The Naveen Patnaik government completed land acquisition for the proposed Posco steel plant in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district on Thursday despite continued protests by locals.

Posco-India required 2,700 acres of land to establish an eight-million tonne per annum-capacity plant. As many as 28 betelvines were demolished during the day.

“The land acquisition process is now complete and we will start construction of the boundary wall and felling of trees on the land once the National Green Tribunal vacates its stay,” Jagatsinghpur District Collector Satya Kumar Mallick told The Hindu.

Posco-India has already been given 1,703 acres by the Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation. The remaining land will be transferred to the company in due course, Mr. Mallick said.

The State government acquired about 2,000 acres by May last year and it took a little over one year to acquire the rest. The police resorted to lathi charge several times when villagers tried to stop the demolition of their betelvines. This led to sharp criticism from rights activists from time to time.

Posco-India informed the Odisha government last year that it required 2,700 acres to establish an eight million-tonne capacity plant instead of 4,004 acres it sought for a 12 million-tonne capacity plant while signing the memorandum of understanding in June 2005. This made the task somewhat easy for the government, which reduced the project area by excluding private land belonging to locals, particularly residents of the Dhinkia gram panchayat, the nerve centre of the anti-Posco agitation. The MoU for the project, which expired in 2010, has not been renewed so far.

The 2700 acres acquired for the project was forest and revenue land. Though the entire land belonged to the government, the locals used it to cultivate betel.Meanwhile, the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which has been leading protests against the proposed project since 2005, said agitation would continue.

“The villagers will reoccupy the land and reconstruct the betelvines soon. We will continue our opposition to the establishment of the plant in the locality,” its spokesperson Prashant Paikray said.

Samiti president Abhay Sahu was arrested in May this year in a case pertaining to the death of three persons in a bomb blast at the site.