Orissa (or Odisha) is an Indian State overlooking the Bay of Bengal, made up of rural and mountainous hinterland with few urban centers and home to around 7 million indigenous, often nomadic, Adivasi people divided into 62 different ethnic groups. Population density is high.
Ten years ago (22 May 2005), the South Korean Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Odisha. The state authorities had committed that it would facilitate various approvals for setting up a steel plant, a captive power plant, a port and many other activities for the company. It had also assured the company that it would keep the area free of encumbrances. However, POSCO’s projects have met with stiff on-the-ground resistance, legal tussles related to environmental approvals and grant of leases. A multiple administrative review committees were also set up to assess the project’s impacts. It is now a publicly known fact that the project has been closely monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Issues around land acquisition, forest rights, impact assessment, violence, compensations, conditions in rehabilitation areas are of great concern. Attempts by the Government to seize or buy peasants' land for the POSCO project, provoked protests from local residents and led to increasingly bitter clashes with the Police. Activists have been arrested. Some people have been killed in clashes with contractors. And finally the government acquired 2,700 acres between 2012 and early 2015. The Black Day on June 22 2015 was organized by the anti-POSCO people’s movement’ (or PPSS). It marked the tenth anniversary of the signature of the MOU. The struggle continues not only asking for the withdrawal of the project, which has been frozen so far, but also the annulment of the charges against more than 200 villagers. The cultivation of betel vines by the local population allows them to survive and also defend the land from POSCO and governmental appropriation.
The project construction has been halted since 2006 but in 2012 it might start again. However, in a jolt to South Korean steel giant POSCO, a UN Human Rights panel on 1st October 2013 asked it to immediately halt the $12-billion mega port-to-steel plant project alleging possible displacement of thousands of people and disruption in their livelihoods. Construction of a mega-steel plant in Odisha should be halted immediately. The project reportedly threatens to displace over 22,000 people in the Jagatsinghpur District, and disrupt the livelihoods of many thousands more in the surrounding area, United Nations independent human rights experts have said. Protests against land acquisition for POSCO plant, coupled with regulatory hurdles have kept the proposed plant, billed as the the largest FDI in India, pending for last about eight years. UPDATE 8th April: Posco announced the scrap of the project during a National Green Tribunal hearing this Friday 8th April, for the many problems in getting subsequent environment and forest clearances, as well as for the protests from locals and different political parties over displacement, water and captive port issues