Policy Engagements and Blogs

Detailed Studies of cases of Land Use Change Conflicts: Part II

October 5, 2018


As persons affected with land use change grapple with displacement, loss of livelihood and environmental degradation, it becomes clear that they are rendered extremely vulnerable. In their fight for rights, as they employ multiple strategies to make their voices heard and influence decisions of those with power, it becomes important to understand their struggle that displays critical thinking, collective agency and pragmatism.

This blog discusses various stories of such struggles from India, Indonesia and Myanmar. These stories present a granular account of how land use change decisions result in varied set of impacts experienced for years, how these experiences turn into long standing land conflicts, the efforts made by affected communities to seek remedies and the counter efforts they face as governments and projects protect their investments and try to retain control over the narrative of growth and development.


Shree Maheshwar Hydro Power Dam, Madhya Pradesh

Maheshwar dam project has seen several investors pulling out of it.

The Maheshwar dam is built in Nimad, the South western region of the state of Madhya Pradesh, 2 km upstream from the town of Mandleshwar. The project is part of the Narmada Valley Development Plan under which 30 large and 135 medium-sized dams have been planned in the Narmada valley. With a generation capacity of 400 Megawatts, the dam put nearly 60,000 acres of extremely fertile agricultural land and over 20 villages under full or partial submergence. A large mass movement, comprising the local communities, farmers and environmental and human rights activists, has been protesting against the project as well as against the NVDP (Narmada Valley Development Plan) in general. The struggle in Maheshwar has been going on for more than 20 years.

Gevra Mines, Chhattisgarh

After March 2019, EAC will evaluate the pollution control measures of Gevra mines and based on it, will decide if the project should continue.

With over 10,000 million tonnes of deposits, the Gevra coal mine is the single largest source of power grade coal in India. The mine has been in operation since 1981, and land acquisition for the project dates back to 1979 with subsequent acquisitions in 2001 and 2009. There have been grievances that the acquisition has led to forced relocation, loss of livelihoods and insufficient compensation. People who were displaced have been resettled to colonies set up very close to the mine, and they complain of water contamination and pollution. In 2012, when it spread over an area of 4942 acres, it was the largest open cast mine in India. Still continuing to be the largest mine, today it has double the land area and spans across 9884 acres (4000 hectares) of land in Korba district of Chhattisgarh. Following an expansion of its production capacity, efforts to acquire more land began in 2014. On May 2, 2016, Korba witnessed a massive protest by SECL (South Eastern Coalfields Limited) against land acquisition for mining. Around 679 people from 41 villages protested at the site of the Gevra Mines. These villagers were all farmers who demanded jobs, rehabilitation and compensation as per the amended Land Acquisition Act. There is a proposal to further increase the capacity of Gevra Mines up to 70 MTPA (Million Tonnes Per Annum) in the near future amidst all the existing unaddressed grievances.


Myaung Pyo resists water woes

Original location of Myaung Pyo village has been razed to extract tin.

Heinda Tin mine in Tanintharyi Region of Myanmar has been in operation since the British Times. After the take-over of the mine by the Thai Company Myanmar Pongpipat and Mining Enterprise, a state-owned company, in 1999, the villagers of Myaung Pyo filed complaints of its ill effects. In 2012, the village was flooded due to the breakage in the mine’s tailing ponds and streaming of sediments from the mine into the local creek. The villagers filed a lawsuit against the mine and demanded compensation for the damages to their property. Alongside, the villagers have been engaging the regional level government to ensure that the mine complies with environmental safeguards. Approaching the company, administrative complaints, lawsuits and international redress—the villagers are reaching out to all possible avenues where mitigation of ill impacts and compensation for past damages is possible.

Thilawa residents brace for upcoming land transformation

Farmers, who would lose land in the second phase of development of the SEZ, hope to be compensated fairly for their losses.

