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Fwd: Urgent Appeal (6) - INDIA

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  • Max Ediger
    ** *HOTLINE ASIA * *URGENT APPEALS* ** ** *UA111031(6) * *Protect the Victims of POSCO Mining Project - INDIA* 31 October 2011 ** ** *Summary* On 26 September
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2011
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      Protect the Victims of POSCO Mining Project - INDIA
      31 October 2011
      On 26 September 2011, villagers from Govindpur and Dhinkia, Orissa of Eastern India, were attacked by around 400 people when they gathered to protest against the mining project by POSCO - India Private Limited (POSCO).  The mob came in 10 trucks and hurled stones at the protestors who could only resist with sticks.  Consequently, 30 villagers were injured, three seriously hurt.   The injured dared not to seek treatment outside the village, for fear of being arrested by police.  It is alleged that the mob was sent by Paradeep Paribahan, an Indian company contracted by POSCO to construct the coastal road.
      POSCO - India Private Limited, a subsidiary of Pohang Steel Limited of South Korea, was expected to be the largest foreign investment project in India.  The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) gave POSCO a final forest clearance to commence the construction on 2 May 2011, despite breach of laws in India and foreseeable damage to the forest.  Among the objections to the Project were reports from committees constituted by the MoEF itself.  (More in the “Background”. )
      *** Please respond before 31 November 2011***
      Action Requested
      The attack on 26 September 2011 is only an incident in the villagers’ long term struggle.  The villagers continue the protest at the construction site everyday even after the attack.  They are under imminent threat as long as they continue the protest against the POSCO project.
      Please write polite letters expressing your concern on the blatant violation on Indian laws, particularly the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006; and  request the authorities to protect the villagers  from further intimidation.
      Send letters to: .
      1. Shri Manmohan Singh,
        Prime Minister of India,
        Prime Minister’s Office,
        Room 152, South Block,
        New Delhi, INDIA

        Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857

      2. Mr. Naveen Patnaik
        Chief Minister
        Through the office of the Principal Secretary
        Home Department, Government of Orissa
        Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome  Gate,
        P.O.Bhubaneswar, 751 001 Orissa, Dist Khurda, INDIA

        Fax: +91 67 4253 5100

      3. Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan
        MOS (IC) Environment & Forests
        Paryavaran Bhavan,CGO Complex,
        Lodi Road,New Delhi 110 003, INDIA

        Fax: +91 11 2436 2222
      Send Copies to:
      1. Pohang Steel Limited of South Korea
        Department of Ethics Management
        892, Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu,
        Seoul, 135-284

        Fax: +82 2 3457 6261

      2. Diplomatic representatives of India in your countries.

      Sample Letter
      ***Please avoid typing ‘cc ACPP’ at any part of your letter but send copies to us separately for monitoring purpose.***
      We are writing with grave concern about the POSCO steel mining project in Orissa.  The project was granted a forest clearance despite violation of Indian laws and rules.  Two statutory committees of the Ministry of Environment and Forest have recommended the withdrawal of the clearance.  Also, the affected villagers have carried out procedures according to the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (FRA).  However, the government still pushed forward with the project, ignoring the villagers’ rights.
      To halt the project, a group of villagers organize a daily protest on the construction between Dhinkia and Noliasahi.  Most shockingly, on 26 September 2011, the blockade was attacked by a mob of 400 people, allegedly sent by Paradeep Paribahan, a company contracted by POSCO.   We also heard that some of the complainants were charged with unlawful assembly. 
      Please be reminded that the FRA 2006 gives the forest dwellers the right to protect and manage the forest; to conserve community forest resources; and to protect wildlife.  Therefore, we urge the Indian government to resolve all concerns about  the project before any further construction.  Intimidation, such as the attack on 26 September, should be stopped and the people be rightfully protected.
      The POSCO- India Private Limited (POSCO) signed a memorandum of understanding with Orissa government on 22 June 2005.  The Project, composed of a steel plant, mining ore and captive port, has drawn strong criticism since then.   
      In June 2011, twenty platoons of armed forces started to be deployed to acquire the land.  A local anti- POSCO group, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, claimed that the police who were based near the protest site received a forewarning  of the attack on 26 September 2011, but  did not come to the site nor take preventive action immediately.  The police have yet to register any cases against the attackers.
      Breach of Laws and Rules
      As early as 2010, two independent committees constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) itself recommended the withdrawal of any clearance from the POSCO project, as there were traditionally forest dwellers whose livelihood depended on the project affected area.  The committees also pointed out that the project violates laws and rules such as Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA), the Coastal Zone Notification Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) guideline. 
      For example, a public hearing organised by the MoEF was  held 15-20 km away from the three affected villages.  Therefore, only very few villagers could participate.  Also, both the report of the EIA and the video of the public hearing were not made available to the public.  
      According to the FRA, the state government is obliged to obtain consent from the Gram Sabha (full village assembly) in the areas proposed for diversion of forest land.  In February 2011, the Palli Sabha (village council) submitted a resolution rejecting the distribution of land to the POSCO project, along with signatures of more than 65%  of the villagers, to the Orissa government and the MoEF; however,  government officials hastily issued the final clearance on 2 May 2011, claiming that only 133 signatures were received.  
      Critics commented that “the company's [POSCO] investment in the Orissa project is the biggest foreign direct investment in the country. Delhi feared that a ‘no’ to the project would sully India's image as an investment destination and also have a negative impact on growing India-South Korea economic relations[……] Given the present government's preoccupation with foreign investment and nuclear deals, it is not surprising that the POSCO project was being monitored by the Prime Minister's Office. The final clearance reportedly came following pressure from the Prime Minister's Office on the environment ministry.” (  by Sudha Ramachandran, 12 May 2010, Asian Times.)
      Environmentral Impacts
      “What will I do with the money,  fill it in a bag and sit by the road?” said an old betel farmer who was being offered Rs1,100,000 (about USD 22,700) by the POSCO.  A woman villager said,  “we have rice,  cashew, fish and betel vines.  What will POSCO give us ?” The following is what POSCO will bring to the villagers who are presently living sustainable lives. 
      First, the US12.1 billion steel project requires 4004 acres of land out of which 3,700 acres are forest land being cultivated by  people who grow betel leaves since 1920.  POSCO steel plant will kill about 1,800 betel farms, which provides Rs. 300,000-500,000 (approximately USD 6,000-10,000) annual income to 2,500 farmers.  The POSCO steel plant, to be completed in two phases by 2016, with a capacity of 12 million tones will require water supply from the Mahanandi River.  This will heavily affect the current water supply for domestic use and irrigation in the city and farm lands of Cuttack, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts of Orissa.
      The Khandadhar hills, where the iron mines allotted to POSCO spreads over 6000 hectares, are covered with forests and inhabited by a wide variety of wildlife.  The iron mining will affect 10,000 hectares of forest and displace more than 50 tribal villages in Lahunipada block in Sundargarh district.  In August 2011, 600,000 trees were chopped down.  These well-known “cyclone savers” protected villagers from a cyclone in 1999.
      Moreover, the construction of a captive port will disturb the water flow in the Jatadhar River, resulting in water-logging, while the expected contamination of the port will affect livelihood of approximately 30,000 fishermen.  The port proposed to be established on the banks of Bay of Bengal would violate the Costal Regulation Zone and threaten the nesting habitat of the endangered Olive Ridley turtles.
      Yours sincerely,

      Terence Osorio

      Sources: Local source, Asian Times, Asian Human Rights Committee,  NDTV,  “A day at the vineyards” by Sainath. P.,   Meena Gupta Report and Saxena Report.

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