Presentation at Warsaw Climate Change meet points to how even renewable power projects violate clean mechanism norms

climateBy Mahesh Pandya*

A new study, put out on November 1, 2013, prepared the Gujarat Forum on CDM, “Glimpses from Ground:  Analysis of selected CDM Projects in India”, has found “severe discrepancies between the promises in the project documentation and the real impacts of the project implementation” in several of the CDM projects being implemented in India. It says, “One common scenario has been observed: both, in industrial and renewable energy projects, no employment opportunities are created for local people so there is no monetary benefit for them due to these projects.”

The study also finds that “industrial projects are getting benefits of certified emission reduction (CER) revenue, and they are generating income by using this money for manufacturing activities. This results in more production, more use of natural resources, more pollution, and more impact on the environment due to limited carrying capacity of that particular area.” The result is, according to the study, “due to the increase of pollution, local people’s health kept deteriorating their agriculture farms and grazing land is negatively affected, which in turn impacts their livelihood.” Further, “due to a lack of a social monitoring, there are only very limited opportunities to assess the actual socioeconomic situation of the villages after the implementation of the projects.” In fact, “local people are not aware of company’s contact details. Thus, they do not know whom to contact in case of emergency.”

Giving specific examples, the study says, the SRF Ltd, located in village Jhiwana, tehsil Tijara, district Alwar, Rajasthan, implemented a CDM project (2004-13) by using by using the methodology of thermal oxidation of HCFC-22, byproduct in refrigeration gas manufacturing plant, thus earning high number of CERs. However, its project design document (PDD) as also the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report suggest that the “plant causes environmental degradation and that the situation is getting worse every day.” The study regrets, “The project proponent did not take any steps to control this situation. The company itself has declared that the CER money is useful for the investment in new technology and the production of more refrigerant gases, increasing the production of byproducts and the amount of money generated by the CDM project.”

The project has not been beneficial to the local people either. “The situation in the village has not been improved in terms of the level of environmental management, employment, water availability and prosperity. In the PDD, greenbelt promised to develop 7,000 acre area, while only 100 acre land is available in the surrounding area. Sustainable development criteria as set up by National CDM Authority (designated national authority – DNA) remain on paper, whereas the pollution level keeps on rising”, the study says.

In another example, the PDD of the Sasan Power Super-Critical Technology CMD project (Sasan village, Singrauli district, Madhya Pradesh) in implementing 3,960 MW (6 X 660 MW) ultra mega power project of the Sasan project gives a description of “a very structured CER expenditure action plan”. Yet “nothing seems to be true on ground. The promises made by the project participant in form of action plan have been proven false. In education and training area, no scholarships and IT trainings have been given to any student as per the action plan.” In fact, “the existing schools are being dismantled and a new one was built in residential colony area, which is 25 km away from the existing village.” In fact, “donation of Rs 10,000 is being asked for enrollment in this school.”

As for livelihood, the study says, “people are forced to flee from their own homes as a result of illegal acquisition by project participant. Very negligible amount has been paid to farmers against acquisition of their agriculture land. Also mining carried out by the project participant has created local flooding issues and fertility of agriculture land has been adversely affected. This has affected the livelihood of people who are dependent on this land. No other training has been offered by project participants to the local people to improve their skills.”

Giving the example of a renewable energy project by the DLF Wind Power (Kutch, Gujarat), the study says, the project activity involves the establishment of a wind farm of 150 MW installed capacity, enabling generation of electricity by state-of-art 1.5 MW capacity wind turbine generators, thus saving hugely CO2 emission. Yet, the study says, the fact is, “there was no proper local consultation on determining the location of the wind turbine, and all of the wind turbines are placed randomly. It has adversely impacted channel of flowing water and caused flooding which has then affected the agricultural practices.”

Further, “Although promised in the PDD, not enough employment opportunities have been provided to local people, just some contractual security jobs are provided which are not sufficient for their livelihood. EIA has not been carried out for this project because it is not legally required, but a social impact assessment which should be done for every project has also not been carried out. Lack of the social impact assessment has caused many problems to the people which are not reported on paper and can therefore not be challenged. Village people do not have the contact details of the company for emergency contact.”

