A couple of months after Posco-India complained about the state developing cold feet towards acquisition of land for the company’s proposed 12 billion dollar steel plant near Paradip, billed as the country’s largest FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) project, an angry Odisha government has said that it has done its bit and the steel maker now should match up by starting welfare work in the available land to gain the confidence of the local people.
Posco needs about 4,004 acre land for its 12 million tonne steel plant, which includes 2,959 acre of forest land, 608 acre of non-forest land and 437 acre of private land, all stretched over eight villages. Out of this, the government has already acquired about 2,000 acres. But Posco has said, it can start work on the first phase of the project if only it is provided another 700 acres and an approach road to the project site.
“Every possible effort has been made by government of Odisha to complete the process of handing over the balance required land. The activities of administration such as betel vine demolition, tree cutting, demolition of prawn ponds should be accompanied by the activities of Posco-India, viz, construction of rehabilitation colony, providing alternative employment to the landless betel vine laborers and construction of surge protection wall,” said a letter sent by the state steel and mines department to the forest and environment department on Apr 25.
Though Posco has taken up some Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives in the project area by providing free health camps and few other sundry activities, the government contended that the Korean steel company should start some construction work to make the rest of the land acquisition hassle free and to gain the confidence of the supporters.
For example, the displaced families of Noliasahi village who cooperated fully have not been provided with any alternative livelihood nor any rehabilitation benefits till date despite several requests, the letter mentioned.
While a total of 447 families are earmarked to be displaced for the project, Noliasahi is the only village within the site that is going to be completely displaced. Besides, the villagers have never agitated against moving out for the steel plant.
The government further said, though large extent of forest land of 1,600 acre have been cleared along with the tidal river of Jatadhar, Posco has not come forward to construct the surge protection wall on the river bank, which is mandatory under stage two approval received from the union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in May 2011.
However, the forest license is under suspension now after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) last month ordered for a fresh environment impact study for entire 12 million tonne plant and not for four million tonne which is to be constructed in the first phase.
The suspension of the license bars the company from going ahead with project construction work, but there is no restriction on building rehabilitation colony or the surge protection wall.