UK government climate ‘aid’ set to displace indigenous villagers in India

Artwork of a solar land-grab. A yellow excavator runs through the centre of the image pushing rubble, splitting the picture in two. On the left, two farmers harvest from a field of chickpea crop. In the distance, a cow grazes on dry grasses. Trees and shrubs dot the horizon. On the right side, lines of solar panels stretch out to the horizon, where the rich and biodiverse crop field once existed. All this represents climate aid and the village of Badi in India
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This is the first of a five-part investigation into how UK government climate finance aid is grabbing land, displacing communities, and furthering colonialism in places like Badi, India – under the guise of renewable energy like solar. You can read part two here

We are saying with folded hands that the only thing that we want is our lands to be saved. And if not land, then at least our houses.

The Canary spoke to a member of the remote Badi village in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. He wished to remain anonymous for his safety and for the safety of his family and other villagers. As a dairy farmer, he grazes his cattle on primarily government-owned land. His community’s main livelihood is agriculture on this shared commons. The village has been around for 600 years, and families like his have cultivated and raised livestock on the commons for multiple generations.

But his is one of at least 20 families set to lose their homes, land, and livelihoods to a solar park. It will be constructed on 1,066 hectares, spanning three villages in the district of Neemuch.

Project documents suggest that the community in Badi village will have less than 60% of their total land remaining.

The villagers include members of Dalit, indigenous Adivasi, and other marginalised groups. A group of twelve villagers spoke to the Canary. They said that:

We are losing all our agricultural land in the process, we are losing [our] entire agriculture.

Read on...

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We will have no option other than moving from this native place and moving to some bigger city to find work or earnings. We will have to migrate.

The project will likely force the Badi dairy farmer, and other villagers not directly displaced, to migrate. This is because they will lose their agricultural lands and land-based livelihoods.

UK climate aid funding a solar park

Across the planet, nations are increasingly turning to solar energy to meet their energy needs. Countries are making the transition to these ‘green technologies‘ to stay in line with the Paris Agreement goal. It states that countries need to make clear efforts to keep global average temperatures well below 2°C, above pre-industrial levels.   

As part of the agreement, countries with more financial resources and who historically bear larger responsibility for the climate crisis, are also providing funds to less industrialised nations to help them in their energy transition.

But to meet these climate goals, the UK and other industrialised nations are placing the burden of this energy transition on land-based communities elsewhere. At home, the UK government bans solar parks from farmlands. However, its climate finance funds them on the agricultural and common lands of rural communities in India. It is outsourcing its climate ‘mitigation’ commitments to indigenous communities in the countries least responsible for the crisis.

UK climate aid is partly funding the solar park in Neemuch. It’s financing the project through the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) – a multilateral climate fund. The World Bank set up the CTF in 2008, and it has since received contributions from 15 industrialised nations.

The Clean Technology Fund

The CTF aims to aid less industrialised countries in their efforts to transition to cleaner technologies. The World Bank acts as trustee and administers the fund. It provided a US $100m loan to the project, split between the CTF ($25m) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

According to the project’s Resettlement and Livelihood Restoration Plan (RLRP), the solar park at Neemuch will physically displace 23 families from their lands and homes. It will also displace the livelihoods of a further 202 households. The UK is partially funding two other solar parks in different districts in the state of Madhya Pradesh through the same CTF project. Alongside the solar park at Neemuch, this will physically and economically displace over 850 households. Overall, this affects the indigenous and land-based communities across twenty-five villages. The eight transmission lines for these projects, which transport the solar power elsewhere, will economically displace nearly 2,000 more families.

The displaced households should receive financial compensation for the acquired land. World Bank policies also state that the projects should offer them new land or economic opportunities. These include employment, support for starting a new business, or training. But this has not always been the experience of the communities displaced by these large-scale solar parks across other parts of India.

Insufficient compensation

Gaurav Dwivedi is associate director at the Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) in India. He says that land-for-land compensation is never offered for these large-scale climate projects in India. Dwivedi has studied and produced a report on another solar park in Madhya Pradesh. The same CTF project as the three upcoming solar parks also partially funded this project. Dwivedi says of land-for-land compensation:

In the context of massive land acquisition for renewable projects, India does not have that kind of adequate vacant land. The land required would need to be acquired from agricultural communities. With this constraint it is difficult to provide land for land as per the law to every affected family, resulting in cash compensation to affected families. This also means people lose permanent sources of livelihood.

The dairy farmer who wished to remain anonymous, and the other Badi villagers that the Canary spoke to, confirmed that land-for-land compensation had not been offered for the solar park at Neemuch. To date, they have also yet to receive any compensation. Project documents suggest that compensation should be provided in advance of any loss of access to land, but the dairy farmer says that:

Ten percent of the land is already acquired and the rest of the land is in the process. So 90% of the land is in the process of acquisition, but as of now, we haven’t received any rehabilitation or compensation.

Local administration employees in JCB bulldozers clear a local farmer’s land for the Neemuch solar park in the early hours 28 January 2023, Kawai village (adjacent to Badi).


