to Poverty

Media Statement
Jun. 4, 2013

End of the Line, a new report by Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), reveals Phnom Penh Households relocated as part of the ADB- and AusAID-funded railways rehabilitation project have been harmed. Using resettlement expert Michael Cernea’s theoretical framework, the report shows how Project partners failed to mitigate well-established risks associated with resettlement, to the detriment of the living standards of the people affected.

Since September 2011, at least 143 Households have been relocated from along Phnom Penh’s railway tracks to Trapeang Anhchanh relocation site to make way for the rehabilitation of Cambodia’s railways. As part of their relocation package, each Household was provided a plot at the peri-urban site, as well as an individual amount of monetary compensation based on the Household’s previous structure along the railway tracks and its socio-economic profile.

STT’s new report – End of the Line – presents to date the most comprehensive assessment of socio-economic outcomes of resettlement under the Project. The original aim of the research was to survey relocated Households against Households remaining along the railway tracks, using Michael Cernea’s Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction Model, which outlines eight key risks associated with resettlement: landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalisation, increased morbidity, food insecurity, loss of access to community resources, and social disarticulation. However, it was soon discovered that a large amount of Households relocated to Trapeang Anhchanh were not living on the Project-sponsored site on a regular basis, and so a third group was added to the research.

Data presented in the report plainly shows that in the short run, Households relocated as part of the Project have been harmed. The group of 68 relocated Households residing in Trapeang Anhchanh resettlement site for at least four nights per week appears to have suffered resettlement-related harms in almost every category of risks identified in Cernea’s model. The 28 relocated Households whose coping strategy predominantly includes renting properties close to their previous homes, seem to have fared marginally better, ostensibly on account of opting not to live at the Project-sponsored site. By comparison, the living standards of the 91 Households still living along the railway tracks saw no marked change between 2011 and 2012.

“Our latest research shows that on each of eight well-known risks associated with resettlement, the Project failed to take the necessary mitigative actions, to the detriment of resettlement outcomes,” said Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator. “There is no question about it, Households affected by the railways rehabilitation in Phnom Penh have become impoverished and marginalised as a result.”

“Failed resettlement under the Project is particularly disappointing given that it was entirely predictable,” said Nora Lindstrom, Programme Development Manager and co-author of the report. “STT has been monitoring the railways rehabilitation project since before Phnom Penh Households were relocated; in our 2011 report Rehabilitation of Cambodia’s railways: Comparison of field data we highlighted widespread problems in compensation rates and recommended suspension of resettlement activities pending a review of resettlement plans and processes. Unfortunately, this was not taken on board.”

The findings of the report highlight a prominent need for prompt corrective action to be taken by the Royal Government of Cambodia together with the Asian Development Bank and AusAID. Specific recommendations are made to this effect, the most prominent of which include debt relief and development of income-generating opportunities, as part of a comprehensive corrective action plan developed together with the Affected Households.

“The ADB’s Involuntary Resettlement Policy demands that the living standards of Households affected by the Project are brought back to pre-relocation levels,” said Sok Lida, Research Project Manager and lead researcher. “We know that the institutions involved in the Project have to date taken some measures to address the situation at Trapeang Anhchanh, but a comprehensive action plan to address the resettlement failure is lacking.”

As the Project’s partners prepare to relocate a further 105 Households in Phnom Penh, the report also outlines valuable lessons to be learnt to improve future resettlement outcomes. Disclosure of resettlement plans and meaningful consultation on these ahead of any relocation would significantly help to prevent the kind of resettlement failures the Project has to date suffered from by strengthening transparency, information disclosure, and dialogue. In addition, participatory development of income restoration programmes and their commencement prior to relocation would allow Affected Households a greater sense of ownership of the situation, thus also contributing to better outcomes.

“We sincerely hope the Project’s implementers and funders will take our recommendations on board,” said Ee Sarom. “The report outlines valuable lessons to be learnt for future resettlement under the Railways Rehabilitation Project, but also provides concrete recommendations for improving resettlement outcomes in Cambodia more generally.”

Media Contacts:

Ee Sarom, Programmes Coordinator, +855 12 836 533,
Ms.Rebecca Linton (Eng) STT Program Advisor

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