Amid protests by locals against land acquisition for POSCO's steel plant in Orissa's Govindpur village, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday asked the state government not to use environmental clearance for the project as a "licence for forcible acquisition of land".
A statement issued by the minister on Sunday read:
'I have often said that the environment and forest clearance process should not be used to fight other battles that have to do with important issues like land acquisition, compensation and livelihoods. The POSCO steel-cum-power-cum-port project in Odisha was given environment and forest clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests after a great deal of thought and a careful balancing of various factors. However, I hope that the state government will not use this clearance as a license for forcible acquisition of land. This was neither the intent nor the purpose of the clearance given by the MoE&F. I appeal to the Odisha government to ensure that land is acquired only through peaceful and law-governed means. While all parties should adhere to democratic norms and procedures, I earnestly hope that the state government will not take any precipitate action. Dialogue and discussion, not coercion is as essential to ecological security as it is to democracy.'
Last month, the Jairam Ramesh-led Environment Ministry gave the go-ahead to the Korean steel giant to build the steel plant in the state.
Nearly 2000 women, children and men have formed a human barricade to prevent the entry of police and administration in the proposed plant area, in what they say is a last ditch attempt to protect their land.