After green nod, red signal ahead for Posco on land buy

Mumbai, May 8: Having got the green nod from the Union Environment Ministry for its mega plant in Orissa, South Korean steel major Posco will now be bracing for the next big challenge for its USD 12-billion project - land acquisition.

Land acquisition has been a sensitive and thorny issue in the mineral-rich state, where domestic steel giant Tata Steel is still struggling to get adequate land for its project announced nearly seven years ago. "The real protest will start now. We will decide the future course of our democratic struggle against the Korean project soon," Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) spokesperson Prashant Paikary told PTI over phone.

"It is a matter of concern that both the Centre and State Governments have deliberately overlooked the important issues raised by us on the illegalities committed in the forest and environment clearance process," the anti- displacement group's spokesperson said.

The Environment Ministry last week gave a final clearance to the 12-million tonne (MT) steel plant to be set by Posco in Jagatsinghpur district. The USD 12-billion integrated steel, mining and port project in Orissa is the single largest foreign investment in India. The South Korean firm had signed an MoU for the project with the Orissa Government in 2005.

"Both the Centre and State have sacrificed everything for the sake of the project. Local people very much understood the real motive of the Government," Praffula Samantra, a green activist and head of Loksakti Abhijan, a local group, said.

"If they (Government or the company) have not acquired even an inch of land in the last six years, how do they think the green nod will help them to set up the plant now?" Samantra asked.

Orissa Steel and Mines Minister Raghunath Mohanty said "we will soon start land acquisition at the proposed plant site. We do not think there will be any problem now onwards for acquiring land for the Posco project."

The Environment Ministry granted approval to the project with certain conditions, one of which is that the company would not export raw material from the proposed plant.

Posco has hailed the decision and said it expects to renew shortly its pact with Orissa Government for building the plant and assured not to export iron ore from the facility.

"We welcome the Centre''s decision to grant us clearance and expect to renew our agreement shortly for the 12 million tonne (MT) plant with the Orissa Government that expired last year," Posco India Vice-President Vikas Sharan said.


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