Trouble for Posco is far from over

Project's MoU expired; oppn mounts despite nod

Trouble for Posco is far from over

Despite the recent green signal from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), South Korean major Posco’s ambitious steel project in Odisha’s coastal Jagatsinghpur district may have to cross several more hurdles before it could see the light of the day.

To begin with, the Odisha government and the Posco authorities will have to expedite the process on the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) front. The important document, inked back in 2005 had already expired in 2010. This has provided the project detractors an opportunity to lash out both at the Posco and the government.

According to Steel and Mines Minister R K Singh, the old MoU will not be renewed and the government will sign a fresh tripartite MoU with Posco as well as its Indian arm, Posco India. If sources in the government are to be believed, however, the important document is yet to be inked because of differences over some terms and conditions in the new MoU. “We are working on it and hopeful of cementing the differences as early as possible”, a senior official in the steel and mines department said.

After the MoEF cleared the project a couple of days back, the state government recommended the Centre to grant the Khandadhar iron ore mines in western Odisha to Posco for raw material for its Jagatsinghpur project. However, the government’s decision has irked the local organisations and the BJP, the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s former ally, who have been opposing any mining activities in the area. “No mining activities will be allowed in Khandadhar which is an eco-sensitive area”, said senior BJP leader Joel Oram, a former MP from the western Odisha tribal-dominated constituency of Sundergarh.

The MoEF’s nod to the much awaited steel project has also prompted the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) which is spearheading the local villagers’ agitation against the implementation of the South Korean project to make an announcement to renew its agitation in Jagatsinghpur. In fact, if PPSS sources are to be believed, some of the activists opposing the project are already contemplating challenging the MoEF’s decision in the court of law.

What’s more, the local villagers supporting the project are also now planning to launch an agitation alleging that several of the promises made to them by the state government and Posco are yet to be fulfilled. And last but not the least, the case relating to the project pending before the NGT is yet to be decided, though both state and Posco officials have already expressed confidence that the body will give its verdict in their favour.

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