Saviour with potential to play spoilsport
Bhubaneswar, Oct. 7: The state government and the South Korean government today exuded confidence that Posco-India’s eight-million-tonne steel project would take off soon.
Both the governments rejected a UN panel’s recommendation last week that argued for suspension of the project raising the issue of displacement.
South Korean ambassador to India Joon-gye Lee today met chief minister Naveen Patnaik here and discussed the project for nearly half an hour. After emerging from the meeting, Lee said: “Our President is visiting India next year. We would like to see the project inaugurated before her visit.”
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik said: “The Posco project is on the right track. We hope the work for the project will start soon.”
“The land acquisition, which is crucial for the project, has been completed. We hope everything will be ready for the construction work soon,” said Lee.
Though eight years have been passed since the signing of the MoU, construction work for the project is yet to begin.
“They have agreed upon all our points. A new MoU will be signed soon.” Lee said. The MoU with the Odisha government expired in 2011.
Speaking on the UN Human Rights Panel recommendation to Posco to halt the project because citing displacement issues, Lee said: “We are really disappointed. It is a one-sided report. They have not visited Bhubaneswar or met the people at the ground. They came to Delhi and met few people opposing the project.”
Saying that the Posco was not solely committed to profit, the ambassador said once the project came up, it would certainly make a difference both to the economy of Odisha and South Korea.
On the other hand, work on the Posco project has nearly come to a complete halt since completion of land acquisition process on July 4.
“The project work has not moved forward since July last. The civil construction work and ancillary project-related work has been affected mainly due to the National Green Tribunal’s stay on tree-cutting. A large number of trees still dot the project areas. Unless trees are felled, ground-levelling cannot be carried out in the area. Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco), which acquired land for the steel project, had made a move to demarcate the boundary line and dug up a trench for the project boundary. But this has been stopped following opposition from certain quarters,” said Jagatsinghpur collector Satya Kumar Mallick.
Idco general manager Sangram Mahapatra said: “We are now concentrating on stopping the re-encroachment of the acquired land. In some places, people had re-erected betel vineyards. We have dismantled the new vineyards. Cases have been registered against those who tried to reoccupy the land. A private construction farm has been awarded the work to demarcate the boundary line and dig a trench along it. But this was suspended when a large number of local residents opposed it.”
A six-member delegation of South Korean officials of the Posco steel project today visited the office at the site. Officials of the company, including general manager (corporate affairs) I.G. Lee, had an interaction with a section of local settlers.
The delegation did not face any sort of protest during the course of the visit, said a company official.
Later, the delegation held talks with the district administration.
Jagatsinghpur district administration had imposed prohibition on foreign nationals in view of the deteriorating law and order situation at the project site. The restriction was withdrawn when the situation improved.