Monday, January 07, 2008

POSCO PROJECT IN JEOPARDY

The 12-million tonne steel project in Orissa to be set up by POSCO was acclaimed as the biggest FDI over two and half years back but it seems to be jinxed. From the beginning, it has been facing roadblocks one after another. There was a furore over the company's reported plan to export high grade iron ores and it died down only after the officials refuted such reports.
The site and infrastructure demanded for setting up of a dedicated port at Paradip also ran into rough weather. But the biggest shock the company got when the landowners of the proposed site refused to part with their land. There was considerable media hype that the project would be a boon for the people of Orissa which is one of the most underdeveloped states in India.It was expected by inveswtors as well as the government that people would just lap it up. Instead, organised resistance groups sprang up to protest against setting up of the project for fear of thousands being displaced from their homes and farmers loosing their farmlands.The resistance soon found sympathisers not only among political parties of all hues but also social activists and environmentalists. If one has been following the news reports on agitation that is going on for months, he or she would conclude that the proposed site has turned into a veritable war-zone. Besides regular violence and injuries to protesters as well as lawkeepers, the situation is getting out of hand as people are arming and training themselves to continue their fight against any forcible acquisition of land. Perhaps, the wind of Nandigram has blown to the neighbouring state.
The last straw on the camel's back came by way of the recommendation given by the Supreme-Court appointed centrally empowered committee saying that POSCO should not be given piecemeal forest clearances. It has urged that only after 'considering the ecologicalimportance of the area, number of trees to be felled, adequacy and effectiveness of the rehabilitation and resettlement plan for the project affected persons and benefits accuing to the states', the clearance should be given.
From the hurdles faced by POSCO, it is quite clear that there there has been too many slips 'twixst the cup and the lip. In their anxiety to win some brownie points, both the state and central government have been going gaga over such projects without first tying up the loose ends. The Chief Minister of Orissa has made a bold statement that work at the project site would commence on 1st April, 2008 coinciding with the state's birth anniversary despite such poor progress made by the project in the last two and half years. The first day of April is also used by pranksters all over the world every year to fool people. Let not POSCO steel project provide fodder for April Fool's Day of the year 2008.