Another project based on renewable technology, JK Lakshmi Cement has sought to replace fossil fuel by biomass in pyro-processing (at Sirohi, Rajasthan), thus hugely reducing CO2 emission.  Yet, the fact, the project developers failed to set up any “supply chain set up of dealers and local people for collection and transportation of biomass.” Thus, “there are no monetary benefits or employment opportunities for local people from this project”. In fact, “there is an increased amount of air pollution from SPM fuel, generated because of cement manufacturing and mining. It has negatively affected agriculture fields in the local area”.

In a third project, Lafarge India Pvt Ltd’s cement project for substitution of clinker with fly ash (Gopalnagar, Chhattisgadh), the developers declared their commitment to social and environmental responsibility on taking over Arasmeta Cement Plant from Raymond Limited-Cement Division in 2001. It decided to stop Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) production and add increasing quantities of additives in blended cement (Portland Porzolona Cement or PPC) to substitute clinker, thus considerably reducing CO2 emissions from cement kilns. The decision to proactively introduce PPC blend was said to be in line with Lafarge Group’s commitment to reducing GHG emissions at the cement kilns by 20 per cent per tonne of cement produced. Yet, the study regrets, “the plant is located in a very interior and relatively low educated rural area of India” and “most of the land has already been acquired by the company, so people who were dependent on land and agricultural activities are now unemployed and without income. Mining is carried out only 500 metres away from the village area which has badly impacted the village due to continuous blasting and mining activities. Air and noise pollution is also prevalent in the village area due to mining and cement plant.”

In yet another case, the Amreli biomass based 10 MW power plant project (Amreli, Gujarat), aimed at using surplus biomass residues available in the Amreli district, with the power generated exported into the state grid. The study comments, “As per the PDD, this project was to spend three per cent of their CER revenue for socioeconomic development activities in the surrounding area, but no such activities have been carried out by the project proponent till date. No employment opportunities for local people have been created in the sectors of collection and transportation of biomass. Biomass prices are not very lucrative for farmers so several farmers stopped selling their biomass and started using it for their own purpose which resulted in a question of continuous supply of biomass for the power plant.”

Then, the United Phosphorus Limited (Jhagadia, Gujarat) aimed at reducing GHG gas emission through switching naphtha as a fuel to natural gas as a fuel for their power plant. The study comments, “This CDM project is controversial ever since its registration process. At the validation stage, questions had been raised on its financial barrier methodology, because at that time naphtha was cheaper fuel than natural gas so there was no financial opportunity in switching to natural gas. Other than that local people have many complaints regarding pollution created by the plant. Air pollution and water pollution have affected people’s health as well as their agricultural activities. No employment preference is given to the local people”.

Further, the Charnaka grid connected 25 MW solar power plant (Patan, Gujarat) by the Gujarat Solar Power Private Limited (GGSPPL), wholly owned subsidiary of GMR Energy Ltd (GEL), aimed to develop a “grid connected 25 MW PV solar power project at Charanka in Gujarat” under the Phase-1 of Gujarat Solar Power Policy 2009. Yet, “this project lacked meeting sustainable development criteria as stipulated by DNA. In this project, government and private land was acquired by the proponent through an agent. Due to this arrangement, owners of the land got very low prices for their land. Government land comprised of grazing land with ponds and small area of forest land. Due to loss of grazing land, the livelihoods of cattle keepers are threatened.”

Based on these and a few more examples, the study recommends:

  • Ongoing complaints must be heard by national authorities for any CDM project. In case of breach of conditions given in host country approval, DNA has to use their power to revoke the permission.
  • There must be compulsory mechanism to monitor situation for respecting environmental laws of host country – local authority has to check and send report to the DNA.
  • There must be some mechanism from which it could be checked whether CER revenue is not being used for more harmful industrial production which is then causing more pollution.
  • Social impact assessment should be an integral part of CDM registration process.
  • CER revenue must not be used for more expansion of their existing manufacturing activities.
  • There must be some legal bindings for project proponents to give employment for local people.
  • There must be legal binding on project proponents to uplift social and infrastructural facility in surrounding area.
  • Local people have to involve in a process to spend minimum two per cent of the CER money for sustainable development work as per Indian DNAs’ provision.
  • Stakeholder consultation process has to be carried out transparently and with involvement of local authority and active participation from local people.
  • There must be some provision to accommodate complaints from public for registered CDM projects at national level, so that continuous scrutiny of the projects can be possible.

* Director, Paryavaran Mitra 

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