Villagers stage protest against Posco plant in Orissa

September 2nd, 2008 - 11:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Jagatsinghpur (Orissa), Sept 2 (IANS) Thousands of villagers Tuesday assembled here to protest against the $12 billion steel plant of South Korean steel major Posco, proposed to come up near Paradeep port in Jagatsinghpur district.The residents of Dhinkia, Gobindpur and Patna villages gathered at Balitutha, the entry point to the proposed site, under the banner of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), and threatened to launch violent protests against the plant even though the Supreme Court allowed the company to use forest land.

The protesters, many of them carrying bows and arrows, axe and lathis (wooden sticks), raised slogans against the company, and said they will not give even an inch of their land, be it crop land or forest, to the company.

It was the first major protest since the Supreme Court Aug 8 gave its nod for the diversion of 3,097 acres of forest land for the project in Jagatsinghpur district.

But people opposing the project said they would continue their agitation.

“Our protest will continue as usual. We will not allow the company or the government officials to enter our area,” PPSS president Abhaya Sahu said at the meeting, adding: “The people will protect the forest land also.”

“We have put barricades in many places to prevent the entry of the government and company officials,” he said.

Posco, the world’s fourth largest steel maker, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government in June 2005 to build the plant near Paradeep port by 2016.

But there has been little progress on the ground as the villagers launched large-scale agitation against the project, saying it will displace over 20,000 people from around 15 villages and ruin their betel-leaf farming.

However, the supporters of the project say the plant will bring prosperity and employment. According to Posco, the project would affect only 500 families but would create thousands of jobs.

“The anti-Posco activists conducted their rally peacefully,” District Administrator Pramod Kumar Meherda told IANS.

Although the Supreme Court verdict, allowing the diversion of forest land for the plant, is a positive development, a company official said Posco was now waiting for the state government’s decision on a mining lease proposal.

“The state government is still considering the mining lease proposal and has not decided yet,” state’s Steel and Mines Secretary Ashok Mohadeo Rao Dalwai said.

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