Skip to main content

People of Odisha have not yet given up struggle against Posco, which has "acquired" 2,700 acres for steel project

By Kanchi Kohli*
The battlelines have been drawn like never before. While the Odisha state government and Posco India Ltd have made categorical statements that they have acquired 2,700 acres for an eight million tonnes steel project, the agitations in Gobindpur and Dhinkia continue. Each day there are incidents of a tussle when efforts are made to forcibly cut betel vines and dig trenches to construct a boundary wall for the Posco project. There are emphatic statements that land acquisition has been completed, all permissions are in place and construction work will begin soon.
From the other side, there are determined statements that indicate that people of the area have not given up despite an eight-year struggle. They are ready to return to their homes and their betel vines that have been destroyed in the tussle for power. Far away from the site of the contest, legal battles and the opinions of experts continue to ascertain the future of the people of Jagatsinghpur where an investment of `52,000 crore is directed at the construction of a captive steel plant, power plant and port. Many livelihoods dependant on betel vine cultivation, agriculture and fishing in the villages of Dhinkia, Gobindapur, Nuagaon, Polanga, Bhuyanpai, Bayanal, Kandah, Noliasahi and Jatadhar will be affected by the project.
When Posco signed its MoU with the Odisha government way back in 2005, their intention was to set up a 12 MTPA steel plant along with several other components of the project. The first public hearing for the project in April 2007 was for the construction of a 4 MTPA steel plant, a 400 MW power plant along with a captive port. Even as permissions for the above were granted in July and May 2007 respectively, Posco continued to acquire land keeping in mind its final steel plant of 12 MTPA. Posco’s website says they will complete the project in three phases, constructing the steel plant to accommodate 4 MTPA capacity each time, with the first phase to be completed by 2016-17.
With various legal issues and battles on the ground, alongside assessments commissioned by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Posco first received its environment clearance in 2007 which was reviewed through the recommendations of the MoEF constituted Meena Gupta Committee’s reports in 2010. A final environment clearance (issued under the Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006) was granted on January 31, 2011. For all practical purposes this was to be considered the final clearance as project activity had not begun on the proposed site. In May and June 2012, the environment clearances granted to Posco in 2007 also expired given that they were to be valid only for a period of five years.
Meanwhile both the 2011 and 2007 approvals were challenged before the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The tribunal on 30 March 2012 issued a strong judgment upholding that there was indeed a lacuna in the manner in which the approval for Posco had been granted. The tribunal said that it was necessary to ensure optimum use of land (both forest and non-forest) being acquired for Posco keeping in mind a 4 MTPA plant. The company had carried out an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) as well as the public hearing process on the basis of this capacity. Based on this and several other contentions a fresh review of the environment clearance was to take place.
In mid 2012, two parallel processes began in the MoEF. The first was the process of revalidation of the 2007 clearances and the second the setting up of an expert committee under K.Roy Paul, Former Secretary to the Government of India. The process of revalidation and the review by the Roy Paul committee took place simultaneously till all the documents were placed in a meeting of the MoEF Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) for industrial projects in March 2013. In this meeting Posco contented that while they are currently pursuing the plan for a 4 MTPA plant, their final intention is to set up a 12 MTPA plant which has not changed. At this stage the EAC sought a revised layout design for not just a 4 MTPA plant but also an 8 MTPA one. 
Many of the contentions made in the Roy Paul Committee report which was submitted to the MoEF in October 2012 did not seem to have been discussed by the EAC, if one is to go by the official minutes of the meeting. In fact the Roy Paul committee had recommended that a range of studies should be carried out by the project proponent related to shoreline changes, source sustainability study of water requirement, marine environmental conservation plan, the impact on the local fishing community etc, which don’t find mention as well.
One of the foremost observations of the Roy Paul committee was that Posco should state unambiguously whether the reduced project area based on land optimisation for 4 MTPA will be able to accommodate all its future expansion plans. The report observes that based on information provided, the project area had been reduced to 2,700 acres by leaving out most of the private land in Govindpur and Dhinkia villages and the portion of forest land where betel vines were being grown by people of these villages. This implies that the project would be constructed around these villages implying these lands are not to be acquired only in the current proposal.
In the subsequent meeting of the EAC of 16-17th May this year, the expert committee recommended the revalidation of the approval for an 8 MTPA plant. What is ironic is that the original application as well as the EIA report of 2007 is all based on the impact assessment of a plant of 4 MTPA capacity. Although the final approval letter from the MoEF is yet to be issued, it is questionable how an approval for 8 MTPA has been recommended by the EAC.
Posco’s legal tussles are also back in the NGT in another form. An application has been filed highlighting that Posco has been carrying out felling of trees on 1253.225 ha of forest land without the final forest clearance order being issued by the Odisha state government. This application builds on the reiteration and interpretation of both the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980, by the NGT Act which states that the permission for diverting forest land for non-forest purposes under Section 2 of the FCA by the MoEF needs to be followed by an order of the state government as well. No construction work on the project can begin till the order of the state government has been issued. In Posco’s case this has not happened.
As per a Right to Information (RTI) response received on March 13 this year to an application filed by Chandranath Dani, the Odisha state government has confirmed that no such order has been issued. Based on this and additional contentions the NGT on May 28 stayed the felling of trees by the company. On July 11 this order was allowed to continue till the next hearing of the case on  August 12.
There are other legal procedures that are likely to crop up for Posco. In the 16th May meeting of the EAC (Industry) a recommendation has been made that Posco should obtain an additional CRZ clearance for discharge of wastewater into the sea through a pipeline. This process is yet to begin.
For the people of India the eight-year-old tryst with Posco has many lessons. There are international and national reports highlighting a list of human rights and regulatory violations that the history of the project is marred with. In Jagatsinghpur, each day is a new day for villagers who don’t know what form of aggression will come their way and how they will be able to withstand it. The fact is that the people of the area have not given up. What is clear for now is that Posco is certainly not a closed chapter.
---
* Kanchi Kohli is a well-known researcher and publicist on environment governance and biodiversity conservation related issues. Kohli's article, also published in  http://www.civilsocietyonline.com, has been shared with www.counterview.net

