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Odisha projects mired in land acquisition delay

Vehement opposition from locals to industrial projects slowing down the land acquisition process has emerged as the biggest bottleneck for the Biju Janata Dal’s cherished dream of an industrialised state.

Published: 25th November 2012 12:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th November 2012 12:29 PM   |  A+A-

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The industrialisation drive of Naveen Patnaik Government has taken a backseat as all big ticket projects in Odisha have hit the roadblock. Vehement opposition from locals to industrial projects slowing down the land acquisition process has emerged as the biggest bottleneck for the Biju Janata Dal’s cherished dream of an industrialised state.

If that’s not all, a governance paralysis has crippled the government which has been busy firefighting allegations of a slew of scams.

The steel project of South Korean steel giant Posco is an example of how local opposition coupled with environmental concerns have delayed a mega plant which was touted as the largest foreign direct investment in the country.

The state government had signed an memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Posco on June 22, 2005 for establishment of a 12 million tonne per annum (mtpa) capacity steel plant at Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district. The proposed investment in the plant was `52,000 crore but the agreement with the Korean steel giant has long expired by now.

Renewal of the lapsed MoU with Posco has been delayed by over 14 months. However, official sources could not give an exact date when the MoU would be renewed and work in the plant would be started.

Though the government claims that steps are being taken to acquire land for the project, nothing seems to be moving at the ground as far as land acquisition is concerned. Because of the Kalinganagar experience where 13 tribals were killed in police firing on January 2, 2006, the state government does not want to apply force for land acquisition. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has stated several times that the government wants peaceful industrialisation in the state.

Patnaik has, however, come in for criticism from the opposition political parties for not taking steps to resolve the problems. “He is preoccupied with defending the state government which is embroiled in a number of scams and internal party conflicts as a result of which governance has taken a backseat,” Congress general secretary Arya Kumar Gyanendra alleged.

Yung Wan Yun, who recently took over as the chairman and managing director of Posco India, met the chief minister in the first week of September to salvage the project.

Posco has sought 2,700 acres for its Odisha project, now downsized to eight mtpa from the initial 12 mtpa. IDCOL, the government agency responsible for land acquisition for the project, has reportedly acquired 2,000 acre, largely forest land, and is expected to go for another 700 acres.

However, IDCOL is yet to hand over the land to Posco. The steel major expects to decide on starting construction of the project only when IDCOL hands over the land. “We are hoping that the land will be transferred soon,” an official spokesman said. However, the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, which is opposing the plant, has announced that it will continue to oppose land acquisition.

Another delayed project includes the 12 mtpa steel plant proposed to be set up by ArcellorMittal in Keonjhar district of Odisha. Though local agitation against the plant is yet to take shape, land acquisition for the project is yet to be started.

The story with Central PSU National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is no different. The issue of land acquisition was raised by its chairman-cum-managing director Arup Roy Choudhury who met the chief minister on Thursday. Land acquisition problems have delayed two big ticket projects of the NTPC in the state by over a year.

The chief minister has assured to hand over the required land for Darlipali project in Sundergarh district by December 10. The NTPC CMD said that construction work for the project would start from January 2013 if the required land would be handed over for the project by mid-December.

The total land requirement for the Darlipali project is 1,652 acres—1,217 acres private land and 34.47 acres forest land. Meanwhile, stage-I clearance for the forest land has been obtained.

NTPC proposed to set up a 1600 MW (2X800 MW) power plant in the first phase with ultra super critical technology with an investment of Rs 12,000 crore at Darlipali.

 

- Sunday Standard



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