CAO Cases

Arne Hoel, The World Bank

South Asia

India / Vizhinjam-02/Kerala

Kerala Swathantra Malsya Thozhilali Federation (Kerala Independent Fish Workers Federation)
Date Filed
September 23, 2012
Impacts to marine biodiversity, loss of livelihood, possible displacement of local fishing community members, project benefits
Case Status




Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL), a special purpose government company fully owned by the State Government of Kerala (GoK), is developing a multi-purpose seaport at Vizhinjam, 16km south of the state capital, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). IFC has been hired as the Transaction Advisor to strategically assist VISL in structuring and implementing the project; and seeking private sector partner(s) to implement the plan in collaboration with the State Government Ports Department. IFC is managing roughly $1.6 million in trust funds for the project.


In September 2012, a complaint was filed by a local community fishing group, Kerala Swathantra Malsya Thozhilali Federation (Kerala Independent Fish Workers Federation). The complainant raises concerns about negative impacts of the proposed port project, such as pollution from port operations, damage to marine biodiversity, possible displacement of fisherman and their families from the area, and loss of livelihood for fishing communities within the vicinity of the project site. In addition, the complainant is asking for information regarding project benefits for the fishing community members, especially employment opportunities.  This is the second complaint received by the CAO relating to the Vizhinjam port project.



CAO Action


The CAO found the complaint eligible in October 2012 and initiated an assessment of the issues. After discussions and consultations with the CAO team, VISL declined to resolve the complaint issues under the auspices of CAO’s Dispute Resolution function, stating that they were fully aware of the needs of fisher folk and were putting in efforts to address these through their own channels. Therefore, the complaint has been transferred to CAO’s compliance function for appraisal, per CAO Operational Guidelines. The complainants requested CAO to note that they were willing to engage with VISL to address the complaint issues in a collaborative manner through CAO’s Dispute Resolution function.


In June 2015, CAO completed a compliance appraisal with regard to the Vizhinjam 01, 02 and 03 complaints. On the basis of this compliance appraisal, CAO opened a compliance investigation into IFC's Advisory Services project with Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd. The CAO investigation assesses whether IFC prepared and implemented the project in accordance with its policies and procedures.


CAO completed its joint compliance investigation for the Vizhinjam 01, 02 and 03 complaints in January 2018. The compliance investigation report makes two broad non-compliance findings in relation to IFC’s involvement in the project:

1. IFC took on the role of lead transaction advisor in relation to the Kerala Port project without a reasonable assurance of the client’s commitment to develop the project in accordance with the Performance Standards; and

2. The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) as delivered by IFC was not fully consistent with the Performance Standards, particularly in relation to land acquisition and project impacts on livelihoods.


CAO’s compliance investigation report further makes a number of specific findings regarding IFC Advisory Services.


CAO finds that IFC staff were aware that the client intended to proceed with land acquisition in a way that was inconsistent with the requirements of Performance Standard (PS) 5 on land resettlement, yet IFC did not advise the client to suspend its ongoing land acquisition activities until the ESIA and other required plans had been completed.


CAO finds that IFC agreed to a narrowing of its environmental and social (E&S) mandate over the period of the project, such that IFC finally oversaw only one component of the project ESIA—an assessment of marine-side port facilities that excluded land-based infrastructure such as road, rail and back-up facilities. This change of scope meant that IFC did not have assurance that impacts on land or cumulative impacts arising from the project were being addressed in accordance with IFC’s E&S requirements.


CAO finds that the marine-side ESIA delivered by IFC to its client lacked certain essential components of an ESIA for a major infrastructure project at the relevant stage of development. In particular, CAO finds that the IFC ESIA lacked adequate socio-economic baseline information on tourism based livelihoods, an assessment of project impacts on tourism based livelihoods and livelihood restoration plans for project impacts on tourism and fisheries as required by PS1 (risk management) and PS5 (land resettlement). CAO also finds that the IFC ESIA did not go through a process of consultation and participation, or disclosure as required by PS1.


CAO sees instances of non-compliance in this case arising primarily from: (a) a lack of structured assessment of the client’s commitment to the Performance Standards as a framework for the development of the port; and (b) an underestimation by IFC of the complexity of producing an ESIA for the project compliant with the Performance Standards.


IFC’s response to the compliance investigation did not include any engagement with the client, the complainant or any commitment to project-level action. For this reason, CAO focused its monitoring on measures taken by IFC in response to its non-compliance findings at the level of policies, procedures, practice and knowledge.

CAO released a monitoring report in June 2020. CAO found that IFC’s response at the level of its policies, procedures, practice and knowledge is satisfactory. CAO notes that IFC outlined several changes to its E&S supervision of PPP advisory services projects, including:
 - the assignment of an E&S specialist to every PPP related advisory services project;
 - clearances by E&S staff at key milestones in the project cycle; and
 - provisions included in financial advisory services agreements that require advisory services clients to endeavor to apply the Performance Standards when designing and carrying out the PPP.


In CAO’s view, these changes increase the focus on the identification and management of E&S issues in IFC advisory services projects and potentially increase IFC’s leverage in relation to the client. They should also serve to reduce the risk that IFC will provide advisory services support to, and thus serve as an enabler of, environmentally and social harmful PPP projects.

CAO notes that several changes in practice are pending formalized change to IFC’s Environmental and Social Review Procedures. Nevertheless, CAO has decided to close its monitoring, on the basis that actions taken by IFC are addressing Cao’s compliance findings at a systems-level, and considering that IFC no longer has any direct involvement with the Kerala Port project. 

All documents relating to this case are available under "View Documents" below.





CAO released a monitoring report in June 2020, and closed the case. A Malayalam version of the monitoring report will be available in due course.


Status as of July 16, 2020.

Project information

Project Name & Number
Kerala Port, Vizhinjam 28991
Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL)
Port and Harbor Operations
South Asia
Environmental Category

Case Tracker


  • Eligible: Completed
  • Assessment Period: Transferred


  • Under Appraisal: Completed
  • Under Audit: Completed
  • Monitoring: Closed

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