POSCO, a South Korean steel-making company backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is beset by falling profits and a seven year delay to its Indian project in Gobindapur, Odisha (formerly Orissa), which has been strongly opposed by local residents who live and work in the area proposed for the steel plant.
There have been allegations that the federal and state governments illegally tried to take lands and forests for the project, in violation of the Forest Rights Act, and claims that the project will only benefit POSCO while displacing more people than it employs, damaging the environment and taking India’s mineral resources at a very low price.
POSCO says that 466 families are likely to be displaced and comments that considering the investment and project size, this is not a big number (!). As betel vine cultivators, cashew growers & local fishermen will lose their livelihood if the project goes ahead, POSCO’s Rehabilitation and Peripheral Development Advisory Committee decided “to give a compensation of Rs 11.5 lakh per acre of encroachment in the form of Betel vine and monthly allowance of Rs 2,250/- per labour for a year for sustaining their livelihood till alternate engagement. Provision of fishing jetty and boats have been made by RPDAC in the meeting held on 7/7/2010”.
On Wednesday, amid mounting criticism of police repression of protesting villagers at the proposed POSCO plant site, some of whom have been injured, the Odisha government stalled land acquisition in the area. The Times of India reports:
”Officials backed by armed police had begun uprooting betel vines in the morning for the fourth straight day in Gobindapur village, but were forced to halt the operation at around noon when hundreds of women and children formed a human barricade obstructing the work.
”Tension mounted when protesters lying on the ground refused to leave, while the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti leader Abhaya Sahoo remained seated under a tree at a distance continuing his indefinite dharna demanding complete discontinuance of land acquisition”.
It is alleged that the project doesn’t have environment clearance from the ministry to begin construction. The POSCO website says that the final clearance, granted in January, 2011, was reviewed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF).
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) is to review the additional conditions imposed by (MOEF). A four member committee was formed on 29th May, 2012 to look into the additional conditions.
A petition has been set up and may be signed here.