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Case Studies

Case Study – 6 : Environmental Impact Assessment of a Project in Naxal Area

  • 11 Sep 2018
  • 5 min read

You are leading a survey team that has been assigned to carry out environmental impact assessment of a project proposed in a Naxal area. Members have been allotted a remote village each to conduct surveys and ascertain the response of residents. You are responsible not to disclose the identity of the villagers. During the review of survey findings you find some responses that are contradictory. You accompany the concerned surveyor to that village next day for verification. You carry ground check from the list of respondents and ask them for clarification of the response they had given earlier. Some of them seem awestruck and even deny any knowledge of the survey being conducted, you try to verify this from other residents of the village who were also surveyed and get similar replies. This raises serious doubts about the veracity of the survey process.

  1. What are the ethical issues involved in the situation?
  2. As a team leader accountable for the credibility of the survey and working on a hard time frame, what are the possible options before you? List their merits and demerits.
  3. Giving reasons, state the course of action you would follow.

Solution

a. The respondents backtracking from their earlier responses point to certain possibilities:

They might be intimidated by the Naxals to not cooperate with the entire exercise.

The survey process was not done comprehensively. Therefore, only a few villagers knew about it.

The concerned survey official has distorted the facts.

As a team leader one must review the survey data while also ensuring that the overall purpose of any social impact assessment is fulfilled by properly educating the villagers of its potential benefits in the future.

The ethical issues involved are:

Falsification of data by surveyors that defeats the very purpose of the entire exercise.

Integrity of the concerned official.

Accountability of the team leader in ensuring the credibility of the survey.

b. As a team leader accountable for the entire process, the possible course of actions is:

Redo the survey in the concerned village under the personal supervision and also with the help of police forces to tackle any Naxal threat.

This may instil confidence in the villagers to overcome their fear and give true responses. However, fearing Naxal backlash in the future they may still not cooperate. Thus, an unnecessary administrative cost and time would be wasted.

Extrapolate responses of other villages and publish the report.

Villages may exist in similar conditions in the area and doing the above will save valuable time. But such assumption goes against the very spirit of conducting a survey that treats every village as unique.

Pressurize the surveyor to reveal the true fact. This process will be applicable only in the case where the official might be lying. Else it would lower the overall morale of the entire team. Also request higher authorities to send a new team with credibility and efficiency.

Report the matter to higher officials and seek their advice. Experienced seniors may provide valuable inputs. However, this is time taking and it also represents a tendency of dereliction of duty.

c. I would inform the higher officials of the discrepancy and keep it on record. First, I would ask the surveyor to explain the discrepancy and would try to verify through cross-questioning. Upon verification, I would request the District Magistrate to provide police protection to the area during the survey and also alert local intelligence to collect ground information of Naxals trying to contact villagers. I would then try to persuade the villagers of full government support while keeping the District Magistrate in confidence. Thus the survey would be redone and the costs involved would be reported based on all recorded official communications and expenses.

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