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

20 September 2018

Communities affected by land use change use a variety of strategies to seek remedies. These can include protests, media campaigns, political advocacy, litigation etc. While there are several remedies or outcomes that the affected communities succeed at getting, these are mostly only limited successes. However, they are positive stories of collective agency and change and are articulated as small victories by communities who struggle to get them. 

This blog discusses various such stories from India, Indonesia and Myanmar. These stories are selected for the geographical areas and sectors they represent as well as the kind of conflicts, specific strategies and remedies they help to understand closely.


  • Goa-Karnataka Border NH-66 Highway Expansion Project, Karnataka

NH 66 highway passes through Karwar town, Uttara Kannada, Karnataka

National Highway 66 (NH 66), previously known as the NH-17, is a busy National Highway that goes roughly north–south along the western coast of India, parallel to the Western Ghats. It connects the Panvel city of Mumbai to Kanyakumari, passing through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. As of February, 2018, the highway is undergoing a major renovation in Karnataka, where the state government has accepted the National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) request of an international standard, 60-metre-wide national highway with grade separators. The complete stretch from the Goa border (near Karwar) to the Kerala border (near Talapady) is currently being widened to four lanes, with space to accommodate future expansion to six lanes. Since 2014, the expansion work of the Goa-Karnataka Border–Kundapur section of the highway and its secondary units located in Uttara Kannada district, has led to conflicts between the local communities and the project.

  • Bhavanapadu-Kakarapalli Thermal Power Project, Andhra Pradesh

Bhavanapadu Power Plant is one of the projects in Srikakulam District that were inspected by the MoEF expert committee in 2010

Kakarapalli is a small village in Santhabommali mandal of Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. The Kakarapalli swamp, which is a part of the well-known Naupada Swamp in Andhra Pradesh, is situated in this region. It is a unique wetland ecosystem that has a rich biodiversity. This region also supports the vast number of fishing communities that are involved in traditional fishing livelihood. The Naupada swamp is also known as the salt capital of the east coast region. The Kakarapalli swamp has historical importance, as it was one of the important locations where the Salt Satyagraha led by Mahatma Gandhi, started on the east coast, opposite a salt factory. It is here that the site of 1320 Megawatt (MW) Bhavanapadu-Kakarapalli Thermal Power Project was proposed back in 2007.


  • Coal casts a dark shadow over Tigyit

Inle Lake is at the risk of being polluted by Tigyit Coal Mine

Tigyit is a hill village in Pinlaung Township in the south of ethnically dominated Shan State of Myanmar.
The country’s second biggest lake Inle is located just 13 miles away from the village. The village also hosts the biggest opencast coalmine and the first functional thermal power plant of the country. In the early 2000s the mine and the associated thermal power plant began operations in the area. Over 60 families were displaced, many lost agricultural lands, and even more were forced to bear with the problem of coal dust and water contamination. In 2014, the Pa-Oh and Shan communities of the area got together and campaigned against the project. This led to the closure of the thermal power plant. However, since October 2016, the government is looking to expand the mine and restart the thermal power plant.

  • It’s not water under the bridge for Paunglaung

Dam reservoir inundated the farms and houses of Paunglaung valley

Upper Paunglaung Dam located in Southern Shan State was initiated by the government of Myanmar in 2006, and was officially opened in 2015. The dam has led to the displacement of 8,000 people from over 20 villages including many from ethnic communities. Those displaced have faced forced relocation without being compensated adequately for their homes, farmlands, and vegetable gardens. The compensation was disbursed in an opaque manner leaving many confused about how their compensation awards were calculated. Many have been relocated to sites, which were being cultivated by their fellow villagers. Several relocation sites are now under the threat of being flooded due to the rising levels of water in the dam reservoir. Affected farmers have organised themselves to seek better compensation from the government for their losses. They also demand ownership titles over the lands that they have started cultivating after being relocated. 

  • Poison no more: Kankone confronts the toxic Moe Gyo sulphuric acid factory in Salingyi

Kankone village is subjected to toxic fumes from the Sulphuric Acid factory located in the village and waste water from the neighbouring copper mines.

Mountains of Monywa in Central Myanmar hold rich deposits of copper. The deposits have been developed as two mining operations—Sabetaung and Kyisintaung mines and the recent Letpadaung mine. The sulphuric acid factory in Salingyi Township was initiated in 2007, to meet acid requirement of Sabetaung and Kyisintaung mines. With the initiation of Letpadaung mine, the factory is expected to take care of its need of sulphuric acid as well. Frequent toxic emissions from the factory pose health risks for the residents of village Kankone, which is situated only 100-200 yards away. The project has brought the regional government of Sagaing and the union government of Myanmar in conflict. Approaching the two levels of government with complaints and protests, the residents of Kankone village hope for the factory to be relocated to an alternate site.


  • Plasma partnership in BGA oil palm plantations in West Kotawaringin

An ongoing group discussion on wages of plantation workers and plasma payments

The BGA cleared land belonging to residents of 12 villages and one sub-village of Kobar in Central Kalimantan. Many of the farmers who lost their land were made a part of plasma agreements with the BGA without their knowledge. Under the agreement, the company, in exchange of their land, was supposed to develop oil palm plantations on behalf of the farmers. Income from harvesting these plasma plantations was to be distributed to the farmers through a cooperative. In case of the BGA, the heads and the administration of these villages were handling the workings of the cooperative in violation of the existing laws. Farmers complained of the illegal ways of cooperative management, inadequate plasma payments and lack of transparency in income disbursement. They took the matter to different government offices at the level of regency, province and the Centre. They even registered their grievance with an international platform for sustainable palm oil production that BGA is a member of. However, the farmers are yet to receive any satisfactory resolution of their problem.

  • River and dust pollution by KGLR/BNJM in East Barito

BNJM-KGLR mine is located not even one km away from the community rubber plantations

KGLR/BNJM started mining in Pantangkep Tutui sub-district of East Barito in 2005. The mining activity led to impacts for the inhabitants of the sub-district living or/and working close to the mine. The residents complain of impacts on their rubber plantations, dust pollution, and contamination of water sources. They protested, investigated, collected evidence of environmental violations committed by the company, complained to different government offices with evidence and reported the matter to media as well. In 2016, the area witnessed the worst flood in the history of the sub-district, which the locals suspect was because of mine operations. While the problems still persist, the efforts have led to successes such as field investigation by government offices and direction by information commission for making government documents pertaining to the mine, accessible to public. 

This is the fourth 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: 

The study reports on IndiaIndonesia and Myanmar including the above-mentioned case studies in full and an overview of the study’s methodology and findings can be accessed here.

The views shared belong to individual faculty and researchers and do not represent an institutional stance on the issue.