This is truly appalling news,
UK government climate ‘aid’ set to displace indigenous villagers in India
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This is the first of a five-part investigation into how UK government climate finance aid is grabbing land, displacing communities, and furthering colonialism in places like Badi, India – under the guise of renewable energy like solar. You can read part two here.
We are saying with folded hands that the only thing that we want is our lands to be saved. And if not land, then at least our houses.
spoke to a member of the remote Badi village in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. He wished to remain anonymous for his safety and for the safety of his family and other villagers. As a dairy farmer, he grazes his cattle on primarily government-owned land. His community’s main livelihood is agriculture on this shared commons. The village has been around for 600 years
, and families like his have cultivated and raised livestock on the commons for multiple generations.
But his is one of at least 20 families
set to lose their homes, land, and livelihoods to a solar park
. It will be constructed on 1,066 hectares, spanning three villages in the district of Neemuch
Project documents suggest that the community in Badi village will have less than 60% of their total land remaining
The villagers include members of Dalit, indigenous
Adivasi, and other marginalised
groups. A group of twelve villagers spoke to the Canary
. They said that:
We are losing all our agricultural land in the process, we are losing [our] entire agriculture.
We will have no option other than moving from this native place and moving to some bigger city to find work or earnings. We will have to migrate.
The project will likely force the Badi dairy farmer, and other villagers not directly displaced, to migrate. This is because they will lose their agricultural lands and land-based livelihoods.
UK climate aid funding a solar park
Across the planet, nations are increasingly turning to solar energy
to meet their energy
needs. Countries are making the transition to these ‘green technologies
‘ to stay in line with the Paris Agreement
goal. It states
that countries need to make clear efforts to keep global average temperatures well below 2°C, above pre-industrial levels.
As part of the agreement
, countries with more financial resources and who historically bear larger responsibility for the climate crisis
, are also providing funds to less industrialised nations to help them in their energy transition.
But to meet these climate goals, the UK and other industrialised nations are placing the burden of this energy transition on land-based communities elsewhere. At home, the UK government bans solar parks from farmlands
. However, its climate finance funds them on the agricultural and common lands of rural communities in India. It is outsourcing its climate ‘mitigation’ commitments to indigenous communities in the countries least responsible for the crisis.
UK climate aid
is partly funding
the solar park in Neemuch. It’s financing the project through the Clean Technology Fund (CTF)
– a multilateral climate fund. The World Bank set up the CTF
in 2008, and it has since received contributions from 15 industrialised nations
The Clean Technology Fund
The CTF aims to aid less industrialised countries in their efforts to transition to cleaner technologies. The World Bank acts as trustee
and administers the fund. It provided a US $100m loan
to the project, split between the CTF ($25m) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).
According to the project’s Resettlement and Livelihood Restoration Plan (RLRP)
, the solar park at Neemuch will physically displace 23 families from their lands and homes. It will also displace the livelihoods of a further 202 households. The UK is partially funding two other solar parks in different districts in the state of Madhya Pradesh through the same CTF project. Alongside the solar park at Neemuch, this will physically and economically displace over 850 households. Overall, this affects the indigenous and land-based communities across twenty-five villages. The eight transmission lines
for these projects, which transport the solar power elsewhere, will economically displace
nearly 2,000 more families.
The displaced households should receive financial compensation for the acquired land. World Bank policies also state
that the projects should offer them new land or economic opportunities. These include employment, support for starting a new business, or training. But this has not always been the experience of the communities
displaced by these large-scale solar parks across other parts of India.
Gaurav Dwivedi is associate director at the Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) in India. He says that land-for-land compensation is never offered for these large-scale climate projects in India. Dwivedi has studied and produced a report
on another solar park in Madhya Pradesh. The same CTF project as the three upcoming solar parks also partially funded this project. Dwivedi says of land-for-land compensation:
In the context of massive land acquisition for renewable projects, India does not have that kind of adequate vacant land. The land required would need to be acquired from agricultural communities. With this constraint it is difficult to provide land for land as per the law to every affected family, resulting in cash compensation to affected families. This also means people lose permanent sources of livelihood.
The dairy farmer who wished to remain anonymous, and the other Badi villagers that the Canary
spoke to, confirmed that land-for-land compensation had not been offered for the solar park at Neemuch. To date, they have also yet to receive any compensation. Project documents suggest that compensation should be provided in advance
of any loss of access to land, but the dairy farmer says that:
Ten percent of the land is already acquired and the rest of the land is in the process. So 90% of the land is in the process of acquisition, but as of now, we haven’t received any rehabilitation or compensation.
Local administration employees in JCB bulldozers clear a local farmer’s land for the Neemuch solar park in the early hours 28 January 2023, Kawai village (adjacent to Badi).
Even if the financial compensation arrives, the loss of their agricultural and pastoral lands and associated livelihood means that displacement from their community is still a likely outcome. The dairy farmer explained that this has already happened for some in his community, whose land the project acquired early:
The people whose land is already snatched away, those people have no other option except to work in factories or in construction.