Abhay Sahoo, Chairperson, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, writes:
Today three of the four members of the committee set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests confirmed that the POSCO project is illegal and that all of its clearances were obtained by breaking the law.
The committee has also found that the project has potentially very dangerous impacts on issues like water, air pollution, and the coastline, and none of this was ever properly evaluated.
After a detailed discussion of the huge number of criminal actions by the company and the Orissa government, the committee says (in the conclusion of the report):“The POSCO project is an example of how a mirage of “development” can be used in an attempt to bypass the law. Such attempts, if allowed to succeed, will result in neither development nor environmental protection, but merely in profiteering. This will cause immeasurable harm to the nation and to the rule of law and justice in our society.”
We particularly draw attention to the fact that the majority found that:
• The Orissa government and the Central government have violated the Forest Rights Act and tried to grab forest land that belongs to the people. This is the second official committee that has reached this conclusion.
• The project could cause environmental devastation particularly in regard to water, air pollution, coastal damage, danger of industrial disasters in case of cyclones, etc., all of which was ignored by the government.
• POSCO suppressed facts and tried to get around the requirements of law.
• The environmental, forest and coastal regulation clearances obtained by the project were all illegal and should all be revoked.
• The forest clearance can only be given subject to the recognition of rights and the consent of the gram sabha under the Forest Rights Act.
Those who keep talking of the POSCO project as one of “national importance” should answer these questions: would any other country in the world tolerate such violations of their law? Would South Korea tolerate an Indian company grabbing their land, breaking their laws and threatening to cause an environmental disaster? Is this what development means – robbing thousands of their lands and threatening lakhs with water shortage and other catastrophes?
As for the dissenting report of Ms. Meena Gupta, her position reflects her own interests. She was the Secretary that granted the environment clearance, and asking her to review it is like asking a thief to don a police uniform. Naturally she has said that all the clearances should continue. Her report is full of distortions, such as claiming that there are only 700 families in the area (when over 4,000 will lose their lands and/or homes). She tries to cover up crimes by saying that it does not matter if the law was broken; all that is required is to impose some additional “conditions.”
We call upon the Central government to heed the voice of the people and the findings of the majority report, withdraw all clearances and cancel this unjust, illegal and brutal project.