On december 30, the Union environment ministry gave final clearance to South Korean steel company, posco, to use 1,174 hectares (ha) forestland to build its steel plant near the port city of Paradip in Orissa. The clearance was given after the company deposited Rs 105 crore with the ministry for afforestation to compensate for loss of the forest, said Simanta Mohanty, posco India’s spokesperson.
He said the company is ready to start work as soon as government hands over the land. The total project area for the 12 million tonne capacity steel plant is 1,620 ha; of this 446 ha is non-forest land that includes private land to be acquired from the villages in Nuagaon, Dhinkiya and Gadkuganj panchayats.
State steel and mines secretary, Ashok Dalwai, said the land can be transferred only after the rehabilitation plan is finalized after a meeting of the Rehabilitation and Periphery Development Advisory Committee (rpdac) comprising village representatives and company and government officials. But villagers led by posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (ppss) are clear. “The government may transfer land on paper but there can be no physical transfer as long as we are here,” said Abhay Sahu, chief of ppss.
The Paschim Orissa Krushak Sangthan, a non-profit supporting anti- posco agitationists, said Rs 105 crore is too little a sum to compensate for the loss of forests on which people have depended for a living for generations.
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