Orissa resumes land acquisition for Posco plant

Despite opposition from the locals, the Orissa government on Wednesday resumed the land acquisition process for South Korean steel major Posco`s USD 12 billion project in the state amid massive police deployment.

Last Updated: May 18, 2011, 23:38 PM IST

Paradip (Orissa): After a gap of nine months,
the Orissa government on Wednesday resumed land acquisition work for
the Rs 52,000 crore Posco steel plant amid tight security,even
as those opposed to the project started thronging the area.

The land acquisition work is being undertaken by four
teams comprising over 60 officials and personnel from revenue,
forest and other departments at Polanga village under Gada
Kujanga area, Land Acquisition Officer Surjit Das said.
"The work is progressing smoothly in a peaceful
atmosphere. Elaborate security arrangements have been made to
ensure smooth acquisition of land," he said.

The land acquisition process for the 12 million tonnes
steel plant was halted on August 6 last year on orders of the
Union Environment and Forest Ministry.

However, earlier this month, the Environment Ministry
gave its nod to the project and allowed Orissa government to
divert 1,253 hectares of forest land for Posco`s steel
project.

The approval has come with certain conditions, including
ensuring tribal rights and compensatory afforestation, while
the South Korean steel major was also asked to bear the cost
of regeneration of an equivalent amount of open, degraded land
in a district to be determined and indicated by the state
government.

The conditions also include ban on iron ore exports from
the project.

Sarbeswar Behera and Kalindi Behera of Bayanala locality
of Polanga village located in Jagatsinghpur district were
among the first to receive cheques for parting with their
betel vines during the land acquisition process, Das said.
While Sarbeswar was handed a cheque of Rs 1.40 lakh,
Kalindi received Rs 1.60 lakh.

As the process of land acquisition was set in motion,
anti-project activists of Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
started assembling in the Dhinkia area, while those of
Bhitamati Suraksha Janamancha congregated at Nuagaon.

"However, there has been no attempt by anti-Posco
activists to disrupt land acquisition work," the police said.

Around 600 police personnel have been deployed in the
proposed plant site area to prevent any untoward incident
during the land acquisition, official sources said, adding
ambulances and fire brigade were also stationed in the area.

Besides Baliltutha and Kujanga, the police force was
also deployed in areas like Trilochanpur, Gobindpur and other
places where land is to be acquired, they said.

Senior officials, including Jagatsinghpur district
collector N C Jena and Superintendent of Police Devadutt
Singh, were camping at Kujanga to monitor the land acquisition
work.

Despite threats, senior officials expressed hope that the
villagers would extend necessary cooperation as their demands
were going to be discussed very soon.

The revenue divisional commissioner has already convened
a meeting of Rehabilitation and Periphery Development Advisory
Committee (RPDAC) to discuss and settle the demands made by
the local people on May 30, according to the collector.

PTI