Rejecting a UN panel recommendation for halting Posco's port-to-steel plant project, both the Republic of Korea and the Odisha government on Monday exuded optimism to go for the ground-breaking ceremony of the proposed facility near Paradip early next year.
"We are happy that the state government has acquired the land required for Posco project. I hope everything will be ready and the Posco project work will start soon," Korean ambassador Joon-gyu Lee said after meeting Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
"I wish to bring the KoreanRepublic’s first woman President Park Geun–Hye, who is to visit India early next year, to Odisha," the diplomat said adding, "If possible, I'll like our President and your Chief Minister to launch this mega project."
Posco, waiting for almost eight years to establish its proposed 12 mtpa greenfield steel plant at an investment of Rs 52,000 crore (Rs 520 billion), has made certain progress. Though the state government has acquired over 2,700 acres of land for first phase work, the taking over of physical possession of the land by the company has become difficult due to opposition from the local villagers.
Asked about the UN Human Rights panel recommendation which asked Posco to halt Odisha project alleging possible displacement of thousands of people and disruption in their livelihoods, Lee said "I am disappointed. That is not the final report of the UN. It is a some kind of press release."
Terming the UN panel recommendation as "one-sided", the diplomat said "they have not come to Bhubaneswar or met people at the ground. They came in few number to Delhi and met people who are opposing the project. They have not met us."
"The project is waiting for eight years. Let the project work start. We are doing best to inaugurate the project soon," Lee said. Replying to a question on the alleged human rights violation during land acquisition, Lee suggested the media to see what was happening. "They (Posco) are starting work very early next year," the ambassador said.
On the possible impact of the project on local people, the diplomat said Posco was doing the project not only for profit, but for development of the state and the country. "You will be able to see big difference once Posco project comes up near Paradip," Lee said.
On the MoU with Posco-India which lapsed since June 2010, Lee said "I understand that they will sign new MoU soon. They (Posco) have agreed to all points. They can prepare the new MoU."
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also exuded confidence about an early start to work on the project saying "the Posco project is now on the track. We expect it will start work shortly."
Besides land acquisition issue, the country's biggest FDI project is also facing problems on environmental point of view. The National Green Tribunal (NGT), which has stopped all activities on the project site following a petition by a local environmentalist, is yet to dispose the case.
So far as raw material linkage is concerned, the project is yet to get captive iron ore mines even though the state government has recommended for PL (Prospecting License) of Khandadhar mines in Sundargarh district.
The Centre is yet to accord its approval, official sources said. While the steel major was planning to set up 8 mtpa capacity steel mill on first phase in different module, it aimed to enhance the capacity to 12 mtpa after being able to get 4,004 acres of land, they said.