Dear Asian Development Bank

Dear Asian Development Bank

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John Ahni Schertow
December 26, 2009

In October 2009, a group of activists from the indigenous Hyolmo community in Nepal decided to make their own movie. They wanted to tell the story of a development project that won’t listen to them.

For centuries the Hyolmo people have lived alongside the Yangri, Hyolmo, and Larke rivers in central Nepal. However, the Nepali government — with financial backing from the Asian Development Bank — wants to divert water from all three rivers to solve a chronic drinking water shortage in Kathmandu, Nepal’s Capital city.

The Hyolmo are deeply concerned about the project and its potential impacts. As many as 17 villages will be displaced if it goes ahead as planned. There are also a number of sacred sites in the region which may be destroyed: Amaa Yangri, Dhupkhang (Milarepa Cave), Dhopadong, Chiri Monastry (The oldest monastry of Hyolmo), Ghocheling Monastry, Ne Ding (Tantrik Cave) Lhaakhang Monastry, Dhuptsu, and others.

Further, the Hyolmo’s agricultural lands, water sources, and fish stocks may be severely impacted.

The project is also appears to be in direct violation of Nepal’s interim constitution, says the Hyolmo. In a letter to the Asian Development Bank, dated August 24, 2009, the Hyolmo explain that:

“The interim constitution of Nepal, 2006 recognizes indigenous peoples and guarantees their fundamental right to preserve and promote culture, cultural heritage (Art. 17), right to live in a clean environment (Art.16), right to participate in the state structures on the basis of proportional representation (Art.21), right to information (Art. 27) and right to Constitutional remedy. Similarly, Nepal is a party to international instruments including, CCPR, CESCR, ILO C.169, ICERD, UNDRIP that recognize the indigenous peoples’ human rights and fundamental freedoms e.g. rights over lands, territories and natural resources, FPIC, right to participation, right to benefit sharing from the development and projects that undertake in their territories and affect to them. The provision of international law is equivalent to national law, in case of inconsistency the provision of international law prevails national law (Sec. 9 of Treaty Act, 1991). Ironically, none of the aforementioned national laws international laws’ provisions and ADB Safeguard Policy on Indigenous Peoples are taken into account in the in the execution of the project. ”

The Hyolmo go on to say they have never been consulted or informed about the project, even though the government has had 40 years to do so (The Project has stalled for that long because of “vested interests,” according to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report 2008. The project is considered to be “a showcase of water related corruption” in Nepal.).

“Since 2004, We have been consistently raising our concerns demanding recognition of our inalienable collective rights over lands territories and waters, cultures, right to means of subsistence, full information, participation, consultation, free prior informed consent, compensation and benefit sharing, having separate and independent study etc. The concerns and demands were formally informed to the MWSP, Government’s agencies and other relevant stakeholders three times (20 Sept.2004, 23 Jul.2006 and 31 Aug.2008) with the submission of memorandums but it was completely ignored. ”

They have also requested a formal dialogue with the government, but that, too, was ignored.

Instead, the government turned around and signed an agreement with a Chinese Company to begin work on one of three tunnels for the project—leaving the Hyolmo with few, if any, options to protect their lands, their culture, their livelihood, and their rights.

Following the agreement, earlier this year the Hyolmo began a campaign to block the project until the proper consultation is carried out.

A group of Hyolmo activists also bought a camera and produced the film, Dear Asian Development Bank.

Approximately 35 minutes in length, the film shows the potential environmental and cultural impacts of the water project, which is considered to be a monument of “water related corruption” in Nepal.

Through interviews and first hand accounts, the film also relays the Hyolmo’s concerns, objections and demands to have their rights respected in accordance with the law.

Brought together with the help of Filmmakers Tim Whyte and Anders Thormann, the film is approximately 35 minutes in length.

Dear Asian Development Bank was produced with the help of Filmmakers Tim Whyte and Anders Thormann. For more information about the film, visit

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