The land acquisition process for the Rs 54,000-crore (Rs 540-billion) Posco steel plant in Orissa, which came to a halt on 6 August 2010 following the stop work order by the ministry of environment and forest, is set to resume on May 18.
This follows the MoEF's final nod for diversion of 1,253 hectares of forest land for the project last Monday.
"We will begin land acquisition work on the Posco project on May 18.
"To start with, the work will begin on government land where betel vines have been raised.
"Conversion of forest land needed to be acquired for the project will also be taken up.
Compensation would be paid to the locals on the basis of the decision taken by the Rehabilitation & Peripheral Development Advisory Committee", said Priyabrata Patnaik, chairman and managing director of Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Orissa.
"After offering compensation to the betel vine cultivators, we would compensate the locals owning prawn hatcheries at the project site", the Idco CMD said.
Asked whether the government would face resistance from local villagers in land acquisition, he said, "Most of the locals back the Posco project. Besides, no private land at Dhinkia, the epicenter of anti-Posco protests, would be acquired for the project".
Saying the non-renewal of the memorandum of understanding with Posco India would not impede the land acquisition work, Patnaik said land was also being acquired for industries which have not entered into any MoU with the state government.
The state government had signed an MoU with Posco India on June 22, 2005 and the pact had expired last year.
Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had, however, said the MoU with the South Korean steel major would be extended shortly.
The MoU renewal with the steel
"I am conscious of the fact that the MoU between the state government and Posco expired last year and is yet to be renewed.
"This MoU had provisions for the export of iron ore which made me deeply uncomfortable with the project.
"I hope the revised MoU between the state and Posco is negotiated in a manner that the exports of the raw material are completely avoided", Jairam Ramesh, minister for environment & forests, had said in the final order.
A total of 585 acres of non-forest government land had already been allotted to Posco India, though the company was yet to take possession of it.
A compensation of Rs 1.36 crore (Rs 13.6 million) to 94 people who had raised betel vines at the Posco site is scheduled to be paid.
The state government also claimed to have cleared 400 acres of forest land needed for the project.
According to Patnaik, there are around 1,800 betel vines at the Posco site and of the 1,253 hectares (3096.22 acres) of forest land needed for the project, 100-150 acres are in the possession of locals.
The Posco project requires a total of 4,004 acres of land.
There is a government order to exclude 284 acres of private land at Dhinkia.
Following the exclusion of 242 families at the Posco site, around 600 families would lose their land to the Posco project.
Posco India was scheduled to take up compensatory afforestation at the Athagarh-Narasinghpur stretch and a region in Jagatsinghpur district.