Jairam seeks peaceful land acquisition for Posco

June 12th, 2011 - 4:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, June 12 (IANS) Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh Sunday asked the Orissa government to ensure that land is acquired only through peaceful and law-governed means for South Korean steel major Posco’s proposed project.

His statement came a day after thousands of villagers intensified protest against the $12 billion steel project in Gobindpur villlage of Jagatsinghpur district and used hundreds of women and children as shields to prevent officials from acquiring their lands forcibly.

The villagers continued their protest Sunday.

“I have often said the environment and forest clearance process should not be used to fight other battles that have to do with important issues like land acquisition, compensation and livelihoods,” Ramesh said in the statement.

The Posco steel-cum-power-cum-port project was given environment clearance by the environment and forests ministry after a great deal of thought and a careful balancing of various factors, he said.

“However, I hope that the state government will not use this clearance as a licence for forcible acquisition of land,” he said.

Ramesh said this was neither the intent nor the purpose of the clearance. He also appealed to the state government to ensure that land is acquired only through peaceful and law-governed means.

“While all parties should adhere to democratic norms and procedures, I earnestly hope that the state government will not take any precipitate action,” the minister said.

“Dialogue and discussion, not coercion is as essential to ecological security as it is to democracy,” he added.

Posco had signed an agreement with the Orissa government in 2005 for a 12 million tonne steel plant - the largest foreign investment in India near the port town of Paradip, about 120 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.

The company requires about 4,004 acres of land for the project, of which 2,900 acres are forest land. However, there has been little progress on the ground due to stiff opposition from the local people.

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