We are privileged visitors to some of the world's most remote and underdeveloped regions. We have a duty to respect, learn from and create a shared understanding with those who host us. Connecting with the neighbouring communities and garnering their consensus is vital for us.
We conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) before every new project and continue to engage with communities throughout the project life cycle. As part of the ESIA process, we identify potentially affected community very early in the project development stage and engage with them to identify, assess and manage environmental and social risks. This goes a long way in building trust, respect, legitimacy and earns us the social licence to operate.
Our approach is based on the global principle of Free, Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), wherein disclosure of relevant project information, consultation and participation of all affected communities, and arriving at mutually acceptable solutions addressing matters of material concern to stakeholders, including affected communities, is done.
This approach is fully set out in our manual 'Technical Standard: Conducting ESIAs to International Standards', which is supported by a Guidance Note and other Technical Standards addressing specific aspects requiring further, more detailed consultation e.g. land and resettlement, cultural heritage, and stakeholder engagement. These standards are applied in conjunction with the ESIA process, to inform our team's understanding of their responsibilities to host communities.
As highlighted in the previous section on stakeholder engagement, all operations are required to identify stakeholders, develop Stakeholder Engagement Plans, and record and respond to stakeholder enquiries and grievances. Across the Group, our community relations team comprises around 80 employees and more than 500 community field officers, who work with local communities to ensure effective consultation and information sharing, to mitigate environment, social and health related risks, and to encourage informed participation by local communities.
Understanding community needs and expectations is a complex and sensitive process. Last year, we completed our most comprehensive, structured and collaborative community engagement to date, to develop medium and long-term development plans in participation with our stakeholders. This was done in partnership with government and non-government organisations (with a focus on those active in remote regions of India), for every community adjacent to our sites.
As on date, all of our subsidiaries and divisions have completed the study or are in the process of completion and the rest have committed to work on it.
Each community group (including women and marginalised individuals) had the opportunity to speak separately and voice their opinions without fear or shame. The main concerns we heard were around livelihoods (in terms of either employment or supplier opportunities with Vedanta). This was a valuable feedback for our businesses, many of which are now developing projects around vocational training for them.
Based on the results of the assessment, we have arrived at pivotal needs of the communities and are spearheading projects to address the needs. For example, in locations where we cannot provide employment, we are exploring vocational training (for example, in brick manufacturing), entrepreneurship options (focussing on women) and other employability routes. In the current year, we also initiated Nand Ghar Project for the hinterlands of India as well as implemented the Goat Project in the rural areas of Southern Namibia. Both these programmes concentrate on providing significant fillip to income generation for the rural populace.
A blend of awareness and action to reduce water stress - a pressing need of the community
With per capita water availability below 1,000 m3/year, the state of Rajasthan in India faces severe water shortage. This issue gets compounded by people's ignorance towards use of safe drinking water, leading to health concerns.
Cairn India aims to address this double-edged challenge with a two-pronged intervention. This year, the Company initiated a programme to deliver safe drinking water to more than a million lives in parched villages of Rajasthan through two steps: enhancing access to safe drinking water by establishing water treatment plants, and raising awareness to consume safe drinking water over untreated water.
1 Enhancing Access
Cairn India, in association with its implementing partners is establishing 331 water treatment plants at Kharantiya, Bodwa and Seoniyala villages of Barmer District. These plants will make water, free of excessive chemicals and contamination, enabling better health for the community; particularly benefiting pregnant females, children and elderly. Over the coming years, the capacity of the water treatment plants will be ramped up from 1,000 to 3,000 litre per hour, depending on the need of the community. Post this, the ownership of these plants will be transferred to Public Health Engineering Department, Rajasthan.
2 Raising Awareness
In order to ensure that the water infrastructure gets well utilised, Cairn India organised an awareness programme on using safe drinking water for both drinking and cooking purposes in the vicinity. The programme was organised at Government Schools in the respective villages. Various members of the community including students, teachers, villagers and panchayat members attended the programme and learned about the benefits of using safe drinking water over untreated water, through interesting acts of magical tricks, songs and a play.
Grievances, if unaddressed can escalate into significant issues or disputes, which at times could jeopardise viability of operations.
Robust grievance mechanisms, benchmarked to international good practices, are operational at all our facilities and in nearby communities. We continue to strengthen these mechanisms to ensure more efficient handling. We provide quick response and fast track resolution of grievances when received. Any unresolved grievances are escalated to senior management for their direction and decision-making.
External grievances regarding Vedanta and its subsidiaries can also be logged at All community incidents (social and labour) and grievances are recorded and categorised as negligible (1), minor (2), moderate (3), serious (4) or disastrous (5).
Further a SAP-based programme management tool for community grievance management and stakeholder engagement has been rolled out this year which will aide in speedy resolutions of grievances.
How We Performed
Out of all the registered grievances, we didn't observe any significant incident related to violation of human rights.
Further no category 4 or 5 social and labour incidents were recorded in FY 2015-16, although lower-level incidents such as village road blockages and strikes were recorded, particularly related to employment and contractor issues, infrastructure projects and some operational issues including land and traffic management.
We want Vedanta to run its plant and expand. This will create employment opportunity and business opportunity in the area. This is why we supported Vedanta during public hearing for expansion. The public hearing and the decision was unanimous from impacted stakeholders.
Mr. Binod Goud | President - Youth Club, Lanjigarh Yuvak Sangh
A total of 904 community grievances were recorded across our businesses, of which 882 were actionable and were resolved in a timely manner.
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