POSCO, Polavaram Projects Illegally Take Over
Forest Land: Ministry On The Rampage
By Campaign for Survival and Dignity
30 July, 2010
The Campaign for Survival and Dignity condemns the brazenly illegal behaviour of the Environment Ministry and the Orissa and Andhra Pradesh governments. These authorities' recent actions with respect to the POSCO and Polavaram projects are in total violation of the law and of democracy. They show yet again that the forest bureaucracy is among the key drivers of land grabbing across the country (see here for more information on land grabbing by the Ministry).
The POSCO Project
In Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa, the State government has begun taking over forest lands that it has no legal right over. Two families' lands were taken earlier this week and another 13 lost their lands today. In fact these lands and forests belong to the local villages under the Forest Rights Act. The Environment Ministry had illegally granted forest clearance for use of this land on December 29, 2009, in violation of its own orders, and then sought to cover up the illegality by “clarifying” that the clearance was subject to the requirements of the Forest Rights Act. Subsequently, in the first week of February, the villages of the area rejected the diversion; as their consent is a requirement under law, the clearance was obviously illegal.
But it was not withdrawn. The Orissa government is now going ahead, and belatedly the Ministry has constituted a “committee to look into the Forest Rights Act” - chaired by Meena Gupta, who was none other than Secretary at the Ministry when POSCO received environmental clearance. The conflict of interest is obvious. Meanwhile, the forest clearance has still not been withdrawn. What exactly is this Committee going to do? Explain why the Ministry granted the forest clearance in violation of law and of its own orders? “Verify” the Orissa government's claims when they have already been exposed to be lies by CPI leader D Raja and the local struggle organisations? Or simply seek to confuse the matter while the Orissa government continues to deploy its forces against the people?
For more information on POSCO, including a timeline, details of the illegality and documents that prove the illegality, see:
The Polavaram Project
Often described as India's “next Narmada”, the gigantic Polavaram project threatens to displace more than 270 villages and two lakh people, the majority of whom are marginalised and oppressed adivasi communities. The project requires approximately 3,700 hectares of forest land. In such an area, it is obvious that the majority of these communities are entitled to rights under the Forest Rights Act. A recent academic study found, as expected, that the authorities are illegally blocking their rights. Now, the Ministry has granted final forest clearance for the project, stating that the approval is based on the “assurance of the Government of Andhra Pradesh that there are no rights to be settled [sic] under the Forest Rights Act in the project area.” This, when their own circular requires that the gram sabhas – not the State government – have to certify the proper implementation of the Act and have to grant their consent to the diversion. Yet again, we find a State government lying in a brazen manner, and the Environment Ministry accepting obvious falsehoods. It is a charade that plays out as people lose their lives and livelihoods.
We call upon the Environment Ministry to immediately comply with the law and withdraw clearances to both projects, and upon the Central and State governments to cancel these projects and initiate criminal prosecution against those responsible for the lies and illegalities. This is the absolute minimum that is required of these authorities if they wish to continue claiming to uphold the “rule of law.”
Campaign for Survival and Dignity