Seven years on, the ambitious Posco steel plant-once touted as India's biggest FDI project worth Rs 51,000 crore-is nowhere close to being off the starting block. When the Odisha government signed the MoU with the South Korean steel major for the 12 million tonne project in 2005, work was expected to start immediately. Some opposition from locals was expected but the government had promised to take care of that on a war footing.
Nothing much has changed on the ground. In Jagatsinghpur, the district where the plant was supposed to be based, locals are fighting land acquisition tooth and nail. The government has succeeded in quashing the determined resistance to a large extent but pockets of opposition, such as Govindpur village and Dhinkia gram panchayat, remain.
But the problems for the project run deeper. Of the 4,200 acres of land required for it, more than 3,000 acres are classified as forest land. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, mandates that people living on the land for over 75 years and cultivating it have a natural right over it. They cannot just be thrown out. The project, activists say, violates environmental norms besides destroying the livelihood of thousands of farmers.
There seems to be no clear answer to it as yet. Just when it appeared things would be smooth for the project after the Union Environment Ministry gave it clearance, the National Green Tribunal has raised a fresh obstacle.
"The environment clearance granted on January 31, 2011 to the project shall remain suspended till such review and appraisal is done by the ministry," a bench comprising Justice CV Ramulu and Devendra Kumar Agarwal held. It noted that the MoU was signed for a 12 million tonne project but the environment impact assessment of the ministry takes into consideration only the 4 million tonne steel production planned in the first phase. It says the ministry should have done the assessment for the....