POSCO• Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Gadkujang; Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa -POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samithi, a peaceful movement of affected communities, has been systematically raising the deep, inter-generational and irreversible impacts of allowing a massive project to come up in the ecologically sensitive Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa.
Anti Posco Movement, OrissaThis struggle began with the inkingof a most controversial MOUbetween Orissa State and KoreasPohang Steel (POSCO) in 2005,proposing to establish the largestindustrial project ever conceived inhuman history: A 12 MTPA steel plant backedby captive power plant; a captiveport(described as "small" but designedto receive the largest commercialships ever built - of CAPESIZEvariety); a large township toaccommodate over 100000 people;a large captive mine in Kandadhar(600 MT for local processing and400 MT for export over 30 years); fresh water intake from over 100kms. away (while denying manytowns and cities drinking water)and extensive road and railinfrastructure to support the project.
Ecosystem• The 4000 acres of land chosen for the plant site comprise of pristine coastal and deltaic ecosystems, with active nesting sites for the critically endangered Olive Ridley Turtles and the Horse Shoe Crabs. Over a third of this land comprises of coastal forests. Over 22000 people will be directly displaced by the steel plant alone, a number that has been repeatedly disputed by Orissa Government based on its spurious claims.
Amid betel vines, Orissa villages draw battle lines• Absolutely no impact assessment of any academic rigour worth its salt or regulatory review of value considering the mega scale of this project, has at all been conducted to support the project is environmentally and socially useful. In fact, the so-called Rapid Environment Impact Assessment reports prepared by M/s Dastur for POSCO India, was only for 4 MTPA steel production and not for the entire project as is required by law.
Traditional livelihoods threatened• Cultivators of betel vines, rice and cashew nuts in Dhinkia village, in the coastal part of the state, are protesting the steel plant because they fear losing their livelihoods. A cultivator at present earns between 25,000-30,000 rupees ($561-$673) a month by selling betel vine leaves, which are used to wrap paan, a bundle of spices and sometimes tobacco that is chewed as a digestive. They consider this a job better than the one promised as a laborer at the proposed steel plant. “Work in the steel plant won’t be as good as betel vine farming, which gives us a decent earning by just working eight to 10 days a month,” says a cultivator
Fraudulent clearances• Clearly against statutory standards and norms, the project was still accorded environmental, forest and coastal regulation zone clearances in 2007. In addition, the Orissa Government engaged the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) to cook up data claiming the benefits from the project as phenomenal, which when verified even cursorily proved to be junk statistics supporting desperate political games promoting the project.
Review of clearances• Mr. Ramesh agreed to constitute a sub-Committee under the N. C. Saxena Committee reviewing Forest Rights Act implementation, to also enquire if the POSCO projects forest clearances were compliant with the Forests Rights Act enacted only in 2006.• Producing their report the Committee put beyond any reasonable doubt that the forest clearances accorded were in comprehensive violation of the Forest Rights Act. A right step taken soon after by the Minister was to stay the forest clearance accorded - a decision taken that was taken at a time when brutal dislocation of forest dwelling communities was underway by the Orissa Government.• Subsequently, Ramesh ordered an independent enquiry into all aspects of the projects clearance coordinated by Ms. Meena Gupta, former MoEF Environment Secretary, with Mr. Devendra Pandey (IFS, Retd.), former Director of Forest Survey of India, Mr. V. Suresh, Advocate and PUCL activist and Dr. Urmila Pingle, expert on tribal affairs, as members.
Review of clearances• Following three months of deliberate and extensive consultations, and also detailed investigation into all aspects of the clearances accorded, and on the basis of detailed verification of compliance review files the Committee by a majority decision (3:1) comprehensively rejected all the clearances granted to the project. Ms. Meena Gupta who stood up for the POSCO project, dubiously recommended additional conditions to adjust against serious statutory violations and fraud in the decision making process• In the subsequent review by Statutory Appraisal Committees of the MoEF, the Committees reviewing the Forest and Coastal Clearances recommended withdrawal of clearances granted. The only Committee that proposed a go-ahead was the one reviewing the environmental impacts under the EIA Notification.
Villagers resist Posco land acquisition drive• POSCO, though a Korean company, is held largely by American corporations, and no less than Warren Buffet holds 5% stake in this transnational corporation. For the single largest project FDI investment in India at 2005 prices (Rs. 51,000 crores or USD 12 billion capital cost), analysis reveal that this investment can be recovered in less than a decade given the pittance of a royalty that POSCO will pay for iron ore extracted. (Rs. 30/tonne at the official ore valuation of Rs. 300/tonne, compared with the commercial value of Rs. 7,000/tonne).• It is to make such unprecedented profits from the plunder of Indias natural resources that POSCO demanded a coastal location for its super large CAPESIZE ships to be berthed to cart away our precious iron ore.• What India would be left with is the toxic residue of its dirty ore processing, while the refined ore (perhaps not even the finished steel) would be exported to Korea and elsewhere to add more value to POSCOs profits.
The struggle continues• Since May, over 2,000 children, men and women have been forming human barricades around Dhinkia village, in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, according to local activists.• The struggle against POSCO in Jagatsinghpur will continue. The struggle against exploitation of tribal, farming and fishing communities of Orissa will continue. The battle to expose corruption in the Orissa Government and the Union Government (especially MoEF) will continue.• This is a struggle to expose the most corrupt and socially and environmentally disastrous deal ever legitimised in Indias history.