Martin, T. (2007). Muting the voice of the local in the age of the global: How communication practices compromised public participation in India’s Allain Dunhangan Environmental Impact Assessment. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 1(2), 171. doi:10.1080/17524030701642595
Public participation is widely lauded as a way to make environmental decisions more democratic, to improve their quality, and to enhance their legitimacy. Scholars and citizens around the world repeatedly complain, however, that public participation frequently serves primarily as a pro forma exercise to defend predetermined decisions rather than as a meaningful opportunity for the affected public to influence decision-making. These critiques persist despite considerable research suggesting ways to improve the quality of public participation. This essay explores this problem by analyzing citizen involvement in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) processes for the Allain Duhangan hydropower project in northern India. It describes how meaningful public involvement was compromised—despite repeated objections by citizens and independent consultants—by four communication practices: (1) failing to provide adequate access to information; (2) predetermining EIA outcomes by controlling the definition of issues (“definitional hegemony”); (3) privileging scientific/technical discourse; (4) utilizing “consultative” forms of communication that promote one-way flows of information rather than more interactive forms that encourage the joint construction of information and values. This study further argues that these practices persist because they serve as acts of power that privilege dominant actors and interests in the larger socio-political context. This analysis thus suggests that altering communication practices that compromise the quality of public participation may require attending to the interaction between communication practices, relations of power, and the larger socio-political context in which public participation takes place.
(2007). Muting the voice of the local in the age of the global: How communication practices compromised public participation in India’s Allain Dunhangan Environmental Impact Assessment. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture
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