Church joins villagers in opposing Rs 50,000 crore steel plant

Date of publication: 
10 March 2010

BHUBANESWAR – After Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources, now it is Korea’s Posco that is facing the heat from the Catholic Church, which has declared to stand by the villagers opposed to the setting up of the Rs 50,000 crore mega steel venture near Paradip in Orissa.

“We oppose anything that threatens to displace thousands, destroy forests, pollute environment and deprive people of their traditional livelihood. The Church cannot accept projects that would make people refugees in their own land,” All India Christian Council secretary general, John Dayal on Tuesday told ET.

Villagers are opposing government plans to lease 4,000 acres fertile land to Posco for its three iron mining projects in Kandhahar, Kujanga and Paradip.

Mr Dayal made it clear that the Church of England is against multi-national companies displacing thousands for mega industrial projects. “The Church of England withdrew all its investments from Vedanta Resources for violating human rights and causing environmental damage near its plant site at Lanjigarh. The Church must support the movement against large projects which are denuding forests, marginalizing tribal people and trivialising human dignity,” he said.

The Korean company’s Indian subsidiary, Posco India, has been facing stiff resistance from locals for the last five years and the promised land still eludes it. With protests growing loud and clear, the biggest FDI proposal may not see the light of the day. Besides, the opposition has now spread to affected villages in Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts. In these villages, locals are guarding their farmlands against the entry of government and Posco officials.

Father Nicholas Barla, a tribal leader who has lent his support to Khandadahr Bachao Andolan (Save Khandadhar agitation), said over telephone that the proposed mines would displace 42,493 people in Sundargarh district alone. Of these 32,044 are tribal, dalit and poor Christians. “We have seen displacement at Rourkela, Hirakud and other places due to mega projects. People have become refugees in their own land and many still have not got compensation. We will not allow Posco to set its foot in Khandadhar,” Barla reiterated.