A day after the Centre gave the final forest clearance to the South Korean steel giant Posco’s project, Orissa government today said it would soon resume land acquisition at the proposed plant site near Paradip.

“We will soon resume land acquisition at the proposed plant site villages. The land acquisition work will start in a peaceful manner,” Steel and Mines Minister Raghunath Mohanty told reporters adding the land acquisition work had been halted for nine months due to a ‘stop work’ order from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).

MoEF had on August 6, 2010, issued a ‘stop work’ order at the proposed plant site areas after accepting a recommendation of the N C Saxena Committee which pointed out “gross violation” of Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Now that the MoEF had given the clearance for diversion of 1253 hecatres (2900 acres) of forest land, there should be no problem for re-starting the land acquistion work, said IDCO (Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation) Chairman Priyabrat Patnaik.

Of the 4,004 acres of land required for the Rs 52,000 crore mega steel project, 2,900 acres were forest land. “We have already started consultation with the Jagatsinghpur district collector to resume land acquisition,” Chief secretary B K Patnaik said.

The government had already freed about 400 acres of land in illegal possession of villagers before the stop work order was issued in August, the IDCO chairman said adding Rs 1,36,21,000 were given as compensation to betel vine growers at the proposed plant site area.

Though the South Korean steel major had not taken an inch of land in its possession, the State government had already transferred 585 acres of government land in the name of the Posco project, he said.

Therefore, the State government had control over 985 acres (400 acres acquired by giving compensation and another 585 acres of government land) of the total 4,004 acres of land required for the project, he said.

Meanwhile, the State government has decided not to acquire about 300 acres of private land from Dhinkia village due to resistance from the local people, the IDCO CMD pointed out adding the people would be given compensation as per the decision of the RPDAC (rehabilitation and peripherial developmement advisory committee).

There were about 1,800 betel vines over the government land which would be removed during the land acquisition process, the IDCO CMD said adding a total of 600 families were to be displaced for setting up the mega steel project.

Though initially, it was estimated that 718 families would be losing their houses, the number came down due the government’s decision to exclude private land of Dhinkia village from the proposed plant site.

“Posco—India had agreed to give more compensation than the State government’s existing rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) policy,” Mr. Patnaik said.

Meanwhile, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) has announced its plan to oppose the State government’s move to acquire land.