Paradip, Dec 14:
After a five-month-long lull, Posco steel project officials today began construction of a boundary wall along the demarcated line for the 1703 acres of land handed over to them.
Contrary to apprehensions of trouble, the construction of the brick wall over a 50 feet stretch, on the border of Nuagaon village, went unhindered and without any protests from local people, company officials said. The work was done without involving the police or government officials, they said.
The resumption of construction work today marks the end of a 5-month-long period during which all project related work had come to a grinding halt.
The district administration, on July 4 this year, had announced the completion of the process for acquisition of 2700 acres of land required for the Posco steel project in the face of several holdups and stiff protest by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS).
Since then, the project work had made little headway with National Green Tribunal (NGT) stalling the tree-cutting work in the project area and ordering a stay on the project.
“The company has now laid emphasis on the construction of the boundary wall, which will help barricade the area and prevent further encroachment. The construction is going on around the 1703 acres of area handed over to us,” said General Manager, Posco (Odisha), SN Singh.
Talking to OST Prashant Paikray, spokesperson, PPSS, said the construction work undertaken by the company in collusion with the district administration is unlawful because the NGT is yet to vacate the stay imposed on the project.
“This is contempt of court and yet another example of Posco’s scant regard for both law and people,” he said, adding “Posco authorities should desist from any activity that may lead to tension in the area.”
Posco’s decision to begin construction work over the 1703 acres under its command is being perceived as a design to put pressure on the state government which has made it clear it will not hand over the additional 1000 acres until the NGT lifts the stay it has imposed on the project.
“The NGT has put a stay on the Posco project. We will be able to hand over land to Posco only after the stay ordered by the NGT is vacated,” Steel and Mines Minister Rajanikant Singh said in reply to a question in this regard in the state Assembly.
Worried over the inordinate delay in land acquisition and other hurdles, Posco is lobbying hard in Delhi. It has sought the intervention of the Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) to help salvage its Odisha steel plant project.
Posco’s sense of desperation is understandable.
The company had plans to have a ground breaking ceremony for the project during the South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s visit to India in January 2014.
South Korean ambassador Joon-gye Lee, who met with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on October 7, had said they would love to see the project inaugurated before the Korean president’s visit.
But as of now, it appears a fond hope.
The Rs 51,000 crore project of the South Korean steel major, touted as the biggest foreign direct investment in India, has been mired in controversies ever since it signed an MoU with the state government on June 22, 2005 for a $12 billion 12 MTPA integrated steel plant and captive port.
The company originally required 4,004 acres of land for its 12-mtpa steel plant near Paradip but now the requirement has been reduced to 2700 acres for its downgraded plant size of 8 MTPA.