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India: NAPM Press Release on the Granting of Environmental Clearance to POSCO Plant in Orissa

by NAPM, 1 February 2011

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New Delhi, January 31, 2010: NAPM strongly disapproves the granting of the Environmental Clearance to the Steel cum captive power plant and captive minor port with an additional 28 and 32 conditions respectively today by the Ministry of Environment and Forest. The clearance is a contradiction that would reduce the credibility which the Minster has earned for the Ministry for the first time and would go down in history that MoEF has supported the offences and illegalities of the Company. It completely belies the findings of the Saxena Committee and the four member committee constituted in past six months or so. Inspite of the differences in the four member committee it did agree on the environmental and CRZ violations in the earlier clearance accorded and suppression of the fact by the company as well as by the State government. While the majority of the Committee had asked for complete revocation of the clearances, the dissenting member Meena Gupta had recommended that the MOEF should consider at the earliest a comprehensive EIA to be prepared both for the steel plant and for the port.

While granting clearance to the Jaitapur Nuclear power plant Mr. Ramesh himself argued for the need of a comprehensive EIAs then why does he need to go back on his own wisdom and the recommendations of its own committees and not order a fresh comprehensive EIA. It is nothing but a case of trying to legalise the violations, which are occurring in not one but many projects and hence would be considered as bowing down to the pressures of the multinational corporations, corporate interests which various governments, across party lines are championing.

The attempted middle path at the cost of the livelihood and denying the rightful claims of the people who have been living there for centuries can’t bring development to the people of Orissa. It is by now an established fact that the Forest Right Act claims have to be settled in the region. It is astonishing that Mr. Ramesh has chosen to go back on what the State Government has always been maintaining that there are no FRA claims to be settled in the area. To give credence to the lies of the Government of Orissa and failing to mention two of his own Ministry’s reports which says that there are well found violations of the FRA and there are claims on the said forest land which needs to be settled, points to a greater conspiracy.

In the final order the condition that as soon as MoEF receives a categorical assurance from the government of Orissa that there are no claims to be settled even under the OTFDs category then the forest clearance would be granted. It is nothing but an attempt at bypassing the violations of the FRA and a pretence that Mr. Ramesh is asking for that assurance. As late as 21st October 2010 the Orissa Government has mentioned to the MoEF after the Meena Gupta Committee report that they have no claims to settle. Even though they don’t answer the violations which has been mentioned by the majority of the Meena Gupta Committee or the MoEF-MoTA Saxena Committee. We demand, rather than a clearance and assurance, action and punishment for those responsible for the violations of the implementation of FRA and settlement of the rightful claims of people, even if it means cancelling of the forest clearance.

The negligence of the struggles of the people to protect their livelihood and safeguard their forests, land, coasts and rivers in an attempt to go ahead with the POSCO steel plant, port and power plant can only be done at its own peril. This is not development but destruction and a violation of its own laws and environmental regulations. The double speak of the MoEF, Sh. Ramesh and the UPA government in seeing the natural resources of the country for the few crumbs of FDI will go down in the history as the worst crimes against the humanity. Lavasa, Jaitapur, POSCO, Kalinganagar and many more can’t compensate for one Adarsh demolition, Niyamgiri here and there.

While we do understand that a number of conditions have been put forth which indeed are also difficult to fulfil and the work cannot even start if the faithful execution of all the conditions are fully monitored. Since we know this would rarely happen, we would support the struggle of the people for their livelihood and for the environment. We reiterate our disapproval of the order of the Ministry and continue to extend full support to the struggles of the people of the region and their struggle to safeguard the environment and livelihood under the banner of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti and others and whatever position they would take on the concerned clearance.

Medha Patkar, Prafulla Samantara, Roma, Ulka Mahajan, Suniti S R, Dayamani Barla, Anand Mazgaonkar, Rajendra Ravi, Mukta Srivastava, Bhupinder Singh Rawat, Madhuresh Kumar