March 31, 2012: Bhubaneswar: The Lok Sakti Abhiyan while welcoming the decisions of the NGT to suspend the arbitrary, unjustified and uncalled for green node given to the so called mega steel project POSCO on January 31, 2011 by the MOEF of government of India, congratulates the Judges for not succumbing to the pressures of the global finance capital and their Indian slaves. The President of Lok Sakti Abhiyan and petitioner in the NGT against POSCO Sri.Prafulla Samantara stated here today that it is indeed the victory of the people of Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon Gram Panchyats of Jagatsinghpur who have sustained their struggles against this giant steel company at a huge cost to their life, liberty, peace and happiness for the last 6 years. The women and children of the struggle deserve special thanks for the sacrifice they have made and also for inspiring the whole nation. It is quite painful for any conscientious citizens of an independent and democratic nation to realize that its elected representatives are willing to serve any unscrupulous and erring corporation even if the people who have elected them suffer in terms of life, livelihood and peace.
It may be recalled here that the LSA along with others has raised again and again the issues of violations of forest, environmental laws of the country by the company with active support from the state government in Odisha. The government at the center is equally responsible for any single act of commission and commission. The NGT verdict to suspend environmental clearance, review the whole project, suppression of facts, misleading investigations and to have a holistic approach to the project raises many questions. The judges have said, “A close scrutiny of the entire scheme … reveals that a project of this magnitude particularly in partnership with a foreign country has been dealt with casually, without there being any comprehensive scientific data regarding the possible environmental impacts. No meticulous scientific study was made on each and every aspect of the matter leaving lingering and threatening environmental and ecological doubts unanswered.” The following recommendations deserve special attentions:
Land and infrastructure: The clearance was given for a 4 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) steel plant, but the land, water etc. were allocated for a 12 MTPA project (which has been POSCO’s stated plan). The judgment directs MoEF to “consider optimizing the total land requirement for 4 MTPA steel plant proportionately.”(para 8.5) Moreover, the impacts of other infrastructure for the plant have not been assessed at all, even though they were planned for a 12 MTPA plant.
Issues that should have been done now, but which MoEF left for future studies: On several points highlighted by the review committee, the MoEF just said future studies should be done and ignored the issue. The Tribunal finds this deeply unsatisfactory, and notes the following among other issues:
Water: The Tribunal said that “We are all aware that … the drinking water is becoming scarce commodity and at every level precaution needs to be taken for protecting the drinking water supply to human habitation and preventing from utilizing such water for industrial use … alternative water source for the present project, like creating/ constructing a small barrage or augmenting any other existing source at the cost of project proponent to avoid the utilizing the water meant for Cuttack city… could be examined.” (para 7.4, page 29)
Pollution: The plant’s discharge was also left for future study by MoEF. The Tribunal says this is a “serious environmental concern.” (para 7.4, page 30)
Impact on surrounding wetlands and mangroves, as well as cyclone risk: This was left for vague future studies without any time frame or modus operandi.
Therefore, the LSA demands that no lenient view be taken on the company-POSCO. The project should immediately be scrapped, the Company should be booked for manipulating facts and misleading the nation and all officers involved in the criminal conspiracy against the people and land must also be booked under law and tried. The CAG report has clearly shown how land has been under valued to suit the interests of the company. WE also see how the Collector, Jagasinghpur has decorated his official residence with money from rehabilitation/compensation fund. On the other hand one sees how even the grass root democracy like the GP has been dishonoured and the elected leaders not allowed to function.The battle is not yet over. People will not depend on any judicial process. But recent verdict of the NGT shows that people were right in their opposition and they will continue their struggle against any unjust and immoral imposition on them which would destabilize their life and livelihoods.