Socio-Environmental Issues in Infrastructure Projects

Socio-Environmental Issues in Infrastructure Projects

Apart from the economical and financial risks or issues the other major issue that has to be taken into consideration is the “Social and Environmental” aspect in planning and implementation of infrastructure projects. In this paper I would like to write on the social and environmental issues w.r.t. infrastructure projects and their implications and may be the possible mitigation strategies to some extent.

Although the Socio-environmental issues are stated separately, their impact on infrastructure projects is always expressed in combination with the economical or financial aspects. But, however how to monetize the effects is the tough task and is more contentious. To start with, here I’m putting some of the social and environmental considerations.

• Pollution (Noise + Air +water)
• Ecological Balance
• Health Impact in terms of contact level
• Location & Climatic conditions.
• Public communication & awareness
• Public Acceptance (cultural issues)
• Affordability in terms of willingness to pay
• Reliability of the technology & service
• Consumer grievances

The above stated factors are more generic in a broad sense, but however there may be additions depending on the specific project. We can find the above considerations in almost all the case studies that we have discussed in the class. Then how are they evaluated or monetized is something that we don’t know. Generally, the analysts used to convert all the kinds of considerations/factors, such as social, environmental etc. in to money the language that can be understand by everyone. And then they proceed with analyzing the viability of the project. Generally the most popularly used technique they use is CBA (Cost-Benefit-Analysis). The inputs for this analysis are generally the costs and the outputs are benefits and finally the difference between the net benefits and the net costs, after proper discounting, is called the NPV (Net Present Value). The project alternative which has the highest NPV is generally declared as the best option and some times the status quo may prove to be the best than implementing the project.

Polavaram Project

To advocate the present topic, it can better be explained with a current project named “Polavaram Project”. The project, estimated to cost Rs.15,000 crores, is intended to bring 7.2 lakh acres under irrigation and produce 930 mw of power. Its Left Main Canal will bring 1.5 lakh acres under irrigation in Visakhapatnam district and 23 tmc ft of water to the city to help meet the growing industrial and domestic needs.

In this project the cost for environmental disturbance was Rs.372 crores and it displaced 1,17,034 people in 276 villages besides submerging 37,743 ha of land – of farmland, forests and wasteland. However, with the strong political support it overcome all the bottlenecks and is in progress now. No body have a clear evidence that this is a socially and environmentally sustainable project, as the process was not transparent. It’s presumption is that the Godavari river has surplus flow and the water can be diverted to Krishna river so that it can be efficiently used. But, the IWMI (International Water Management Institute) challenged that the NWDA (National Water Development Authority) has falsely calculated the water in river Godavari without considering the environmental use of water which amounts for 8,200 MCM and the analysis procedure was ambiguous and at many instances there was no data available even. But, however with the strong political clout the challenges were fell on their deaf ears and the project was already given clearance and made free from all bottlenecks. In the context of the social issue in this project there were strong allegations that the Public Hearing which was quintessence of EIA was not done transparently and the real victims were not allowed to speak in such hearings using what illegal power the govt. have (Goondas, Rowdies). The IWMI and many other NGOs working for the Polavaram project-effected victims strongly claimed that it was not a sustainable project and hence should be canceled consideration while analyzing the projects CBA. But, it was the political commitment that made an socially & environmentally unviable project become viable., but in vein. In fact, it can not be said as a viable project if one has taken the social & environmental aspects into consideration,

Note:-If you could see carefully into this case, the re-habitation cost is nothing but the monetized value of the social issue and the money payed to the MoEF, Rs.372 for afforestation is the monetized value of the environmental issue.

Strategies to mitigate the socio-environmental problems, sounds adnasium, but in fact they are the real strategies such as transparency, public communication (fair negotiations), political commitment for the sake of the people so on and so forth.

Can it be mitigated? If so, to what extent and how?

I totally disagree if somebody says that the social and environmental issues or problems can not be solved at all, as I believe in that, if there is no solution at all it can not be a problem. Surely, it can be solved if.


Author: crizbone28 Nov 2009 Member Level: Silver   Points : 2

Definitely our environment needs to be protected.India have many forests and resources it should be preserved.What ever new infrastructure comes it should be of no harm to environment.The slogan that "If you cut one green tree replace it with 100 green tree" should not remain as slogan,it should be practical.Where's the media and environmentalists and Animal lover like Menaka Gandhi gone?.Why there eyes are not opening.Each animal and green life should be protected.Jai Bharat