Environment Support Group conducts study in Posco unit area

The residents of the villages of Dhinkia, Gobindpur, Nuagaon, Noliasahi, Polanga, Bayanalkandha, Bhuyanpal and Jatadhar in Jagatsinghpur district, who are opposing land acquisition for the proposed steel plant of Posco, are clear in their pursuit of protecting their fundamental rights, according to a study conducted by Bangalore-based Environment Support Group.

“A predominant number of these villagers are also absolutely clear that it is for sustaining Posco's interests that the State and Central Governments have and will attack their struggles for such rights,” says the study that was released here on Tuesday.

“They have experienced for long and are aware that illogical, irrational, inhuman and illegal means will be employed against them for opposing the Posco project. Their struggles, therefore, are not merely about whether the Posco kind of venture should be supported, or even where it should be located. They are reminding the nation as a whole, that the Posco project is a test case of how rigorously we are keen to protect traditional forest rights, and resist acts of wrongful dispossession of land, property and the very Right to Life, Livelihood and a Clean Environment,” .

The report titled “Tearing through the Water Landscape: Evaluating the environmental and social consequences of POSCO project in Orissa” has been prepared by Leo F. Saldanha and Bhargavi S. Rao of EGS at the request of Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, the people's organisation that has been opposing the project since 2005.

Following the controversial “faith and trust” decision of Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh granting clearance for diversion of forest land for the steel project, the affected communities were bracing up for a major battle against the State Government's intent to displace them by snuffing out their rights, according to the study.

“In the most potent demonstration of their intent not to give up their Fundamental Rights, these communities have actively and peacefully resisted, for six years now, various attempts to acquire their lands and dispossess them of their forests and coastal areas.

This has meant standing up to the tremendous violence and a climate of fear that has been unleashed over the years by the State police: frequent custodial tortures, public shaming by police, arrests on false cases, vicious attacks, repeated framing of movement leaders with false cases to cause their arrests, and so on have all been part of this experience.”

While barricading their villages to prevent any entry by Posco officials or those from the State Government, the villagers are opposing the State which is intent on making them a “rightless people”, the report points out.

At a time when the State government was trying hard to acquire land for the project, the report exposes the disastrous consequences of locating this mega steel venture in a region known to be the most vulnerable to frequent cyclonic activity anywhere in the world.

  • The report has been prepared by Leo F. Saldanha and Bhargavi S. Rao of EGS

  • The villagers are opposing the State which is intent on making them a “rightless people”