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Government nod to iron and steel project angers many

Church, activists: Fight against Orissa development will go on

Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar

February 1, 2011

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Church leaders and social activists in Orissa have attacked the federal government’s decision to allow a South Korean firm to mine and build a steel mill in the state. Father Nicholas Birla, a human rights and environmental activist, said the proposed mines would displace some 40,000 people, including 32,000 tribal, Dalit and poor Christians. “It is total sell out. This is how the tribal are treated by so-called welfare government,” the priest said. The federal Environment and Forests Ministry said yesterday the project has considerable economic, strategic and technological significance for the country but at the same time, laws on environment and forests must be implemented seriously. The Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO) plans to mine for iron ore and build a steel processing plant and private port in Jagatsinghpur district of the eastern Indian state. Local tribal people have been protesting the project for the last five years as it would deprive them of their livelihoods by destroying their farmlands and fishponds. They and local activists have vowed to continue the fight against the project. “The government’s green light for the project is an act of rape against justice and the people,” Prashant Paikray, spokesperson of an anti-POSCO group, said. “We will not give up our lands, forests and homes to this company. If this project comes, it will come over our dead bodies,” Paikray said. Praful Samantaray, who leads Jana Shakti Abhiyan (people’s power movement), a community group involved in the campaign, said, “The fight will go on. We will plot a further course of action. There is no question of withdrawing or compromising on the issue.” Bishop John Barwa of Rourkela, under whose jurisdiction the project falls, called the government’s decision a rude shock. The decision reflects how voiceless and marginalized communities can be exploited, he said.   Related reports Scores hurt in protest against Korean project Church backs villagers against steel giant IE13114.1639
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