Environmental and social management framework for Bhutan Regional Connectivity Project

The Digital Connectivity and Services Project is a component of the overall Regional Connectivity Project. The total cost of this component is 24.5 million USD and the implementing agency is Department of IT and Telecom (DITT), Ministry of Information and Communications (MOIC).

There are two interrelated subcomponents for the above:

a) Reliable, Affordable and Secure Regional Broadband connectivity under which (i) an international internet gateway in Eastern Bhutan will be established, (ii) end to end connectivity between Bhutan, India and Bangladesh will be established (iii) Fiber network monitoring system and redundant links in the national network will be established and there will also be strengthening of the cyber security arrangements in the country.

b) Skills development and common central database under which (i) Enhance skills for computer science and IT college students, (ii) training of youth to become online outsourcers, (iii) training of Government officials in middle management including development of skills to support their CIO/Parenting role and (iv) Cyber security capacity building will be supported.

The Environmental Social Management Framework(ESMF) provides an overall guideline, mitigation measures and procedures for management of environmental and social issues at each project site. The project will be implemented throughout Bhutan. The connectivity components will be implemented in the Southeastern town of Samdrupjongkhar, where the international gateway will be established. Domestic fiber optic links will be developed between Wandguephodrang and Trongsa; Bumthang and Lhuentse; Haa and Samtse; and from Dagana to Lhamoizingkha.

It is not anticipated that establishment of International gateway as well as domestic redundant fiber links will have any significant or irreversible impact on either environment or community. This implementation is expected to create very limited negative impacts on local environment and communities during the construction phase in the project location. The overall project is categorized as category “B” Environmental Assessment (EA) in accordance with World Bank’s safeguard policies OP 4.01.

The activities to be carried out on the Bangladesh and India side for end to end connectivity are not well defined at this stage. The route for fiber optic cables too are far from known. Therefore as the possibility of small scale impacts on Tribal and Indigenous people cannot be ruled out completely at this stage, the ESMF also includes a Resettlement Policy Framework (RPF) and a Tribal/Indigenous Peoples Planning Framework (T/IPPF) in accordance with World Bank safeguard policies OP 41.2 and OP 4.10. Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) was prepared to ensure the proposed ICT connectivity takes into account the environmental concerns in accordance with the National Environment Commission (NEC) of RGOB and the World Bank Safeguard Policies. The ICT backbone of Bhutan will be improved by evacuating internet bandwidth from Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh through India, hence the relevant national laws and policies of these countries were also included in the ESMF.

The ESMF provides following detailed plans and guidelines for minimizing any impacts on environment and community

● Environmental and Social screening process
● Guideline for Identifying and assessing the potential impact of the proposed Project on environment, land tenure and use, livelihood and income;
● Clarify concrete steps and clear principles to mitigate negative environmental and social impacts, and enhance positive benefits;
● Guideline for specifying appropriate roles and responsibilities of concerned entities in charge of environmental and social risk management, and outline the necessary reporting procedures,
● Guideline for Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) and Abbreviated Resettlement Action Plan (ARAP)
● Compensation and entitlement matrix
● Guideline for carrying out Social Impact Analysis (SIA)
● Guideline on preparing Indigenous and Tribal People’s Plan (I/TPP)
● Guidelines for contractors to carry out the specific ESSA

A consultant will be hired to carry out necessary environment and community impact assessment, screening and monitoring in line with the ESMF.

This is the declaration of the ESMF for the Proposed World Bank project "Regional Connectivity"