Paradip: The proposed Posco project site here, protected from the Bay of Bengal by high sand dunes, sustains a vibrant agrarian economy. The area comes across as a unique gift from nature being able to sustain availability of a lot of sweet water in spite of its proximity to the sea.
The Jatadhari river mouth, which the steel giant also seeks, is a source of livelihood for hundreds of fishermen families. The vast sandy stretch is full of betel vines and cashew trees, two major sources of livelihood that fetch earnings in lakhs for most families. “I earn nearly Rs 1 lakh annually from my small betel vine of about 2,500 sq ft area,” said Bishnu Charan Lenka of Nuagaon. “Betel crop fetches an average of Rs 35,000 per month for me,” said Sudam Das of Gobindapur village. “Gobinadpur comprises 485 families and has nearly 1,500 betel vines,” said another villager Kunja Bardhan.
Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS) leader Abhaya Sahoo recalled he had exhibited 156 varieties of forest and agricultural produce to establish the importance of the area during the visit of the Meena Gupta team sent by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). “Except winter fruits like grapes and apples, this area grows everything. A single betel leaf earns a minimum of Re 1 for the farmer. Truckloads of betel, cashew and other forest and agricultural produce are supplied from this place. I wonder who on earth thought of building a steel plant here by stripping the villagers of their natural sources of income and reducing them as paupers,” the PPSS chief said. “I urge the government to send an independent team to record opinion of each family. If majority of the families support the project, we will call off the agitation,” Sahoo said.
[Source — Times of India]