Land acquisition for Posco to resume from May 18

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Bhubaneswar: Armed with the final forest clearance order for the mega Posco steel project near Paradip, state government on Saturday decided to resume land acquisition activities from May 18 even as opponents of the South Korean steel major were preparing to foil the bid.

"The state government will begin land acquisition work for Posco project from the place where it halted last year in view of a stop work order from the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF). The land acquisition work will be completed within a month," chairman-cum-managing director of the state owned Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) Priyabrat Patnaik told reporters.

The decision in this regard was taken at a meeting between the Chief Secretary B K Patnaik, IDCO officials and representatives from the Jagatsinghpur district administration. Some senior police officers also attended the meeting.

The IDCO which was in-charge of acquiring land for different projects, had to abandon land acquisition work at the proposed plant site villages of Posco on August 6, 2010 after the MoEF objected to it based on the recommendation of the N C Saxena Committee which pointed out gross violation of provisions under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Claiming that the project had meanwhile, received support from majority of the local people, Patnaik said that the government had retrieved about 11 acre of land during the previous land acquisition effort by acquiring 96 betel vines plantations. The affected betel vine farmers were given adequate compensation.

As most of the betel vines were illegally raised over the government land, the officials would first ensure that those land were retrieved, he said adding that some fish ponds also existed over the government land.

Patnaik, however, said that as per the government`s decision, private land (about 300 acre) from Dhinkia village would not be acquired as announced by the chief minister.

Of the total 4,004 acre of land required for Posco project, 2,900 acre were forest land which needed permission from MoEF for diversion before being handed over to the company for setting up its proposed Rs 52,000 crore project.

Meanwhile, the Posco-India CMD Gee Woong Sung met Paradip MLA and agriculture minister Damodar Rout and sought his cooperation before resuming land acquisition work at the proposed project site.

"Yes, Posco-India CMD met me. He wanted me to help in motivating people in favour of the company", Rout told PTI adding that he was confident that the land acquisition work would be completed without much hassles.

Meanwhile, the CPI backed Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) re-erected bamboo gates at seven entry points to the proposed plant site villages. "Women, children and elderly persons will guard the bamboo gates round the clock to prevent entry of outsiders including police and government officials into the villages," PPSS president Abhay Sahu said.

PPSS leaders were holding series meetings both in the state capital and at the proposed plant site villages to chalk out their strategy on how to stop land acquisition work. "I do not rule out possibility of taking the matter to the court of law as FRA had been violated by the state government," PPSS spokesman Prasant Paikray told PTI.

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