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Envoy worried over Posco fate

Bhubaneswar, May 2: The South Koreans are worried that pushing the 12-million tonne Posco steel project near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district is turning out to be an endless struggle.

During a visit to the state, South Korean ambassador Kim Joong Keun today vented his frustration over the delay in the implementation of what has come to be regarded as India’s biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) proposal.

“While a Posco project in Maharashtra was made ready in two years, this one has been delayed by nearly seven years. I don’t want to indulge in domestic politics, but the result is disappointing,” said Keun on the sidelines of an official meeting here.

Keun, however, reiterated his country’s commitment to the Odisha project and following a meeting with chief minister Naveen Patnaik here.

He expressed hope that work on the ground could begin sometime this year. The diplomat said that project work could be commenced on part of the acquired 2,700 acres at the site.

Keun, who sought to make a comparison between the Odisha project and Posco’s other ventures, said that in India, the South Korean company had six projects, including three major steel projects in Maharashtra’s Raigada district.

“One of the Maharashtra projects was completed in just two years and would be inaugurated this year. None of our projects have confronted the kind of difficulties we are facing in Odisha. The inordinate delay in this project was also discussed during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to South Korea earlier this year,” he said.

All works related to the project, for which the state government signed an MoU with Posco on June 22, 2005, came to a halt on December 19 last year following violence between the supporters and the opponents of the project at Bose-callis’ point near Paradip.

Whatever little hopes the government and the company had of work resuming at the project site disappeared when on March 30, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance granted to the proposed steel mill on January 31 in 2011.