World Rainforest Movement

India: POSCO project approved but the struggle continues

On January 31, 2011, the Indian movement POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (POSCO Resistance Struggle Movement) issued a press release to denounce Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s decision to approve the POSCO India Steel-Power Production-Captive Port project (http://wrm.org.uy/countries/India/OK_POSCO_project.pdf).

In previous bulletins (see WRM Bulletins 147, 155, 157) we have disseminated the struggle of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti against the massive project of Pohang Steel Company (POSCO), a Korean concern largely held by US financial institutions already infamous for their lack of social responsibility: Citigroup, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and Chase.

As the press release of the Indian social movement describes, the company plans to establish “the largest industrial project ever conceived in human history: a 12 MTPA steel plant backed by captive power plant; a captive port (described as “small” but designed to receive the largest commercial ships ever built – of Capesize variety); a large township to accommodate over 100,000 people; a large captive mine in Kandadhar endangering the lives and livelihoods of one of the most traditional tribal communities among many , the Paudi Bhuiyan, (600 MT for local processing and 400 MT for export over 30 years); fresh water intake from over 100 kms away (while denying drinking water to many towns and cities and denying water to large areas of farmland) and extensive road and rail infrastructure to support the project”.

The impacts of the megaproject are huge: it will occupy 4,000 acres of pristine coastal and deltaic ecosystems in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa State including coastal forests.  Over 22,000 people will be directly displaced by the steel plant alone. More than 50,000 livelihoods will be affected. Meanwhile POSCO will pay a pittance royalty for the iron ore extracted and will get unprecedented profits from the plunder of India’s natural resources. The amount of loss will be huge in the mining area if the permission for mining is given.

There have been tremendous solidarity processes for the ground resistance that the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti has been spearheading for more than five years now often facing state repression. This has helped in building a strong pressure group at national and international levels. More recently, two studies looking at the technical sides of the project vis-à-vis its impact on the people and biodiversity carried out by Mining Zone Peoples’ Solidarity Group and Environmental Support Group brought out major loopholes not only in the planning of the project but also in the whole intent of the project. Various social formations such as POSCO Pratirodh Solidarity with activists, academics, journalists, researchers and others has been providing much needed inputs to the struggle on a sustained basis. The National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW) and Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD) have been bringing forth the issue of non-implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the project area by the state and have condemned the decision by the MoEF clearing the project despite two of its own committees recommending against it. This permission goes against the letter and spirit of the so called historic Forest Rights Act of 2006.

The Indian communities in Orissa are well aware that with this steel project, POSCO would regain its total investment in only 8 years while precious resources – fertile farmland, iron ore and water – will be plundered. “What India would be left with is the toxic residue of its dirty ore processing, while the refined ore (perhaps not even the finished steel) would be exported to Korea and elsewhere to add more value to POSCO’s profits.  This is not merely a flight of the nation’s natural wealth but also a massive planned political exercise for erosion of financial resources with questionable legal sanction” claim POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

That is why even though POSCO’s project in Orissa has been approved, Pratirodh Sangram Samiti announces that “the struggle against POSCO in Jagatsinghpur will continue. The struggle against exploitation of tribal, farming and fishing communities of Orissa will continue”.
Indian social movements across the country have initiated multiple actions at various levels, showing solidarity to the movement against POSCO and press the Government to scrap the project.

Article based on information provided by Mamata Dash, National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW), e-mail: mamata68@gmail.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *