Toward Inclusive and Environmentally Sustainable Growth: ADB's Project Safeguards

Feature | 15 August 2014

Safeguards are operational policies and procedures that seek to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse environmental and social impacts, including protecting the rights of those likely to be affected or marginalized by the development process.

ADB's Safeguard Policy is a cornerstone of efforts to promote environmental and social sustainability under Strategy 2020, ADB's long-term strategic framework. It covers the safeguard areas of environment, involuntary resettlement, and indigenous peoples. Download ADB's Safeguard Policy Statement.

A "do no harm" policy

ADB's Safeguard Policy aims to promote the sustainability of projects by protecting the people and environment from the potential adverse effects of development. The policy lays down key requirements, including:

  • Identify and assess environmental or social impacts early in the project cycle.
  • Develop and implement plans to avoid, minimize, mitigate, or compensate for the potential adverse impacts.
  • Inform and consult affected people during project preparation and implementation.

The policy applies to all ADB-financed projects, including private sector operations, and to all project components, whether financed by ADB, country governments, or cofinanciers. It also emphasizes ADB’s strong commitment to help countries develop and strengthen their own laws and regulations on environmental and social safeguards, and their capacity to implement these.

ADB’s Safeguard Policy Statement clearly defines borrower requirements for delivering environment, involuntary resettlement, and indigenous peoples safeguards, and ADB responsibilities for due dilligence. Learn more about safeguard requirements in the Safeguards section.

Protecting the environment

ADB requires all projects to carefully consider their impacts on the environment. Sound environmental management is critical to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Committed efforts to safeguard the environment help relieve pressures on air, land, forests, water systems, wetlands, marine ecosystems, and other natural resources - assets many of the poor depend on for their livelihood.

Read the good practice sourcebook on environmental safeguards, a working document updated periodically.

Good project design reflects the results of the environmental assessment process. In Armenia, ADB worked with the government to carefully design the north-south road project to protect important archaeological sites along the road’s alignment. Close collaboration between the project archaeologists and engineers ensures that damage to these sites will be avoided.

In the People's Republic of China, the Shaanxi Weinan Luyan Integrated Saline Land Management Project started out as a land improvement project for degraded land and rehabilitation of old salt pans. The initial site surveys showed that the area was also extremely important for migrating waterfowl, which stop there to feed and rest during their long migrations. The project design was significantly influenced by this finding. The project’s largest component is now the development of a new integrated wetland protected area to provide habitat and food for the waterfowl. The surrounding farmlands will also be rehabilitated. Eventually, the wetland nature reserve is expected to become a tourist destination, providing additional income to the local economy.

Ensuring displaced people are better off

Involuntary resettlement, if not managed well, can have severe economic, social and environmental risks, and can result in long-term hardship and impoverishment of affected people.

ADB seeks to avoid involuntary resettlement. If it cannot be avoided, then ADB works with the borrower to minimize involuntary resettlement and to ensure that the livelihood of affected households are enhanced, or at least restored after displacement.

Read the good practice sourcebook on involuntary resettlement, a working document updated periodically.

Consulting affected communities

ADB's involuntary resettlement safeguards call for transparent planning and meaningful consultation to be part of the land acquisition and resettlement process. Compensation is paid at replacement cost and livelihoods are restored to ensure that affected people are no worse off. Those who are the most vulnerable to involuntary resettlement risks - the poor, the elderly and women - benefit from measures to improve their standard of living.

A project to improve rural infrastructure and income in Bangladesh’s remote Chittagong Hill Tracts, where 11 distinct groups of indigenous people live, included the construction of roads and bridges and entailed land acquisition and involuntary resettlement. One of the challenges faced by the project was the indigenous groups’ communal land ownership system that does not use individual land titles, making the process of land acquisition and compensation complicated. After a series of consultations with the government and affected communities, an innovative solution was reached that combined statutory and customary laws.

Respecting indigenous peoples’ culture

Nearly three-quarters of the world's indigenous peoples live in Asia and the Pacific. Unless safeguards are in place, a development project could pose threats to the culture and integrity of indigenous peoples if it encroaches on areas that they traditionally, occupy, use, or view as ancestral domain.

ADB's indigenous peoples safeguards enables the design and implementation of projects to fully respect the people's identity, dignity, human rights, and cultural systems as defined by the indigenous peoples themselves. This way, indigenous peoples are, first, able to participate in projects that affect them; and second, receive culturally appropriate benefits.

For example, in Pa Pang, Central Viet Nam, more than 1,000 members of the Co Tu ethnic minority had to be relocated to make way for the construction of the Song Bung 4 hydropower dam. The ADB-supported project is crucial in terms of meeting the growing energy demand in Central Viet Nam. Since resettlement was unavoidable, one of the key components of the project was the active participation of the Co Tu in the resettlement process. Watch a video of how the project has changed the people's lives for the better.

Read the good practice sourcebook on indigenous peoples, a working document updated periodically.