Sanjeev has been working as the District Development Officer (DDO) in one of the backward districts of Maharashtra. The central government has taken a major decision of constructing a 500 MW nuclear plant in your district which will not only boost the developmental activities but also solve the energy crises of the state. However, the project needs the support of local people as a large area is required which may lead to huge displacement and rehabilitation of local people.
People in the district are also worried about the apparent environmental degradation that will happen because of the project. It is alleged that the leftover from the plant will be buried in the local area itself. Fear is also there about the destruction of fisheries since the plant may pollute the water resources by using that water for cooling purposes. Fisheries and related activities are the chief occupations for most of the people living there. However, it is also true that most of the confusion is due to the secrecy which has been maintained by the government till yet regarding the details of the project.
The government can use tough methods to get the land, but this may have huge repercussions in the long term. Thus, Sanjeev has been given the responsibility to persuade the people to cooperate. Analyse the situation from different perspectives and explain what steps Sanjeev will take to ensure the completion of the project.
The case involves the following ethical issues and values:
- Responsibility of the government to develop the backward district.
- Societal apprehension and dissonance due to nuclear project.
- Lack of faith and trust in the government’s decision and negative attitude towards developmental projects.
- Environmental justice – sustainable development and environmental integrity must be maintained.
- Lack of grass root democracy in the form of people’s participation in the clearance of projects.
- Transparency and information sharing by the government.
- Destruction of the way of living of local people.
- Need to produce electricity for the wider consumption of the state. Also, nuclear energy is a less polluting source of electricity.
The case puts up the challenge of sustainable development and social justice. Government has the constitutional responsibility of developing backward regions of the country. In the scenario of depleting conventional sources of energy alternative like nuclear energy has to be taken up. (Utilitarian justification as nuclear power will serve the electricity demand of the wider state and contribute to a better life and economic development).
Social justice must be ensured for local people. Justice is equal sharing of benefits and burdens. The locals may not be benefitted out of the project as they mainly depend on primary activities like fishing. They may also have to be displaced.
The high court of Uttarakhand has recently ruled that rivers Ganga and Yamuna also have the right to life. In the spirit of environmental justice, it must be ensured that local ecology is not damaged.
The fear and anxiety among the locals are due to a lack of transparency about the project. Democratic decentralization of decision-making and involving locals in the project clearance is required to make development projects a collective enterprise of the whole society.
The following steps can be taken to ensure the completion of the project without the use of force:
- Bring transparency and sharing information about the project detail. Information about the disposal of waste material must be put out in public. Any rumours regarding this must be dislodged. Rumourmongers must be strictly dealt with as per the law. More comprehensive public consultations will build trust in the project.
- Sanjeev must develop social influence by participating in other local projects.
- The government must develop social capital by taking more regional social sector initiatives and involving the local people in the project and employment.
- Gram Sabha and the local government must be involved in implementing the project. They can be used as an effective tool for persuasion and attitudinal changes among the people for the project.
- Provisions can be made for the jobs of locals in the project. Skill development and training can also be provided.
- Electricity connections must be provided to all the houses to benefit locals from the project.
- Information about the project in the local vernacular language can be published, which addresses locals’ concerns.