On March 21, newswires were abuzz about the Supreme Court (SC) having concluded a two-year long hearing on a case related to the grant of mineral prospecting licence (PL) for Khandadhar iron ore mines in favour of Posco.
The Odisha government and Posco had moved the SC against a
high court decision that had set aside the state government's January 2009 recommendation for granting PL in favour of Posco after Geomin Minerals and Marketing (P) Ltd contested it in court.
While the judgment is reserved, one needs to juxtapose the case with significant realities. For the last three months, there have been constant clashes between the state government and its machinery to break the peaceful protests at the Dhinkia and Gobindpur village borders.
The state government is making a renewed attempt to acquire land for Posco's steel plant in Dhinkia. All this is happening despite the fact that the National Green Tribunal in March 2012 set aside Posco's 2011 final approval and its 2007 environmental clearances have lapsed. Even the memorandum of understanding between the state government and the company has lapsed.
In a petition sent to the National Advisory Council on March 24, people from the project-affected area and several national-level groups and individuals have highlighted the ecological and socio-cultural importance of the Khandadhar mountain area.
The letter, which points out that the Khandadhar watershed provides water to fields all around the mountains in at least 20 villages and mining will deprive tens of thousands of people of water, has also been copied to the prime minister, the Union minister of tribal affairs, environment and forests and the Shah Commission.
It is ironical that, on the one hand, an eight-year-long resistance and numerous studies pointing to the lacunae in the economics of the project have not been adequate for the decision-makers to say no to this project considered to be one of India's largest foreign direct investments.
On the other hand, the state government approached the SC jointly with the company so that it could get its prospecting licence.
This entire operation is part of one large investment dream and, therefore, requires a cumulative look but a full assessment for impacts has been side-stepped.
In 2007, the Central Empowered Committee of the SC had recommended that "instead of piecemeal diversion of forest land for the project, it would be appropriate that the total forest land required for the project including for mining is assessed and a decision for diversion of forest land is taken for the entire forest land".
This, of course, never happened. In India, Posco continues to create history and really not for all good reasons.
Kanchi Kohli is an independent researcher based in Delhi. The views expressed by the author are personal.