Posco steel plant in Odisha, India

A ten years struggle defending the land against a steel plant project by South Korean POSCO company pays off. On 8/4/2016 the company announced the end of the project for its long environmental litigation in the NGT and for the people's opposition.


Description

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 Adivasi people. Population density is high.

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Basic Data
NamePosco steel plant in Odisha, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceOdisha
SiteJagathsinghpur district (Dhinkia village, Paradip port)
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral processing
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific CommoditiesLand
Coal
Steel
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe plant envisaged 12 million tons of steel upon reaching full capacity. The company would also construct a new port at Jatadhari. The budget was Rs 50,000 crore.

As reported in the Business Standard, 9 April 2016 (1), "Korean steel major Posco told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that it would not pursue any more its Rs 50,000-crore integrated steel plant project in Odisha. In a case where Posco was defending the revised environmental clearance it had received in 2014, the court recorded the Korean giant as stating the “environmental clearance is valid only up to July 19, 2017, and they would not be able to do any work because the land has not been handed over to them and therefore the project cannot proceed any further”... Posco asked the tribunal to cancel its clearance. Instead, the court ordered: “At this stage they (Posco) are unable to carry out the project and if they plan to take advantage of the environment clearance and complete the project, they would inform the applicant and the tribunal.” This effectively brings the curtain down on the company’s beleaguered project, stuck in environmental litigation from the start

The project got its first ecology clearance in 2007 and the statutory forest clearance in 2010. In 2011, then Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh set up a committee to examine the validity of the clearance to what was then touted as the biggest foreign investment in the country. Ramesh cleared the project yet again but with additional conditions. This got challenged in the NGT. The green court suspended the clearance, setting up yet another committee to examine the matter. Based on this panel’s report, the ministry gave another clearance to the project in 2014. This fresh clearance was challenged again, for having allegedly violated the terms the court had imposed while asking for the re-examination.

Meanwhile, the company was charged with cutting down trees on the site without having got a formal letter from the state government affirming its forest clearance. It was given a stop-work order in this instance. Oddly, the formal letter from Odisha, a formality in the forest clearance process, never came. The case also lingered at the NGT.

Now, to the surprise of petitioner Prafulla Samantray and his lawyers, Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary, the company asked for its environmental clearance to be cancelled, saying it would not be able to complete the project by the deadline of the environmental clearance in 2017 – which it could have sought to extend as a routine event." (1)
Project Area (in hectares)1600
Level of Investment (in USD)12 000 000 000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date2004
Company Names or State EnterprisesPohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO) from Republic of Korea
Relevant government actorsOrissa Government, Green National Tribunal
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCitizens for Environmental Protection., PPSS (Pratirodha Sangram Samiti), led by Abhay Sahu, Indian Supreme Court, One Communist Party of India., Activists from all over India.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Repression
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of AlternativesThe mobilizers do not want the construction of the steel plant, and want to cultivate the land instead.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The 12 milion tons steel plant is not built yet, but there are advanced plans for its construction, perhas at on 8 M tons in the first phase. In 2011, the project was halted by the so-called Green Tribunal of the Supreme Court but the government of the state of Odisha (Orissa) is buying land and making it available to Posco. Still the population keeps on cultivating the so-called government land.

Meanwhile, another steel plant belonging to Posco has been built near Bombay.

UPDATE 8th April 2016: Posco announced the scrap of the project. Despite impacts are already created (like illegal logging of trees), the company decided to withdraw due to difficulty in obtaining subsequent env clearances and for people's opposition.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Forest Rights Act (enacted 2008), it has been used against the initial MoU (memorandum of understanding) between Government of Orissa and POSCO

1894 Land Acquisition Act and its revised version from 2013

Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act

References

Globalisation in the fifth schedule areas-alienation of land and resources from people. Hyderabad, Samanta. 2001.

Globalisation, Imdias Adjustament Experience. Dasgupta, Biplab. Ed. SAGE PUBLICATIONS. 2005.

Links

Green bench rejects Posco’s Orissa project, J., P., Koshy & R., Singh, 31/03/2012
[click to view]

India Together - "A battle that hasn’t been won in nine years" by Kanchi Kholi
[click to view]

Anti-Posco activists observe Black Day, 09/07/2015
[click to view]

‘Whatever they do, project dead, we keep our land’, D., Mohanty, 09/03/2015
[click to view]

Prameya News, 8th April 2016 - There will be no Posco project in Odisha!
[click to view]

(1) Business Standard, 9th April 2016 - Project in Odisha is over, says Posco
[click to view]

Media Links

Action 2007- NO POSCO Part 2 A - Film on people's resistance against POSCO in Orissa (A Film By Girish&Rajkumar)
[click to view]

Action 2007- NO POSCO Part 1 - A Film on people's resistance against POSCO in Orissa (A Film By Girish&Rajkumar)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Villagers occupying Odisha site, February 2013 madhyamam.com
[click to view]

Other CommentsLocal opposition leaders have been arrested, for instance Narayan Reddy (a former legislator). The opposition spread over an area of eight villages.
Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl, D. Del Bene, JMA
Last update11/06/2019
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