Reported by Gadadhara Panda
Bhubaneswar, May 7:
While the uncertainty over the POSCO plant continues with the company and the Odisha government locked in a bitter blame game, indiscriminate felling of trees by POSCO and IDCO has left 30 coastal villages highly vulnerable to cyclones.
IDCO had brought down more than a hundred thousand trees from the forests near the proposed POSCO plant area. While they have compensated the locals for some trees, nothing has been done to recreate the mangrove forest that was specially created to protect the coastal villages around Jatadhari river mouth.
This forest used to protect 30 villages of three panchayats from cyclone. Without the forest, Gadakujang panchayat, Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gobindpur areas would be worst affected.
“During the super cyclone, we had a narrow escape due to the presence of the luna forest. However, if another cyclone of similar scale hits the area, the results would be disastrous,” said a local.
It may be noted that the state government has specific guidelines for cutting trees for industrialization. The law requires the company to submit the Net Present Value (NPV) of the trees to be cut. The money collected for NPV needs to be used for compensation and to plant 1.5 times more saplings than the number of trees cut.
IDCO, however, is yet to plant any tree to make up for the massive deforestation it undertook in a 20-acre area.
POSCO has been given forest clearance as per Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. The company was asked to pay the state government Rs 18.79 crores for diversion of forest land as per NPV. It was charged between Rs 5.8 lakhs to Rs 9.2 lakhs per acre based on the density of the jungle.
Now, after all these years, IDCO has written to POSCO to pay up the money after the blame game started between the company and the government. But there is no word yet on how the government proposes to recreate the forest and ensure the safety of 30 villages.