The Thilawa SEZ (Special Economic Zone), located approximately 25 kilometers south of Yangon between Thanlyin and Kyauktan townships, is spread over an area of 2,400 hectares. First phase of the project (spread over 400 hectares) has led to forced displacement of 68 families. The compensation given to them was inadequate and the relocation site lacks basic amenities. The farmers, united as Thilawa Social Development Group (TSDG) reached out to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project financer, seeking improvements in the relocation site. While the impacts of the first phase are yet to be addressed, second phase of the project has begun. Alongside, individual factories are coming up on the land acquired for the project in the first phase. The land users and SEZ authorities are negotiating compensation for land acquisition in the second phase. In June 2017, 39 families were trapped because the Thilawa town officials had erected a wall around their homes claiming that the land belonged to the government.


Illegal Oil Palm Plantation of Rejeki Alam Semesta Raya in Kapuas

PT RASR has turned the land that was used by community members for planting rubber into an oil palm plantation.

PT RASR initiated oil palm plantation on 7000 ha of community land in Kapuas district of Central Kalimantan. The land was in use by the locals for cultivation of rubber and fishing. This led to an income loss for them. Farmers organised themselves in a group of affected farmers, demonstrated outside the company office and different government offices, registered formal complaints with the Regent and parliament of the district. In violation of the forestry law, the company also took over land in protected forest. This and people’s complaints led to cancellation of company’s permission to use the land. Despite all this, the company continued to work people’s land and forestland in question. After a series of failed mediations, some of the aggrieved farmers decided to reclaim their lands. Since 2016, the farmers have been harvesting oil palm on their lands on and generating income from the activity. However, they still seek a formal recognition from the government of their right over their land.

Community response to Arjuna Utama Sawit’s oil palm operations in Katingan district

Danau Bulat lake is silting up due to drainage canals built by PT AUS

In 2008, PT Arjuna Utama Sawit (AUS) took over land belonging to inhabitants of eight villages of the Katingan district in Central Kalimantan. The local community was using this land for horticulture plantations. PT AUS not only violated the moratorium on use of peatlands, it also dug canals and planted oil palm in peatland forest area as well. It dumped the waste from its oil palm factory into a nearby lake and the Katingan river. The company, although promised plasma agreements to the community, has yet to deliver on the same. Initially, the community did not protest the land grabs aggressively, but later on tried to reach out to the company and bring government’s attention to illegalities committed by the company. However, the company continued its operation ignoring communities’ complaints and efforts. In October 2017, the community members from one of the villages blocked work in PT AUS’s plantation area. They demanded execution of the promised plasma agreements and full details of the plasma scheme provided by the company.

PT AKT: The Biggest mining company of Borneo

PT AKT and PT Marunda Graha use Barito river for transport of coal extracted from over 40,000 hectares of land in Murung Raya

PT Asmin Koalindo Tuhup (AKT), the largest coalmine of Borneo took 2000 hectares of land from six villages of the Murung Raya regency of Central Kalimantan. The villagers, under pressure from the company, agreed to relinquish their agricultural lands at a price much lower than the market rate. Mining activities have led to contamination of the local water sources, the Hingan and Kohung rivers. Villagers have raised their concerns with the company and with local government departments. On losing their land-based livelihoods, the villagers had hoped that the mine would give them employment. In absence of state-sponsored basic infrastructure, they also expected facilities such as clean water, better healthcare arrangements and education from AKT. However, their hopes and expectations have only been met with empty promises. As of January 2018, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Indonesia had cancelled its agreement with AKT. In such a scenario, it is unclear who will take responsibility of remedying environmental destruction, offsetting loss of livelihoods and ensuring reclamation of land from which the coal has been mined out.

This is the fifth blog based on the study carried out by the CPR-Namati Environmental Justice Program, and supported by a grant from IDRC, Canada.

The other pieces in the series can be accessed below:

Understanding the Impacts of Land Use Change
Understanding the Strategies used to address the impacts of Land Use Change
Understanding the Outcomes and Remedies sought for impacts of Land Use Change
Detailed Studies of cases of Land Use Change Conflicts: Part I
The study reports on India, Indonesia and Myanmar including the above-mentioned case studies in full and an overview of the study’s methodology and findings can be accessed here.