On January 31, 2011, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Govt of India gave its conditional approval to POSCO – the South Korean Company for the construction of a steel plant and captive port in Jagatsinghpur district. The MOEF out right rejected the recommendations of two expert committees, one headed by N.C.Saxena and the other by Ms Meena Gupta. Both the committees were, instituted by MoEF itself. The N.C. Saxena Committee and three members of the Meena Gupta Committee had recommended the revocation of the existing environment and forest clearances to the project. It was pointed out there are gross violations of laws and rules such as Forest Rights Act, the Coastal Zone Notification Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment guideline. In addition, two of the three statutory committees also made recommendations against the coastal and forest clearances given to the POSCO project.
In response to what it views as illegal clearance, the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) is determined to intensify the struggle and has pledged not to allow POSCO project to come up.
According to one of the conditions set by the Union environment Ministry, the Government has to give an assurance that not a single person is entitled to benefits under the Forest Rights Act, and then only final forest clearance will be given by the ministry. It is reported in Media that the Jagatsinghpur district administration has already submitted a report on the status of forest rights to the state government. The government is likely to finalise the report and submit to MOEF by end of this February. It is obvious that in the report, the government will make all effort to argue that there are no other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) in the POSCO project area and no violation of Forest Rights Act 2006 has taken place. This is however quite incorrect and misleading information. The state administration had not been fair or democratic in implementing the Forest Rights Act. We have been living in these areas for ages and we all have the evidence. The two committees i.e. N.C Saxena and Meena Gupta have taken notice and already accepted our evidence.
On 12th of February 2011, the Director General of Police Mr. Manmohan Praharaj and the Nodal officer for POSCO project Mr. Priyabrata Pattnaik visited the proposed port area at Jatadhar estuary. They also had a meeting with district collector, police superintendent and other officers at Jagatsinghpur. They have announced the construction of a road and wall in the proposed port area. It is apprehended that the state is all set to forcefully enter and acquire our land.
On 13th of February 2011, hundreds of villagers got together and dug the road connecting the Paradeep – Jatadhar muhan and Dhinkia village at fifteen places so that government officers would not be able to enter the area. A meeting of PPSS was held under the leadership of Abhya Sahoo to chalk out future course of the struggle.
We appeal to all our friends and well wishers to extend their support to our struggle.
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti