Clean energy or food? Asian nations grapple with new demands on land

(Reuters News, 10 Sep 2019) With many in Asia still dependent on farming and fishing, there is a real risk that large-scale renewable energy projects will change land use and hurt communities, say experts.

Huge renewable energy projects planned in Asia, such as solar parks and hydropower dams, risk accelerating the conversion of farmland, uprooting communities and destroying livelihoods, energy experts and human rights activists warned on Tuesday.

As they look to curb climate changing emissions, some of the most rapid transitions to renewable energy are taking place in countries such as China, India and across Southeast Asia.

But with many in the region still dependent on farming and fishing, there is a real risk that large-scale renewable energy projects will change land use and hurt poor communities, said Harjeet Singh, global climate change lead at charity ActionAid.

"This shift and expansion will have significant implications for farmers, indigenous communities, ecosystems and water sources. The risks include land grabbing, destruction of forests and water bodies, and displacement," he said.

"There is a need to ensure that the new solutions don't create different injustices, inequalities, and cause more environmental destruction", including from mining for minerals such as copper, cobalt, lithium and rare earth metals, he said.

More than three people were murdered each week last year while protecting their land from encroaching industries, with a four-fold increase in killings related to conflicts over water, according to Britain-based human rights group Global Witness.

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Reuters News, 10 Sep 2019: Clean energy or food? Asian nations grapple with new demands on land