With the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests set to take a final decision on the proposed steel plant project of Posco-India Private Limited on Monday, Orissa villagers facing displacement have decided to intensify their agitation if the Ministry order went in favour of the company.
That a majority of villagers in the three gram panchayats of Dhinkia, Gadakujang and Gobindpur in Jagatsinghpur district were apprehensive appeared clear on Saturday.
“Going by the reports reaching us from New Delhi, we are apprehending that the order might go against us,” said Prashant Paikray, spokesperson of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the organisation which has been opposing establishment of the proposed steel plant of Posco since 2005.
The land acquisition work for the proposed steel mill in Jagatsinghpur had been stopped by the Naveen Patnaik government on the orders of the MoEF, following a report of a panel set up by the Centre indicating violations of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.
Two separate reports
Subsequently, another Central panel headed by the former Secretary of MoEF, Meena Gupta, had also submitted two separate reports raising environmental issues along with the alleged violation of the Forest Rights Act.
According to Mr. Paikray, the PPSS has decided to hold a public meeting in Dhinkia on February 1 to decide their future course of action in the light of the MoEF's decision that would be announced on Monday.
“After the February 1 meeting, we will try to develop coordination between all people opposing the project and carry forward our agitation to demand withdrawal of the project from the State if the MoEF order supports the company,” Mr. Paikray added.
Meanwhile, highly placed sources hinted that the MoEF might come out with a decision to strike a balance on the whole issue and not pass a harsh order against Posco the way it had done in the matter pertaining to the mining of Niyamgiri hills to extract bauxite for the alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium Limited and expansion plans for the refinery.
Whatever the MoEF decision, the Posco project was likely to face more hurdles in the coming days as different groups of people were opposed to establishment of the plant in Dhinkia, the company's proposed captive port at Jatadhari river mouth close to the site earmarked for the steel mill, sourcing of water from Mahanadi and Hansua for the project and proposed mining of iron ore from the Khandadhar mines in Keonjhar district.