India-Nepal border research visit on extra-territorial state obligations
International research teams looked into the impact of the Laxmanpur barrage and Kalkalwa Afflux dam, as well as the Dhudwa National park on the livelihoods of local populations.
An international team composed of delegates from Nepal, India, Norway and Germany visited the border districts of Banke and Kanchanpur in Nepal and Sravasti and Bahraich in India, as part of a week-long research visit (21-29 November).
The major focus of the research was on extra-territorial state obligations, in particular with regard to the impact of the Laxmanpur barrage and Kalkalwa Afflux dam, as well as the Dhudwa National park – situated in India – which also affect people beyond the border in Nepal. The research teams had the opportunity to exchange views with affected communities and their representatives, civil society organizations, local authorities, and different government representatives including members of Parliament both in India and Nepal.
Man-made infrastructures lead to severe flooding
Due to the man-made infrastructures of the Laxmanpur Barrage, Kalkalwa Afflux bund, and a border road in India, during every monsoon season, approximately 30 000 people are subjected to severe flooding of the Rapti River, which originates in Nepal and flows into India. The devastating results of the flooding include loss of human and animal lives and the damaging of property, crops, and harvested grains, often along with total erosion of agricultural lands as well as destruction of houses. Measures to safeguard the affected communities, to prevent inundation as well as compensation and rehabilitation are not adequate according to reports collected during the visit.
Dudhwa National Park is located in the Indian state Uttar Pradesh, bordering Nepal. On the Nepal side of the border peasants regularly witness their crops being destroyed by herds of elephants and other animals (even claiming the life of a woman this year), mainly due to increased wildlife habitation since the establishment of the park in 1977. Those affected expect better support and adequate compensation for crop losses, as well as safeguarding measures.
Need to comply with extra-territorial obligations
In both cases, agriculture, the major source of livelihood for the people, is severely jeopardized. Both Nepal and India are State parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and therefore obliged to respect, protect and fulfil the right to adequate food within and beyond their borders thereby preventing any activities that endanger its realization. The Government of Nepal is obligated to ensure the safety of its citizens and to provide them with adequate housing, access to proper livelihood opportunities, and access to sufficient and adequate food and water. The failure to act does not only violate existing national law - e.g. the Natural Calamity Relief Act of 1982, but also the Nepalese constitution, which states that “every citizen has the right to food sovereignty as provided for in the law” (Art.18, 3).
In addition, the Government of Nepal has failed to secure the safety of its citizens by not effectively coordinating with and urging the Indian Government to comply with the treaties and agreements between the two countries. India needs to take measures to ensure that its actions do not harm those in the nearby region in Nepal.
By the same token, the Government of India has violated the right to adequate food, as States are obliged to respect, protect, and fulfill the right to food of people living under their jurisdiction. This applies even if citizens are located beyond the borders of their territory, as laid down in the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2012).
FIAN will continue the dialogue with the authorities in Nepal and India, so that urgently required safeguard measures are put in place as soon as possible. This would include the construction of a permanent embankment on both sides of Rapti river - covering a length of 28 km - to protect land and villages, compensation and special livelihood support as well as and resettlement and rehabilitation for those displaced.
For more information, please contact pabst[at]fian.org