Local stakeholder consultation – Just a formality! (Watch This! #2)

By Falguni Joshi, Gujarat Forum on CDM

India accounts for almost a quarter of all CDM projects, counting 857 registered projects to date. Numbers tell a progressive story, but the people affected by these projects – the local stakeholders – are neglected in the process.

The local population is the most important stakeholder party as they are most affected by a CDM project. Projects can often lead to direct and indirect displacement and sometimes also trigger disastrous environmental impacts which could in most cases be avoided by a serious public consultation process that addresses issues at an early stage. But the consultation meetings themselves often seem to be conducted as a mere formality.

When preparing the PDD, project proponents have to organize a local stakeholder consultation to provide information about the project and possible impacts. But experience shows that in the absence of clear guidelines and oversight by a dedicated authority, this consultation process has mostly not been followed properly. We examined how local stakeholder consultation processes have been carried out in practice in India. Through field research and analysis of a wide range of PDDs we can conclude that:

  • Public notices issued without proper venue details/time/contact person for the meeting is a common practice in almost all the public consultations. Hiding such substantial information enables project proponents to effectively avoid villagers from participating in  meetings
  • Even if the villagers somehow come to know about the meeting and attend, the Executive summary is prepared in such a language (generally English!) and way that it is way beyond the understanding of the impoverished villagers. Information mentioned also seems to cover all the irrelevant issues without stating explicitly the main issues which can be of greater concern to the stakeholders.
  • Interestingly, the reports are always decorated with positive remarks about each and every project with not even a single unfavorable comment on the report!

Quite evidently, public consultation has become a meeting where the term “public presence” refers to presence of only a handful of supporters of the company. Public notices intentionally skip the venue of the meeting in the notice, meetings are delayed for hours. Based on such loose and unproductive meetings, reports are filed for the PDD which then forms the basis of grant of carbon credits to the companies.

A mechanism which was meant to benefit all, a right to information which was meant for the public is shamelessly crushed beneath the rosy stories in CDM project documents. To stop the menace some serious steps need to be taken:

  • The relevant project documents & public notice need to be published in an easy understandable  local language
  • Notification is to be arranged in a way that stakeholders know about their right to public consultation
  • The 2% share clause for villagers from the sale of the carbon credits needs to be communicated to the public (Point 27 Indian PCN)
  • Local stakeholders should be able to participate in the decision on how their share from the  earnings of carbon credit should be utilized
  • Public notice for consultation should be published in at least two newspapers – one compulsorily being in the local newspaper to ensure a better circulation of information.
  • The videography of the public consultation should be made mandatory & the stakeholders consultation video to be  uploaded during the validation period
  • The social, economic, environmental and technical impacts mentioned in the PDD should be explained in an easy language which can be easily understood by the local people.

Such measures would not only increase transparency in the local stakeholder consultation process but would also ensure an effective participation of a larger number of stakeholders. This could contribute to avoid negative impacts, involve local populations in the project design and eventually increase the sustainable development benefits of projects, thus fulfilling the sole purpose of the CDM process which is “development and protection for all”.

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The Gujarat Forum is a network of individuals and organisations working on environmental issues. The Forum specifically monitors CDM projects and developments in Gujarat, India.