Mumbai/Kolkata: India’s JSW Steel Ltd. has received environmental clearance for a planned 650 billion-rupee ($8.6 billion) steel plant in the eastern state of Odisha that’s facing protests by local villagers over acquisition of the land.
Tycoon Sajjan Jindal’s steel major will start work on the 13.2 million tons-a-year plant once the Odisha government hands over the land, it said in a statement Monday. The project is one of the largest in the manufacturing sector in the country and the environment ministry’s approval came after it heard people’s views on the plan, JSW said.
JSW is planning to set up the mill at a site that was abandoned by Posco after the South Korean company faced opposition from villagers and lack of access to raw materials. This time, too, the local people have been protesting against the plant as they fear pollution from the mill and the diversion of land away from agriculture, according to activists protesting at the location.
Resistance by locals to land acquisition has long plagued new projects in India, complicating the country’s efforts to more than double its steel capacity by the turn of the decade as it races to build roads, airports and other infrastructure. The latest protests highlight the challenges India’s state governments and companies face as they seek to increase capacity and rope in investment in a more environmentally and socially vigilant world.
JSW said it has set aside money for public health, social infrastructure and waste management, among others. It also plans to spend on environmental protection, it said.
Activists are planning to challenge the environmental clearance in the National Green Tribunal, according to Prafulla Samantara, president of the non-profit Lok Shakti Abhiyan.
“This is more dangerous than Posco’s project, because that was a 12 million ton steel plant,” he said by phone, adding that not only is JSW’s plant bigger, it also includes a cement plant along with a thermal power plant.
“Our commitment is how to prevent this project, not only to save land but also to save the right to life of the people,” said Samantara, one of the key protestors at the site. “We will fight to the end.” –Bloomberg