Villagers at Posco site shed land-grab fear

KENDRAPADA: Green hurdle for Posco heralded victory and freedom for villagers of Jagatsinghpur district, who had put up a tough fight to protect their agriculture lands from being acquired for the steel plant project.

Large numbers of anti-land acquisition villagers lifted bamboo and wooden barricades in Nuagaon, Dhinkia and Gadakujang gram panchayats of Jagatsinghpur district on Saturday after National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended environment clearance to Posco on Friday.

Six years ago, the villagers, under the banner of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), had erected the gates to prevent officials and police from entering into the proposed project site of the South Korean steel giant. For residents, including women and children, guarding the eight gates day and night since the past six years, Saturday brought great relief as barricades were dismantled and the gates were opened for all.

“We used to stay awake every night to protect the land and habitats with a threat of armed policemen entering the region to attack us and grab the land under cover of darkness. Now we are relaxed,” said Sabita Swain (45) of Dhinkia.

Trees and betel vine plantations were flattened to make way for the Posco steel plant in Noliasahi, Bhuaipala, Polang under Nuagan and Gadakujang gram panchayats despite strong protest by the villagers. But police failed to cross the battle line at Gobindapur due to strong protest by anti-land acquisition villagers, including women and children.

Posco had signed a deal with Odisha government on June 22, 2005 to set up the project covering 4,004 acres of land, including 2,900 acres of forest land. The future of the company’s Rs 52,000 crores steel plant project now looks dim after the National Green Tribunal verdict.

The fate of the coastal road from Dhinkia to Noliasahi, the foundation stone for which was laid seven months ago, is also in doldrums now. “The road construction work has been shelved for now,” said Surjit Das, additional district magistrate (ADM) of Paradip. The government had acquired about 2,000 acres of land and was gearing to acquire 2,000 acres more for the project. “But NGT order is an impediment for us to acquire any land,” the officer added.

[Source – Times of India]

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