Central team winds up field visit to Posco plant site

Last Updated: Saturday, August 28, 2010 - 22:27

Paradip: The Central team sent
to ascertain the implementation of Forest Rights Act at the
proposed Posco steel plant site here winded up its field visit
today.

The team will now meet supporters and opponents of the
Rs 51,000 crore project and NGOs and also hold discussions
with state government officials, officials said.

Meena Gupta, the former union environment secretary
heading the four-member central team said the committee, is
likely to submit its report in about two months.

During interaction with villagers at Noliasahi under
Gada Kujanga, one of the three gram panchayats in Posco`s
proposed plant area, Ratnakar Behera, president of Jangal
Surakshya Committee, told the team that the village forest was
one of the oldest in the area and the residents were dependent
on the income from betel vines for the past three generations.

"If the Posco plant comes up in the area, we will be
left with no other source of livelihood," Behera said.

He was contradicted by Nakula Sahu, sarpanch of
Gada-Kujanga, who said betel vines were not very old in the
area.

A few old timers fell at Gupta`s feet at Nuagaon and
pleaded with her to save them from being displaced from their
ancestral fertile land.

"The Saxena committee had given a favourable report.
Please help us by submitting a similar report," they pleaded
while claiming that the forests found place in the record of
Gupteswar Mahadev of Gada Kujanga and "Madala Panji", the
temple almanac of Sri Jagannath temple at Puri.

Opposing claims by the pro-Posco camp that the area
had no tribals, Suresh Mohapatra, president of Bhitamati
Surakshya Mancha, cited the example of Hema Hembram, a tribal
woman who is the ward member of Ward No 9.

Tribals have been staying in the area for generations
and the government had issued them land patta in 1920 and
1932.

"The district administration has destroyed our betel
vines in large tracts in clear violation of the Forest Rights
Acts," he said.

The Central team also visited Patna under Dhinkia
grampanchayat and met the 52 pro-plant families resettled in
camps set up by Posco.

The families said the area had no tribal inhabitants,
no betel vine farming was carried out there and casurina
plants were used only for firewood.

"There is no forest produce as claimed by project
opponents...If the Posco plant is established in the area it
will help the people a great deal by providing employment
opportunity and strengthening infrastructure," they said.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, August 28, 2010 - 22:27

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