Climate Justice in India

Climate Justice in India


  • Indigenous peoples in the north-east of India and the “central tribal belt”



India is a large country with more than 705 ethnic groups called ‘Indigenous Peoples’ and many more ethnic groups yet not officially recognised. These frontline groups are generally marginalised and vulnerable men and women with poor socioeconomic status. The largest concentration of Indigenous peoples in the country are found in seven states of north-east India, and the “central tribal belt” stretching from Rajasthan to West Bengal. One of the characteristics of this most at risk group is that they live by riverbeds, forests, seashores and deep into hinterlands dangerously exposed to and affected by climate change events.

India has several laws and constitutional provisions (such as the Fifth Schedule and the Sixth Schedule) recognising Indigenous peoples’ rights to land and self-governance. However the implementation of these laws has been far from satisfactory.

Industrial encroachments into climatically fragile hinterland has resulted in the displacement of many indigenous communities. The poor and vulnerable have pushed back to either protect their natural habitat or demand fair compensation for their land. Orissa’s Dongri Kondhs and the Baiga tribe of Madhya Pradesh (at sub regional levels) may have become the first Indigenous people to get land ownership rights after a century-long struggle to do so.

Loss of forest cover, ongoing mining activities and expansion of hybrid crops remain direct threats to the food security and survival of Indigenous peoples, who count on forest resources and wild food for their subsistence and survival. North-eastern states, in particular, face a peculiar challenge as communities continue to fight for recognition of ownership over coal, forests and oil resources. As the value of natural resources touches an all-time high, the rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain control over these resources is threatened.

In India, under constitutional provisions, no land can be taken from tribal and Indigenous communities without their written consent and legally determined compensation. In landmark legal cases, due to absence of the consent by indigenous community, large Korean (Pasco) and Indian (Vedanta and Tata Motors) businesses could not acquire land for green field steel, mining and automobile projects, jeopardising investment of over USD 500 billion which, estimates suggest, could have generated over 100,000 jobs for locals leading to improved economic opportunities in the sub-regions.

Currently, India spends over USD 20 billion annually in tackling the climate crisis and protecting those most at risk. With climatic episodes including their displacement getting more recurrent and wide spread, actions from the federal and sub-regional governments to mitigate the climate miseries and displacement of the  people regardless of where they inhabit (rural, semi-urban, and urban areas) calls for more urgent attention. However, those inhabiting in urban and semi urban areas are more likely to benefit from government measures than their counterparts in far flung and difficult to reach remote areas. Equity and costs issues in addressing such damages and compensation issues need more proactive measures. National Green Tribunals (NGT) and National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as independent institutions have been set up through constitutional decrees and are now the national focal points to assess, evaluate and oversee the damages caused based on which people affected by climate and displacement episodes get compensated.

Indian constitutional provisions are designed to well protect rights and land ownership of the most at risk population with cash compensation above market price. What however comes in the way are factors such as poor knowledge of laws by communities, the presence of middlemen, slow speed of courts in processing cases, and out of court settlements.

Leading groups and organizations addressing the issue

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)

41, Tughlakabad Institutional Area New Delhi-110062, India
Phone: (91) (11) 40616000, 29955124, 29956110, 29956394, 29956399
Fax: (91) (11) 29955879
Email:, Website:


The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
Darbari Seth Block,
IHC Complex, Lodhi Road,
New Delhi – 110 003, INDIA
Tel: (+91 11) 2468 2100
Fax: (+91 11) 2468 2144, 2468 2145
Email:, Website:


National Centre for Advocacy Studies (NCAS)

Serenity Complex,
Ramnagar Colony, Pashan,
Pune – 411 021, Maharashtra, INDIA

Tel: +91-20-22952003

Email:, Website:

Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA),

58/D, First Floor, Kurla Kamgar Nagar, S.G. Barve Marg, Kurla (E), Mumbai 400024, Maharashtra, INDIA, Tel : 9152051717
E-Mail :, Website:

Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group
238, Sidhartha Enclave,
New Delhi, India – 110014

Tel: +91-11-29842809

Email:, Website:



A-60, Hauz Khas
New Delhi – 110 016
Phone: +91-11- 26968077 / 26532561/ 26532124
Fax: +91-11-26856795
Email:, Website:

Clean Air Asia

Basement, C-3, Green Park Extension

New Delhi-110016

Tel: +91-11- 65451100

Email:, Website:

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

172 B, Lodhi Estate

New Delhi-110003

Tel: +91-11-41504815

Email:, Website:

India Climate Collaborative (ICC)

TATA House


Email:, Website:


3rd Floor, 8, Balaji Estate

Kalkaji, New Delhi-110019

Tel: +91-11-26440619


This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard India Country Manager Pooran Chandra Pandey


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