Closing the Enforcement Gap: Community-Led Groundtruthing Study of Environmental Violations in Sundargarh, Odisha

This publication highlights the non-compliances to environmental regulation and the impacts it has on the lives and livelihoods of affected communities due to coal mining projects undertaken by Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) in Hemgir block of Sundargarh district in the state of Odisha. A participatory process called “groundtruthing” was initiated with the cooperation of community leaders, activists from the Centre for Integrated Rural and Tribal Development (CIRTD), Sundargarh and researchers from the Centre for Policy Research (CPR)-Namati Environmental Justice Program, New Delhi. Through the process of groundtruthing, it was found that conditions that environmental regulatory authorities have fixed for mining projects are not complied with. As a result, a number of issues and adverse impacts have emerged, impacting the lives and livelihoods of people living in the areas surrounding the mines. It was learned that affected people, community representatives or activists could collect information and data from the field as well as from the concerned authorities to find the gap between regulatory conditions and compliance with them. They cooperated with each other to find out the gaps and then sought remedial measures by approaching the concerned regulatory authorities. Through this groundtruthing process the people of affected communities were empowered as they learnt the law, how to collect evidence of non-compliance and which institution to approach. It could go on to help in strengthening not only the regulatory mechanism to frame new rules and conditions for redressing grievances of aggrieved people,. We are thankful to the concerned authorities who provided the required information and their subsequent responses towards providing remedial measures.