MAC: Mines and Communities

Tisco's SEZ proposal faces storm of protests

Published by MAC on 2006-09-22

Tisco's SEZ proposal faces storm of protests

Statesman News Service

BERHAMPUR, Sept. 21: The plan by Tisco (Tata Iron & Steel Co.) to set up an SEZ (Special Economic Zone) near Gopalpur port has run into rough weather as questions on whether the area acquired for a particular purpose can be used for another are being raised in several quarters.

The Tisco's proposed SEZ will come up on the land it had acquired in the nineties for establishing a steel plant. But the steel plant project never took off. The big question being asked now is whether the land acquired for steel plant project be reused for the SEZ. The environmentalists and the traditional fishermen also stand in the way of Tisco project.

A case filed by Gana Sangram Samity, which spearheaded the anti-Tisco agitation in Ganjam district, is still pending in the court of law where the Samity had prayed for the return of land to the displaced families.

Mr Prafulla Samantra, the convener of Lokshakti Abhiyan, according to law, over 3,400 acres of land the Tisco had acquired shall not remain with the company as Tisco had failed to utilise the land for the purpose it was acquired as mentioned in the MoU.

His organisation also mulls over approaching the court to restrict the Tisco from using the land acquired by it for establishing steel plant for any other purpose. He alleged that there were 87 oustee families from villages such as Chamakhandi, Kalipalli, Paikapada and Badaputi who had not yet got their compensation for the lost homestead land.

He admitted that the state government has the power to let Tisco utilise the land for any purpose other than the one for which it was acquired. When contacted, the former BJP MP of Berhampur, Mr Anadi Sahu, said legally speaking, the state government can allow the Tisco to use the land for setting up SEZ as the government is the ultimate owner of the land.

According to him, the state government will have to begin a process to bring in a change in the purpose of utilisation of the acquired land. The process will involve a fresh notification inviting objections, if there are any from the people affected by it, have to be .

Mr Samantra and members of the Orissa Traditional Fish Workers' Union (OTFWU), however, feel that establishment of any SEZ by diluting CRZ norms would hamper the interests of traditional fishermen and environment.

According to him, the CRZ notification of 1991 had undergone 20 amendments diluting the restrictions meant to protect the coastal environment.

He also added that Swaminathan Committee recommendations had further diluted the CRZ regulations. Thes committee never took the opinion of traditional fishermen into account. According to him, if SEZ is established on Ganjam coast it will lead to the displacement of fishermen colonies as the company owning the SEZ will not allow them to park their boats and dry their nets and fish products on the coast.

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