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POSCO Project Gets Conditional Nod

By Countercurrents.org

31 January, 2011

The environment ministry Monday gave conditional clearance to South Korean steel major Posco's $12 billion project in Odisha, the biggest foreign direct investment in the country.

The MInistry of Environment and forest has taken the stand that the controversial POSCO project can proceed if the Orissa government gives it an assurance that no person in the area satisfies the eligibility conditions under the Forest Rights Act.

This is in direct violation of the law.

* Under the Forest Rights Act, the question of eligibility is decided not by the State government but by the three step process under the Act, for which there is a specific procedure. The State government has no authority in the matter. This was pointed out by both enquiry committees - the Saxena Committee (p.2) and the Meena Gupta Committee (p. 171). Both reports are available here:

1. Meena Gupta Committee majority report

2. Report of Subcommittee of Saxena Committee

* Chapter 3 of the Meena Gupta committee majority report contains the findings of the committee on this. Page 171 summarises this finding. The committee found documentary evidence from State government records of the presence of both eligible tribals and eligible non-tribals in the area. It also found that the State government had grossly failed to implement the Act or to make these documents and records available to the people of the area. The same finding was made by the Saxena Committee earlier last year.

* In recognition of what the law says, the Environment Ministry in its August 2009 order specifically required certificates of the gram sabha for showing implementation of the Forest Rights Act. This order has been completely ignored by the Minister in his decision. In short the Minister has acted as if his own order does not exist.

Here is the statement from : POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI

Villages Gadkujang, Nuagaon, Dhinkia; Erasama Block, Jagatsinghpur District, Orissa.

A "Green Signal" for The Rape of Justice and the People: Environment Ministry Decision on POSCO

Jairam Ramesh and the UPA government have shown their true colours with their decision today on the POSCO project. Ignoring the reports of its own advisory bodies and enquiry committees, violating its own orders and the laws of the land, this Ministry has shown that the naked face of corporate greed - not the "rule of law", the "aam aadmi", "inclusive growth" or any of these other lies - is what rules this country. The decision today can be summarised in one sentence: "Repeat your lies, give us promises that we all know are false, and then loot at will."

We repeat: we will not give up our lands, our forests and our homes to this company. It is not the meaningless orders of a mercenary government that will decide this project's fate, but the tears and blood of our people. Through the road of peaceful demonstrations and people's resistance we have fought this project, in the face of torture, jail, firings and killings. If this project comes it will come over our dead bodies.

We note the following about today's decision:

The Orissa government has been asked to give an "assurance" that the people of the area are not forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act, after which the "final forest clearance" will be granted. The Orissa government has already lied on this count on numerous occasions. Indeed, the majority report of the POSCO Enquiry Committee said "The Committee finds that the government's own records such as census reports and voters list confirm that there are both other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) and forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes in the project area and the statement of the District Collector of Jagatsinghpur to the contrary is false" (para II.1, Conclusions and Recommendations). Even the dissenting member agreed that the Act had not been implemented. The same finding had been reached by the subcommittee of the Saxena Committee earlier. After the Ministry's own enquiry committees have found the Orissa government guilty of lying, what is the meaning of saying the project can proceed if the liars repeat their lies?

This Ministry has earlier made a song and dance of respect for people's views and environmental laws. Under the Forest Rights Act, the consent of the gram sabhas of the area is an essential requirement, and this was confirmed by the Ministry's own order. Three different committees - the Saxena Committee, the POSCO Enquiry Committee and the Ministry's own Forest Advisory Committee - all therefore said the clearance should be withdrawn. The Minister today claims that the project can go ahead if he and the Orissa government decide they want it to. So much for the law and for people's rights.

On the environment clearance, we recall again the words of the majority Enquiry Committee, which said "Potentially very serious impacts ...have not even been assessed, leave alone planned for.... The cavalier and reckless attitude of the concerned authorities to such potentially disastrous impacts is horrendous and shocks the collective conscience of the Committee....There appears to be a pre dominant belief that conditionalities in the EIA/ CRZ clearances are a substitute for comprehensive evaluation and assessment of the environmental impact by the authorities. Imposing vague conditionalities seems to be a way out for the various agencies from taking hard decisions on crucial issues." Again, it is not us who said this - it is the Ministry's own Committee! And yet this is exactly what the Minister has chosen to do.

Independent reports and studies by reputed academics have confirmed what we have always said - this project will be of no benefit to anyone except POSCO's profit margins. But yet we find this being called a project of "strategic importance." To whom?

Today the veil stands ripped open; the government stands exposed before the nation, a mercenary willing to put its regulations, officials and security forces at the disposal of the highest bidder. Let the UPA and the Central government answer: where is the rule of law today, in the name of which you crush struggles across the country? Where is your much vaunted love for the people and for the environment? What do you stand for if not for corporate greed?

Prashant Paikray

Spokesperson, PPSS


Download the Government Order here





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