The Tata Group, considered the most community friendly among Indian businesses, is facing its biggest credibility test. The community around its mega coal power plant in Mundra, in Gujarat, has gone vociferous and is demanding a stop to further expansion of the plant and “a concrete action plan for reparation and restoration.”
The community is using the social media to garner support. Its petition, in April 2014, to the President of the World Bank, has so far elicited more than 20,000 signatures in Change. org, a public petition platform. The petition states how the power plant has had a negative impact on the livelihood of the fishing community. “The power plant has blocked our traditional route between the shore and the market; lobster and turtle breeding grounds are flattened. Effluence from the power plant has depleted fish catch. Coal dust falling on fish out in the sun for drying makes it toxic and non-marketable. To make things worse, coal dust from the coal conveyer belt affects the health of our children, the elderly and even animals.”
In 2013, based on a complaint from the community organization, the International Finance Corporation (IFC – private sector arm of World Bank Group)’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) found widespread impact and policy violations including serious violations of mandatory safeguards at the Mundra plant.
But IFC’s Asia-Pacific Director for Infrastructure and Natural Resources and Director for Environment and Social Governance, respectively dismissed these findings. They rejected expert findings, defended their project decision and their client and issued no remedial action.
Tata Power’s response
In response to the petition Tata Power stated that it is: “Committed to the local community and continues to work with them on various platforms and multiple community development initiatives. The Company is also conscious of the natural resources in the vicinity of the plant and has taken appropriate steps to not just preserve them, but to also improve the flora and fauna in and around the project area.
Tata Power works towards building a sustainable future and would like to reiterate that the project is compliant with all Government (state and central) and IFC stipulated norms. Detailed SIA (Social Impact Assessment) and EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) were conducted in advance of setting up the project.”
The company says it has undertaken a number of community based initiatives towards overall development of fishermen communities, and all activities are undertaken in a participatory mode with community representatives. Tata Power’s Mundra UMPP has been appreciated time and again for its project excellence and commitment towards its consumers and community.
The company believes that the core issues raised by MASS (the Association for the Struggle for Fishworkers’ Rights) are not specific to Mundra UMPP and relate to certain generic issues concerning the coastline of Gujarat. CGPL shares a very healthy relationship with the local communities and continues to work with them on various platforms and multiple community development initiatives.