Monday, November 29, 1999

Nine injured in clash over Posco India project

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At least nine people, including six policemen, were injured in a clash on Saturday as violence flared over a planned steel plant of South Korea's POSCO in Orissa.The clash between police and villagers protesting the planned 12 million-tonne-capacity steel plant by the world's No. 4 steelmaker took place in Jagatsinghpur district in Orissa.Hundreds of villagers refused to vacate a road they had blocked since January, preventing access to the site to company and government officials."Police fired rubber bullets and teargas after they (protesters) pelted stones and hurled crude bombs," Arun Sarangi, inspector general of police, said.The police were trying to evict protesters from the site when the clash erupted, he said.Prasant Paikray, a protest leader, said police acted without provocation, and that at least 15 protesters had been injured in the clash.POSCO signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2005 for the plant, which was to be built in three phases by 2016, with production scheduled to begin by the end of 2011 at the completion of the first phase.The $12 billion project, touted as India's biggest foreign direct investment, has been delayed by more than three years due to protests by farmers who fear losing their livelihood.The steelmaker requires 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) of land, of which 2,900 acres is forested. Final clearances for acquiring the forested land have been given, but there has been little progress in land acquisition on account of the protests."It was an administrative action. We still hope everything will be resolved peacefully and our project will be expedited," said Simanta Mohanty, POSCO India's general manager of external relations.Leading steelmaker Arecelor Mittal also faces delays to its plans in eastern India from allocation of mining licences and protests by villagers.POSCO announced plans in January to invest more than $7 billion in a new steel plant in southern India.(Editing by Rina Chandran; Editing by Michael Roddy)
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