In complete disregard of legal procedures and demands of the affected communities, the Odisha State Pollution Control Board has announced three public hearings to take place tomorrow, December 20th, concerning the steel plant project in the Jagatsinhpur district, Odisha. These public hearings, which aim to provide a legal space for affected communities to come face-to-face with the project proponent and the government, are being denounced by the affected villagers for being conducted in an arbitrary and improper manner.
The public hearings are a mandatory step in the process of obtaining environmental clearance and any information regarding them must be made public beforehand. However, according to our sources, such information was neither communicated to the members of the Village Council (Gram Panchayat) nor published in any newspaper that local people know. Additionally, it is also mandatory to conduct and disclose, before any public hearing, a common Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the comprehensive impacts of all components of the integrated/interlinked project, so affected people and concerned citizens can review it. As per publicly available documents, no such EIA exists.
"The Odisha Government has been actively facilitating the transfer of land from villagers to big corporates in complete disregard of established laws and procedures. It has happened before and is happening again, this time for JUSL, by improperly conducting public hearings tomorrow." says Sofia Monsalve from FIAN International
The people of Nuagaon, Dhinkia and Govindpur villages in Jagatsinhpur have been fighting against forced eviction and corporate takeover ever since their land was forcibly acquired for the, now abandoned, POSCO-India project.
After POSCO withdrew in 2017, the Government handed over the land to another steel company, JUSL, in September 2018 forcing the villagers to continue their struggle to protect their land and livelihoods further.
FIAN International stands in solidarity with the villagers and urges to:
- Urgently process individual and community forest rights claims on land that have been filed since 2011.
- Return the land to the original inhabitants as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR) of 2013.
- Withdraw all criminal cases against the people of the area.