Central panel inspects POSCO site in Orissa

Bhubaneswar, Aug 27 (Calcutta Tube) A four-member central panel led by former environment and forests department secretary Meena Gupta Friday visited the proposed POSCO site in Orissa to check if there was any violation of law, an official said.

The team visited Dhinkia area of the district and held discussions with local villagers, a district administration official told IANS.

Hundreds of villagers including the leaders of anti-POSCO agitations met the panel and put forth their grievances, he said. The panel on a two-day tour to the area is expected to submit a report to the central environment and forests ministry next month.

The ministry set up the Meena Gupta panel last month after the Orissa government opposed the report by a previous panel led by National Advisory Council member and former bureaucrat N.C. Saxena.

The panel led by Saxena had recommended stoppage of all work at the project site pointing to various violations including of the Forest Rights Act.

Based on this report, the ministry Aug 5 asked the state government to halt all work related to the project.

The South Korean firm POSCO (Pohang Iron and Steel Company) had signed a deal with the Orissa government in 2005 to set up the project near the port town of Paradip, some 100 kms from state capital Bhubaneswar, by 2016.

POSCO requires about 4,004 acres, mostly government land, for the project, of which 2,900 acres is forest land.

Thousands of villagers have been protesting against the project, saying it will displace them from their homeland and ruin their betel leaf farms.

POSCO and the state government maintain that the project will bring prosperity and employment to the impoverished region.

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