Even if the financial compensation arrives, the loss of their agricultural and pastoral lands and associated livelihood means that displacement from their community is still a likely outcome. The dairy farmer explained that this has already happened for some in his community, whose land the project acquired early:

The people whose land is already snatched away, those people have no other option except to work in factories or in construction.

Broken promises, broken climate aid

At other climate projects in India, promised jobs within projects have not materialised for the communities economically displaced by them.

Dwivedi explains that he and his colleagues did a fact-finding mission in 2019 to the partially CTF-financed Rewa solar park project. They found the company had not fulfilled its employment promises:

Some of the people on the ground said that they had been given assurances that they will get jobs within the planned [project] like cleaning, security guards, and contractual work. Despite these assurances local people claimed that they were not given these jobs. They said that many of the contract labour were employed from outside, and local people hardly got any jobs, not even unskilled labour work like cleaning and security guard.

Badi villagers are concerned that they are facing a similar situation. Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL), is the project developer for the solar parks at Rewa, Neemuch, Agar, and Shajapur. According to the villagers the Canary spoke to, it has yet to offer employment to anyone in the village. The dairy farmer told us:

We haven’t been offered any work in the solar plant. No one is offered any work. The administrative person, he once said that they might be offering some job or something, but as of now, there is no lead, nothing has happened in that direction.

Compensation is not enough

The villagers are anxious about the loss of their land. They explain that the compensation won’t be sufficient to maintain their quality of life. An anonymous Badi village member said:

The compensation won’t be enough, because agriculture is a sustainable thing.

While the agriculture sustains his livelihood and feeds his family and community every year, the compensation will eventually run out. He adds that:

The money is not sufficient, because this land is in a remote area. And when you talk about pricing of the remote area land, it would be very low as compared to other areas. So whatever amount we would be getting, it won’t be enough or sufficient enough to settle somewhere else.

Already there is scarcity of work, so if we are going to leave our agricultural land, our ancestral homes, it is very difficult to get a home. It would be really, really difficult for our families to settle into a new place, find new work.

The climate land grab intensifies

Since the Canary spoke to the Badi community, the situation on the ground has intensified.

In early October 2022, officials for the company arrived at Badi to continue demarcating the land for the solar park. Over two hundred villagers came to the site in protest. A local administration officer came to the scene to mediate. Villagers continued to protest undeterred until they vacated the land. 

Farmer and village politician Balkishan Dhakad has been protesting the land acquisition with others from his community. The local administration have begun to acquire his land in Kawai, the village adjacent to Badi. So, Dhakad is fighting the acquisition in the local court, which had issued a ‘stay order’ pausing the acquisition. The local administration ignored the court order. Villagers contacted the Canary to inform us of the unfolding situation. They told us that before dawn on 28 January 2023, the local administration arrived with large numbers of police officers in riot vests and helmets. They used JCB bulldozers to clear Dhakad’s chickpea crop. 

‘It’s our livelihood’

On the same day, local farmers began a picket outside the District Collector’s office. They were there to protest the seizure of Dhakad’s land. Dhakad has been farming the land there for 60 years. However, the local administration says he is encroaching and that the land is owned by the government. The protest ended on 2 February after six days of picketing the local administration. 

The nearby community in Badi says that they still haven’t heard any news on compensation for their land. When the Canary spoke to them, they said: 

 All we need is land in compensation of land. We don’t need anything else. We are happy, whatever project comes, whatever it is, but all we need is a place where we can do agriculture. At least we should get land in compensation of land, wherever, because that’s our livelihood.

Local farmers protest outside the local administration office after one farmer’s land was forcibly cleared of crops and access restricted. Sign reads: “Long live farmer unity. Forced occupation of hundreds of bighas of land. The court also ordered the Neemuch district administration to acquire hundreds of bighas of land owned by village farmers of tehsil. Against destroying crops and houses, wells and tube wells. Indefinite strike and unrest. From 28 January Location: Outside the [District] Collector’s office”.

Take action for Badi

The UK government and World Bank’s support for this project shows that they are using climate aid to continue an exploitative and extractive capitalist agenda. Climate aid and policy is failing the very people it should help most. 

The government of India may have greenlit the solar parks at Neemuch, Shajapur, and Agar. However, there is still time to take action for the communities the projects will impact.

Write to your MP and ask them to raise the issue of UK climate aid funding these solar parks. Contact the UK government and tell it to ensure companies pay fair compensation to these communities. Tell the UK government that future international climate aid should not fund projects which affect communities in this way. 

One thing is for certain: whether an open-pit coal mine or a solar park, people on the ground will continue to resist. They will fight this new face of colonialism – as communities have always done. The struggle for liberation from colonial climate aid starts in the communities battling these projects. It starts with them stopping governments and corporations dispossessing them of their lands and livelihoods. We owe them our solidarity.

Part two of this series will further examine the colonial basis of climate policies driven by the UK in India.

Featured image via Hannah Sharland 

Additional images via Canary sources

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