Conflicts of Community, Industry and Environment

Rajesh Deoliya

Environment Day is not just an opportunity to raise concerns about the protection of environment but it is also an opportunity to analyze the "Failures of Developmental Projects" on account of conflicts arising from utilization of natural resources and their effect on environment. Industrialization is one of the main contributor to the economy and hence its relationship with the environmental attributes should be friendly but in practice reverse is true.  Past experiences suggest that every community in initial stage welcomes industries and other developmental projects but at later stage the opposition to the projects starts. The conflicts in the interests of stakeholders starts cropping out due to which many projects are resting in the shelf. The conflicts in the interests arise from the issue of sharing the cake i.e resources. Living in the era of information technology, project related activities, benefits, commitments are available easily.  The community expects and worries about the employment, resources conservation and augmentation, better living conditions, improvements in amenities. When projects fail to meet these expectations then resentment generates and conflicts starts.   

Rights on Resources:

The natural resources are community assets, which are used by them conventionally – proportionately or equally. They are related to water, forest, land, pasture land etc.. These resources are not valued by them in terms of economics but developmental projects of which industry is major partner extract the resources present at surface or below the surface, give them value and earn. This earning breaks the rule/ principle of proportionate or equal utilization of natural resources. The communities welcome a project in anticipation of increased share in the resource utilization for surety of livelihood of present and future generation and increase in per capita income. Unfortunately resource rent is enjoyed by government, increased value is enjoyed by project authorities while the community gets little of it, although more they get is pollution, noise, nuisance, change in livelihood from farmer to labour, demographic change induced  by project activity

The Conflict:

The natural resource conflicts have to be considered in policies, programmes and projects. Such conflicts of interest are common in all communities. In recent years, the scope and magnitude of natural resource conflicts have increased and intensified. These conflicts, if not addressed, can cause environmental degradation, disrupt projects and undermine livelihoods.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, (MoEFCC)Government of India while granting environmental clearances to various projects observed that violations of the provisions of Environment Protection Act by project proponents are common practice. Similarly, the Supreme Court of India in Common Cause v/s union of India & ors came across with issues of illegal mining beyond the permissions of environmental clearance. Recently, in Vijayawada a gas leakage occurred in the premise of LG Polymer factory. These are some of the examples where environmental attributes were compromised resulting in the huge damage and community displeasure. The violation results in penalties and sometimes closure of industry more to this, it generates negative emotions towards the "Industries" which are back bone of economic development. Industrial or developmental activities use  Land,  Water  of  community  as inputs for manufacturing end use product but simultaneously affect  Air, Water, Land, and community issues ( like health etc.) as output. Though mitigation measures are available but increasing violation cases illustrate that something more is required. Examples of conflict between community and industrial activities are increasing resulting into winding up of projects. This is particularly common for large projects like power plants, steel plants, mining projects, Irrigation projects etc.

POSCO :  Steel Plant in Odisha- A case of conflicts

POSCO India Private Limited, an Indian subsidiary of Korean conglomerate signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2005 with the state government of Odisha to construct a $12 billion steel plant in the Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha. About 2700 acre land was acquired by government for the project. Resistance from local communities and various delays prevented the company from starting construction. Local communities have been opposing the project due to fears of denuding the forests, displacement of residents, lesser economic opportunities for local people, etc. Thus, the progress of the project was  very slow, even with strong support from the Indian government. The project has wind up but ecology has suffered due to tree felling and land leveling.  

Conflict Mitigation:

Attempts have been taken through legislature and other means to formulate effective Conflict Management Mechanism some of them are as below:
i)    Legal
-  Expert Appraisal Committee – Violation: The formation of Expert Appraisal Committee to look after violation cases is a major approach wherein the extent of damage to environment is adjudged and remedial plans and costs are decided to restore the environment, which is borne by the violator.

-    Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): The section 135 and Schedule VII of the Companies Act,2013 and amendment in 2019 fixes the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)  of company based on the net worth and profits and mandates formation of CSR Committees. These committees work for various causes mentioned in the Schedule – VII of the act like eradication of hunger and poverty, promoting education, gender equality, environmental sustainability, protection of national heritage etc.

-    Corporate Environment Responsibility (CER) :Apart from CSR the  MoEFCC has also vide office memorandum dated 1st May,2018 mandated the fund allocation for Corporate Environment Responsibility (CER) which is ranges from 0.125 percent to 2 percent  of capital investment of project.

-    District Mineral Foundation Funds: To develop the backward areas where mining leases are situated, government of India made provision of a special fund in the name of District Mineral Foundation Fund  (DMF) where an amount equal to the 30 percent of Royalty in non auction mining leases and an amount equal to 10 percent of royalty in the auctioned mining leases is contributed towards this fund which is used for local area development.   

ii)  At Project level:
     The responsibility of project proponent whether private or government is more than any one else because they are the prime beneficiary. They are the user of natural resources and creator of unequal resource utilization. Their commitment to the welfare of the community at the time of transmitting project benefit at the time of Social Impact Assessment, Public Consultation and day to day interaction with the community for land acquisition should be transparent and through the well laid policy. The grievance cell should be active and capable of taking decision with the consent of management expeditiously. The CSR and CER programmes should be attempted in consultation with the community for real benefit.

iii) At Government level:

      The government is important stake holder because it is the authority to grant necessary permissions and clearances to the project and have direct contact with the project proponent and community. It is the platform to address the grievance of community and project. A fast and logical   decision making for grievance  redressal will help timely completion of the project. Many projects upon delay in grant of permissions and clearance recieve negative impressions from the community which starts non- cooperating with the project proponent. This generally affect land acquisition process. The monitoring of environmental data by government is another area where little ignorance or overlook can generate strong opposition in the mind of community against the project.

iv)  At Community level:

      The communities are heterogeneous group of people. Their choices and preferences may vary greatly. The project activities involves resettlement and rehabilitation activities so pro-project and anti-project lobby become active in an area. many public representatives engage in the credit taking and twist the project related facts in their favour. The provision of public consultation and gram sabha ( village gathering) are meant for transmission of project related information directly. It is always better to get clarification about the project directly from the project or government authorities instead of getting it from other sources.   

Future Ahead:

Due to the depleting natural resources which includes land also, it is being difficult for project proponents to timely execute projects. The increasing list of incomplete projects, delayed projects have resulted into the investment block. The financial institutions are taking extra care in project financing and now a days financing to polluting industries or industries facing resistance is difficult. Therefore, project management should also give more attention to the environmental and community issues, an adoption of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) may restore the confidence of local communities in favor of project. Many clearances in India are given after purchase of entire project land which is  wrong policy as projects depend upon market conditions hence any change in the project timeline or funding, affect  the interests of land losers and poor to generate resentment. Since economy is passing through a recession phase it is pertinent to carry out honest efforts from all the stake holders to work in well co-ordinated way to economic development and avoidance of conflicts.



The views expressed here are of writer only and do not belong to any organization, associated with.


Unknown said…
Well explained & presented.
One very serious point "Many clearances in India are given after purchase of entire project land" is of great concern. This make the Project Proponent to invest a lot of money, time & patience in terms of years to purchase the land with increasing risks & blackmailing from every corners.
This must be re-looked.
Thanking you.
Anonymous said…
Thanks, you have raised genuine concern.
Kindly mention your name also as Blogger does not identify names

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