Comments

TRENDING

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

GoI's productivity linked incentives to corporates 'without independent analysis'

Counterview Desk  Wondering how prudent is the Government of India's (GoI's) Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, EAS Sarma, former secretary, GoI, in a representation to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister, has said it appears to be nothing more than subsidy to the private sector without any responsibility. Giving a specific example against the backdrop of announcement of 50% subsidy covering the project cost of the Vedanta Group's decision to set up a semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, in collaboration with Foxconn, Sarma says, "The total cost of this project is reported to be Rs 1,54,000 crore. 50% of this works out to Rs 77,000 crore." Stating that this creates the impression that the entire subsidy allocation for the semiconductor manufacturing sector would be appropriated by this company, Sarma says, "The Gujarat government did not lag behind in liberally announcing similar incentives for the Vedanta-Foxconn project. It offered 7

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Diminishing returns: Hydro projects contribute less than 10% of India's power generation

Counterview Desk  Pointing out that India’s hydro generation remains around 10% for the last six years, the advocacy group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has said that power generation from hydropower projects continues to show diminishing returns, as has been the story close to three decades now. Yet, says SANDRP in a note, the Government of India continues to push large hydro by announcing a slew of additional subsidies for hydropower projects, more for political economy reason. In fact, attempts are being made to flog unviable hydropower projects with various kind of manipulations, illegalities and violations, it adds. Text : In last six years, from 2016-17 to 2021-22, India’s large hydropower projects (projects above 25 MW installed capacity) have contributed just around 10% of the total power generation, going as low as 9.68% in 2017-18. In fact, in three of these six years, large hydro contributed less than 10% and recovering only marginally in the rest,

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.