Home STATE CIVIL SOCIETY Kendujhar Citizens’ Forum on ArcelorMittal’s exit

Kendujhar Citizens’ Forum on ArcelorMittal’s exit

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The following statement by KCF has been reproduced in its entireity

AFTER  THE DEPARTURE OF ARCELOR-MITTAL FROM KENDUJHAR

A reflection on the industrialization policy and practice

keonjhar mining

After decades of waiting for value addition to our Iron ore within the district of Kendujhar, Govt of Orissa commenced directing some steel majors towards our district for possible location of their production units. In Sep 2007, the resident Citizens were congratulating Arcellor Mittals for a very professional decision for their 12 million ton integrated green field steel plant in our district.

It was likely that in their study, most of the possible location criteria had been optimized for Patna block close to Baitarani River. Factors like nearness to raw materials, nearness to markets and ports, availability of water, cheap land, communication, bulk transport infrastructure, mainly road and rail, and power supply, and such other techno-economic aspects must have been quantified and analysed. As soon as the studies gave indication of the exact choice of location of these production units, it raised hackles in certain quarters, and caused some public display of resistance, both genuine and motivated. This had set the well meaning Citizens of Kendujhar to rethinking on all plus and minus aspects.

The voice of dissent in several attempts of public contacts indicated that their consultants have deftly avoided several social and political considerations. Citizens’ Forum, at the fore front of projecting the genuine interests of the district, has had no opportunity to discuss with any of the parties concerned, namely the Govt, or the investors or, the effected people. Knowing the divisive politics currently in vogue, the cross currents of interests from far and wide (from inter corporate rivalry to competition between steel and Aluminum), the CSR compulsions of an international investor, and such other aspects, the Citizens of Kendujhar watched the picture unfolding helplessly. This paper will attempt to highlight some of the aspects which their consultants might have overlooked in their judgment and the factors that might have disturbed the un-informed public.

AGRICULTURAL LAND FOR INDUSTRY

The choice of all these prospective mega investors in steel, converging on to the upper Baitarani basin, has raised some eye brows, if not open public outcry. We Citizens of Kendujhar know that almost the entire upper Baitarani basin , from Basudebpur where it enters the plane, up to Bhimkund, where the rapids begin, is one big fertile stretch of land, enriched by the humus flow from the western hilly stretch of catchments area, whose drainage is provided by a large number of tributaries falling into Baitarani. The climate at this moderate elevation is rated as very good not only for regular and cash crops, but also for horticulture, sericulture, medicinal plantation, and flori culture.These fertile stretches of land have been brought to the current developed state, not by the current generation, but by many generations of hard toil.

WEAKNESS IN AGRICULTURE

The current weakness in agriculture and allied activities, arerooted mainly in the land holding pattern, skill & knowledge, and investment in agriculture infrastructure. The distinct lack of interest in agriculture in the current generation is because agriculture as a vocation has become an un-viable economic activity. It does not attract our youth who now look for more of glamour than commitment to a profession. But this is only a recent, and, may be, a temporary phenomenon. This, surely, could not be construed as a reason for taking away their ancestral land permanently for use in industry from the current generation.  The generation next may have a different view on the subject. After all cultivable productive lands are not made in one generation. Therefore, some of these resistances against handing over agricultural land for perpetuity may, thus, be quite genuine. This also goes parallel to the policy of the current Govt in power, both in state and at union level. The solutions to the need for massive rural employment generation, food security in both local and national level, and appropriate price mechanism are already on the anvil. Plans are in the offing for massive Govt effort to substantially increase Govt support  in this sector. This will restore our youth back to our rural areas, to an otherwise noble and enterprising profession, to a better environment, away from the current urban chaos. There is a great wisdom in bringing many facilities to rural areas, which will provide supportive ‘Hinter Land’ to the steel complexes in many ways.

DIDR (DEVELOPMENT INDUCED DISPLACEMENT AND REHABILITATION)

Sociologists agree that DIDR in large scale leaves deep scars in a less evolved society. Unethical political system takes advantage of the same to create problems in perpetuity. High aspirations of the people dampen even the most transparent RR package. Corruption and ‘Non-delivery’ makes up for the rest. There is, therefore, wisdom in choosing areas for large industrialization, where the number of people & families, both land owners and land less dependents; be it private, revenue, or forest; are bare minimum. The poorer the people, the easier it may be on pockets of those who pay the monetary compensation, but the consequent trauma is always very much deeper and longer.

LAND IN EXCESS OF INDUSTRIAL NEED

The investors tend to acquire much more land than their actual need. Some of them quote ‘Thumb Rules’, mostly even without a project paper on the drawing board. Huge requirement is projected in the name of raw material handling and storage, huge townships and their support systems, and finally future expansion. While understanding some of these needs, the Citizens tend to compare similar production units elsewhere, and do not quite appreciate the excess needs in a backward area. After all land is commodity in great shortage. And therefore, the need to acquire land when it is cheap may be a commercial wisdom of the investor, but the judicious land use is the responsibility of the society as a whole, with least conflict of interests. Therefore, the need of Arcelor-Mittals, of over 8000 acres of farm and forest land, with 15 farming villages within was always a difficult proposition.

One way to reduce the land requirement was to make a smart design of a steel mill for energy/ water conservation, lowering the inventory by good supply chain management, an efficient transportation system of pipes and conveyor belts etc. A second way would be to leave the domestic accommodation support to industrial workers to come from the surrounding villages. The welfare facilities like education, healthcare, and amusement could be centrally created. The intermingling of steel makers and the villagers could establish a mutual support system to the benefit of all, leaving a more harmonious community for all times to come. The trauma of DIDR could be substantially reduced.

