Orissa likely to submit its reply on Posco project next week

Bhubaneswar: Maintaining its earlier stand that there was no tribal inhabitant or traditional forest dwellers in the villages demarcated for Posco`s mega steel plant near Paradip, Orissa government on Sunday said it was likely to submit its assurance report to the Centre next week.

Chief secretary B K Patnaik said this while informing that chief minister Naveen Patnaik had already approved the documents to be sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) on proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Though Environment minister Jairam Ramesh accorded conditional environment clearance to Posco`s Rs 52,000 crore project on January 31, he sought a pointed assurance report from the state government on the proper implementation of the provisions under FRA.

"We are ready to reply to the Centre`s queries," the chief secretary told reporters here.

The state government, he said, continued to maintain its earlier stand that there was neither any tribal family nor any other traditional forest dwellers in the seven villages under Ersama block of Jagatsinhpur district.

Of the total 4000 acre of land required for the Posco project, about 2900 acre fell under forest category. The MoEF sought a pointed assurance from the state government after two central panels like Saxena Committee and Meena Gupta Committee reports suggested clear violation of FRA at the Posco`s proposed plant site area.

This apart, local residents had also claimed that they fell under the category of other traditional forest dwellers and were living in the demarcated villages since over 75 years.

However, the state government claimed that the area was categoried as forest land barely 40 years ago and not 75 years ago.

"The sea-side villages near Paradip were not categorised as forest land 75 years ago. Therefore, provisions under FRA could not be applicable to villages at the Posco`s proposed plant site," the chief secretary said.

Meanwhile, the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), speaheading campaign against the South Korean steel major, was preparing to take the matter relating to their claim of being other traditional forest dwellers to the court of law.

"How can the state government denounce us the status of other traditional forest dwellers even though villagers already posessed reqiired revenue documents," asked Dhinkia Gram Panchayat sarpanch Sisir Mohapatra.

The state governemnt cannot bend laws to favour a multinational, alleged PPSS president Abhay Sahu adding that the villagers were determined not to allow Posco project over their multi-crop and fertile land.