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No to Mining in Orissa: POSCO Project

Activists are against a steel project in Orissa by a company from South Korea. It calls the project a massive resource-grab by a multinational corporation. A Siliconeer report.

A padayatra in Orissa against the establishment of a steel plant by the South Korean multinational POSCO.

The Mining Zone People Solidarity Group has strongly condemned the stated intent of the Orissa government to renew its Memorandum of Understanding with the Indian subsidiary of the Pohang Iron and Steel Company of South Korea.

The MoU, originally signed on June 22, 2005, proposed an investment of $12 billion for the setting up of an integrated steel plant and related mining, water and transportation projects. About 4,000 acres of land was identified for the steel project, a further 2,000 acres for township development, and unspecified “additional land pockets for development” for related projects.

MZPSG says that the Orissa government and POSCO are marketing the project as a source of prosperity and employment, when it is really a massive resource-grab by a multinational corporation, a resource grab that dispossesses the affected communities of their homes and livelihoods. About three-fourths of the land sanctioned for the steel plant is officially classified as forest lands, and diversion of such land would have to satisfy the strictures of the Forest Rights Act. However, in its zeal to clear the way for the project, the Orissa government has willfully violated the FRA, held sham “public hearings” under heavy army presence to muzzle opposition, and working alongside thugs hired by POSCO, has unleashed large-scale violence against the affected communities.

Far from fulfilling its constitutional duties and holding POSCO to the law of the land, the state government has acted more as a dalaal, a facilitator and enforcer for POSCO. As MZPSG collective member Tathagata Sengupta observed: “The state’s intent was laid bare in the wording of the MoU, section 7(iv) of which reads: ‘The Government of Orissa will facilitate the process of obtaining various approvals expeditiously for the Company.’ It was no secret that POSCO and the state were on the same side and have since acted in concert to crush opposition from the affected citizens, the very citizens whose interests the state is supposed to protect.”

In its bid to “facilitate” the project, the state government also commissioned socio-economic cost-benefit analyses that come to glowing conclusions about the benefits to the state. But these analyses are deeply flawed. They ignore the reality of the thriving local economy, severely underestimate the costs, and exaggerate the alleged benefits of the project. The environmental impact studies have been equally flawed and ignore many obvious factors. For instance, the possibility of flooding due to the captive port at Paradeep and drought caused by the water-guzzling steel plant (to the tune of about 300 million liters per day).

In view of multiple, severe violations of legal process, MZPSG initiated a petition drive <http://www.petitiononline.com/p210610/petition.html> on the eve of the MoU expiration demanding its non-renewal. Despite the short notice, the petition has been endorsed by more than three hundred individuals and organizations. The petition, addressed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and National Advisory Council chair Sonia Gandhi, expresses concern at the authoritarian actions of the state and central governments and urges proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act.

Mining Zone People Solidarity Group is a global collective of teachers, students and professionals of South Asian origin. The collective aims to assess the impacts of large-scale mining in India on the lives of communities and ecosystems, and to develop and share strategies in confronting the state apparatus and the mining industry about their unacceptable policies and practices.


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EDITORIAL: Bhopal Betrayed
CULTURE: Qawwali: Amjad Sabri
HERITAGE: Shanghai by the Bay
PERFORMANCE: Jai Ho? Sukhwinder
RECIPE: Cheese Veggie Pan Cake
SUBCONTINENT: The Maoist Challenge
TRAVEL: Tryst with a Bandido
AUTO REVIEW: 2010 Honda Element SC
ENVIRONMENT: No to Mining in Orissa
BOLLYWOOD: Film Review: Raavan
BUSINESS: New Briefs
COMMUNITY: News in Brief

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