FORESTS AND  FORESTABLE LAND FOR INDUSTRY

It is a common scientific knowledge that trees in forests and planted orchards provide the basic mechanism for the soil to hold on to the underground water. Depletion of tree cover not only loosens the soil making it prone to erosion, and excessive loss due to evaporation, but also lowers the underground water due to deficient capillary action. There is great wisdom in protecting the existing forest cover and planting all kinds of trees, preferably native varieties. Therefore, the use of such land for industry is acceptable, only if the industry has extensive plantation programme around the production units as well as in the open town ship areas, which will ultimately have minimum adverse effect on the underground water table. Such commitments must be binding on the industry because, forests, thus created, would continue to absorb most of the pollutants from the industrial efflux and balance the ecology, at least partially.

A POSSIBILITY EXCLUSIVE TO KENDUJHAR

 The Mining officials of Kendujhar District inform us that about 29,000 Hectares out of the total 34,000 Hectares of mining lease area of our district, are in Champua sub-division in the North, mainly around Joda-Barbil, in 98 mines. In these, there are as much as 19,000 Hectares of forest land. The rest of 10,000 hectares(~25,000 acres) are Non-forest, mostly Govt revenue land and little or, no private land. Surprisingly, the Citizens also found that only about 6000 Hectares of forest land has been approved from out of 19,000 hectares for diversion for ‘Mining’ purpose, and the rest remains with the lease holders, for possible diversion in future. These are official figures obtained through RTI from both Forest and Mining Dept. and are only rounded for ease of appreciation.

  The point that we are trying to make is that

·         there is enough land in and around the mining areas where ‘displacement’ of people will be absolute minimum. Finding only 3000 Hectares of land for a  ‘Mega’ steel investor should not have been a problem.

·         The land there is not very fertile because of heavy iron content in the soil. Farm land and farmers are minimum.

·         Water can be sourced from both Baitarani and Karo rivers.

·         The best of the public road (4/6 lane) infrastructure are already coming up to cover the entire area.

·         New rail links, now doubled and electrified, are already functional up to ports and steel production centres.

·          A 400 MVA grid Station by ‘Power Grid’ is nearing completion.

·         If Banspani-Bimlagarh, and Kendujhargarh-Badampahar are connected by rail as proposed, by electric traction, then all of them will have easy access to energy (Coal).

·         The heaviest raw material, Iron ore, will not be transported but conveyed by conveyor belts, making big difference in favour of competetive cost of steel making.

·         Besides, the entire Champua sub division has already been rendered ecologically fragile due to extensive mining activities.

·         The solid waste disposal of steel units and ‘Mine Closure’ plans could be effectively co-ordinated to avoid the ‘Slug hills’ as in other steel centres.

·         The largest Mine Lease holder of our district, namely OMC, could part with a small portion of its holding of over 6000 Ha of unutilised but quality ML area, out sourced to Arcellor-Mittals for operation, exactly the way it is currently done(compromising Rule-37 of MCR 60) by most of the mines in Kendujhar through all kinds of ‘Back to Back’ agreements.

IN CONCLUSION

Therefore any sincere and serious investor may be coaxed to have re-look at their locational suggestion. It is definitely not too late to weigh the new points, which were possibly overlooked. In fact ‘FLEXIBILITY ‘REMAINS AN IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE OF WAR AND BUSINESS MANAGEMENT. We Citizens have many apprehensions in the proposed 26 Millions of steel production within our district annually. Will everyone in our district be benefited? Will the current proposals be environmentally sustainable? Will the ‘Corporate Social responsibility’ meet the developmental goals of access to minimum quality education and health care, minimum access to infrastructure and energy, to ALL in Kendujhar?

We Citizens will eagerly watch with a heavy heart, the commitments and promises made and broken, to be restored.

Prepared on behalf of Citizens’ Forum, Kendujhar

by Kiran Sankar Sahu, 

Wing Commander (Retd) & President, Kendujhar Citizens’ Forum

KCF Members

Wg Cdr. Kiran Sankar Sahu (Retd),  President, Kendujhar Citizens’ Forum

Shri Anant Nayak, Ex- MP, LS (1999-2009), Tribal Affairs, KCF

Shri Mohan Majhi, Ex-MLA & Dy Chief whip, Education, KC

Shri Duryodhan Behera, Retd GM, TISCO, Legal practitioner

Shri Biplab Mishra, Chairman, PRAKALPA, Edn Health and Livelihood

Shri Sudarsan Patnaik, Retd Comm of Tpt, Urban Local Bodies

Shri Lal Mohan Rout, Retd Irrigation Engr, Water Resources

Prof Bana Bihari Mishra, Prof of Geology, DD College, Kendujhar

Naib Sub Balabhadra sahu, Secy Gen Kendujhar District ExServices League

Shri Ajay K Sahu, Member, Kjr Coop Bank, Social Environment

Junior Warrant Officer Kailash Mohapatra, Child Care Expert

Shri Biraja Mishra, Practicing Lawyer on Corporate Affairs

Shrimati Dharitri Pradhan, Chairperson, WOSCA on Women’s Empowerment

Dr Bijay Raut, Retd Chief Med Offr, SAIL, Bokaro, Health care & Hygiene

Dr Arun Kumar Sahu, Medical specialist & Practicing Medical Practioner

Shri Biswanath Patnaik, Retd rev Official, expert on Infrastructure

Shri Satyajit Samantray, Radio Announcer, AIR, from Media and publicity

Shri Pradosh das, Sr Asst, Kjr Engg College,    Member, Personnel & Record

Shri Himansu Kunr, Corporate Social Mgr,      Member Secretary, KCF