Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 11:
Reacting sharply against the grant of environmental clearance to the Posco steel project by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) has announced its decision to a hold protest rally during the visit of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye to India, at the proposed Posco site.
The South Korean President is scheduled to arrive in India on a four-day visit to the country starting from Jan 15 during which she will discuss the progress of the project with the Prime Minister of India.
“We will convert the MoEF’s green signal into people’s red signal soon,” said Abhay Sahoo, chairman of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) which has been spearheading the people’s agitation against the steel project since 2005.
Sahoo said,“While the forest clearance issue is pending with the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the MoEF has granted environment clearance with an evil intention to favour the project. The state and Centre have bypassed the law and trying to suppress the agitation at the plant site. We have decided to hold agitation during the four-day visit of South Korean president as a mark of protest and our opposition to the project.”
Alleging that the move of both the governments is designed to garner fund ahead of the general elections, he said they will oppose the project tooth and nail.
Social activist Prafulla Samantray, who had filed a petition in the NGT against felling of trees in the area without forest clearance, maintained that he will raise the issue in the next hearing of NGT to be held on January 13.
The NGT has ordered a stay on felling of trees in the acquired land area and halted land acquisition for Posco in May 2013 saying the company can not fell trees in the area before acquiring green clearance.
“If the MoEF granted the environment clearance for 4mtpa, then how can the government divert the other forest land for the project? Besides, the Environment Impact Assessment has not done properly. We will raise the issue in the NGT,” said Samantray.
The Odisha government is also yet to issue a forest clearance to the proposed steel plant of the South Korean steel major. The proposal has been pending since 2006 over environmental concerns.
Posco plans to acquire 4,004 acres of land in Jagatsinghpur district, of which 3,000 acres is categorised as forest land. The Odisha government has, so far, acquired 2,700 acres for the project but transferred only 1700 acres to Posco India.