MAC: Mines and Communities

Memorandum To Pm On Posco

Published by MAC on 2007-04-16
Source: Kalinga Times ()

MEMORANDUM TO PM ON POSCO

KalingaTimes Correspondent

16th April 2007

Bhubaneswar: Four non-Congress Opposition parties of Orissa on Monday sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prevent any untoward incident in the POSCO project area in the State's Jagatsinghpur district.

In a memorandum to the Prime Minister, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Orissa Gana Parishad and Janata Dal (S) submitted that the Naveen Patnaik Government had created a war-zone like situation in the project area by making heavy police deployment during the past few days.

"We protest the misplaced notion of the Naveen Patnaik-led government that equates sustainable development with forced land grab to promote industrial growth," they said.

The four senior leaders who signed the memorandum are Janardan Pati of CPI (M), Bijay Mohapatra of OGP, Nityananda Pradhan of CPI and Krushna Chandra Patro of JD(S).

They said deployment of massive police force in the area where land had been designated for the Korean firm's proposed steel mill had triggered fear in the minds of the local who were against opposing the project.

"Amidst tension, the villagers suspect that there could be tragic repeat of brutal action against them as happened earlier in Kalinga Nagar," they said.

The leaders submitted that the State Government seemed to gearing up for use of force to acquire land for the POSCO project despite the Centre's stand that force would not be used for acquiring land for SEZ areas.

Observing that they were not opposed to industrialisation, the leaders said that "industrialisation should not be at the cost of the people".

They demanded that the project should be shifted to a barren stretch instead of allowing it to come up in lush green fertile agriculture land. ActionAid urges government to intervene on POSCO issue http://southasia.oneworld.net/article/view/148242/1/1893--- As women in three Orissan panchayats guard barricades to protect their villages, anti-poverty agency ActionAid is calling on central government to prevent the state from violating environmental guidelines and denying local people a voice in a hearing on projects proposed by Korean steel giant POSCO which are set to displace seven villages.

The Naveen Patnaik government in Orissa signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2005 with POSCO to set up an export-oriented 12 million tonne a year steel plant and marine port at Jatadhar river mouth near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district. A public hearing on the case, a legal requirement, has set for April 15.

ActionAid, which has been working with fishing communities, dalits and other marginalised groups in the area since 1999, wrote to the central Ministry of Environment and Forests on April 5, 2007 requesting that the public hearing be postponed and local people are given the mandatory one month to go through documents before the meeting.

"There are grave concerns over the POSCO public hearing. Not just over failure to disseminate the necessary information to those affected, but also on the choice of venue which is too far from the affected villages and will prevent many local people taking part," says Madhumita Ray, programme manager with ActionAid's Bhubaneshwar office.

The latest Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification by government of India dated 14 September 2006, lays down in detail procedures the State Pollution Control Board should follow in arranging a public hearing. State authorities are liable to share the draft EIA report with affected communities in advance of the public hearing but it has not yet reached the three panchayats concerned.

The EIA guidelines also state that the public hearing should be arranged "for ensuring the widest public participation at the project site or in its close proximity." With plans to hold the hearing 25 kilometers away in Kujang, the guidelines are clearly being flouted.

"The venue for public hearing is 20-25 km away from our village. If we attend the hearing it would mean losing a day's work and Rs 50-60 on commuting," explains a woman from one of the affected villages who spoke to ActionAid.

ActionAid's Ray says foul play cannot be ruled out: "A public hearing should be conducted in a systematic and transparent manner ensuring widest public participation. Such disregard of due process at best points to ignorance of official procedure and at worst, connivance between the state government and POSCO to manufacture consensus without the consent of those affected."

As the date of the public hearing draws closer, there is also growing anxiety among villagers after an estimated 1000 police are stationed at the venue of the public hearing following a sudden visit of a team of high-ranking police officials a couple of days back headed by the Director General.

"Large numbers of police are marching around the area. We have said we do not want POSCO here. Are they planning to use force to move us or silence us?" asks a villager who spoke to ActionAid and does not want to be named.

Killings over land disputes in Orissa's Kalingar Nagar in January 2006 and Nandigram in the neighbouring state of West Bengal last month are still fresh in people's minds.

ActionAid and local groups are concerned that if the POSCO project goes ahead, a vibrant agrarian and fishing economy where people grow two paddy crops a year and women often earn an income from bamboo cane and livestock rearing will be destroyed.

"Clearance for the project would not only mean the loss of homes and livelihoods but would also play havoc with estuarine ecosystems, protected forests and the migratory path of endangered Olive Ridley turtles," says Ray.

"POSCO will be a poor alternative for farmers who will turn into labourers in their own fields."

The POSCO project would bring a total of 5,20,000 million rupees, the highest ever Foreign Direct Investment in the country and requires as much as 4,004 acres of land to be acquired at the project site.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Orissa and POSCO allows POSCO to exploit the best of the coal and iron ore mines of the State for a period of 30 years and to construct their own railways, roadways and an 86 km long pipe-line for carrying fresh water from Mahanadi barrage at Cuttack to salinity-prone project site at Jatadhar mouth.

Project plans involve displacement of seven villages from three panchayats. Protests by local people have been going on for the last 14 months. Villagers have erected guarded barricades to prevent state authorities or company personnel from entering their villages.

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:

Madhumita Ray, Programme Manager, ActionAid Bhubeneshwar office: 09437 052 961Pragya Vats in ActionAid's media team in Delhi: 09868 424 692

SPECIFIC DEMANDS

1. The Ministry of Environment and Forests, government of India should immediately enquire into the circumstances and motives behind violation of the norms of EIA Notification 2006 by the Orissa State Pollution Control Board and other concerned authorities entrusted with the conduction of Public Hearing Process relating to draft EIA Reports for POSCO.

2. The Board and all other authorities concerned with Public Hearing Process should ensure availability of full and summary texts of POSCO EIA Reports through hard and soft copies (in both English and the local language Oriya) and also through their respective websites, so as to enable the public to review the documents.

3. In view of the non-compliance of the EIA norms for public hearing by the concerned authorities including State Pollution Control Board, the proposed date of 15th April for public hearing should be postponed.

4. The District Collector Jagatsinghpur should withdraw his provocative letter dated 30th March issued to several leaders of affected panchayats who were targetted, and ensure they receive all draft EIA Reports, along with maintenance of a cool and peaceful environment in the concerned villages to enable effective participation of villagers in the public hearing process.

5. The Chief Minister of Orissa should take action to ensure that all the concerned authorities of state government fully comply with the norms laid down in the EIA Notification 2006, so as to ensure a proper conduction of the public hearing process relating to POSCO proposed projects.

ActionAid End poverty. Together.

ActionAid is an international anti-poverty agency working in over 40 countries, taking sides with poor people to end poverty and injustice together.

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