| A file picture of Paradip port
Bhubaneswar, April 13: Non-government organisations and environmentalists today piled heat on South Korean steelmaker Posco and the state government, raising concerns that heavy police deployment in the project-affected villages would severely limit public participation in mass hearing of acquiring environmental clearance of the 12-million tonne steel plan.
The Environmental Protection Act mandates that the state pollution control board would have to conduct public hearing on the rapid environmental impact assessment (REIA) report of a industrial project with a wider public participation.
The written/oral suggestions of people would then be sent to Union ministry of environment and forests for obtaining the clearance. The OSPCB has set April 15 as the date for the public hearing.
With 12 platoons of police encircling the three gram panchayats of Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon, leading NGO Action Aid today raised fears that foulplay can’t be ruled out.
“A public hearing should be conducted in a systematic and transparent manner, ensuring widest public participation. Such disregard of due process at best points to ignorance of official procedure and at worst, connivance between the state and Posco to manufacture consensus without the consent of those affected,” said Madhumita Ray of Action Aid India.
A press release from Action Aid said many villagers in the area may not attend the public hearing as the venue is located 20-25 km away from their homes.
But a Posco spokesperson said the company was not responsible for the heavy security that may prevent mass local participation in the public hearing.
“Maintenance of law and order is a subject of local administration. The onus is on the government and we are only complying with the instructions. We neither have a choice or say on this subject,” said Posco spokesperson Shashanka Patnaik.
Environmentalist and secretary of Wildlife Society of Orissa Biswajit Mohanty also filed a written objection to the REIA with the OPCB alleging that the Posco port at Jatadharimuhan creek would severely affect the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, world’s largest rookery of Olive Ridley turtles, only 30 km away.
An environmental scientist of US-based non-profit organisation Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide also raised fears that the South Korean company’s proposed captive minor port near Paradeep may have disastrous impacts on flora and fauna along the coast of Orissa.
“If a cargo vessel coming or going from the captive port for Posco’s proposed steel plant near Paradeep were to rupture, the spill of bunker (heavy) fuel oil would have disastrous impacts on flora and fauna along the coast of Orissa,” said Mark Chernaik, staff scientist of Chernaik in an e-mail to The Telegraph.