Odisha residents protest against soil testing for a steel mill

by Dikhyaa Mohanty

A sizable group of locals blocked ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel (AM/NS) from conducting soil tests at Hariabanka here on Friday in protest of the government’s decision to grant the corporation land so it may build a steel mill in the Mahakalapada block. An incensed villager named Ratan Kanjilal said that certain steel company employees began conducting soil tests on village property without first getting the approval of the residents. We would fight the steel mill project, he stated, since the state government has no authority to give a firm access to our property without compensating us fairly.

Several women were among the protesters who were against the soil testing activities. Ashalata Mandal, a protester, stated, “We eke out a living via rice agriculture. We will lose our property and be moved as a result of the proposed steel mill,” the woman claimed. When contacted, AM/NS public relations officer Rabindra Prusti stated that the soil testing work, which was already being done on government land, had to be discontinued due to opposition from some neighbours. After talking with the district government and the citizens, we will shortly resume work, he continued.

Mahakalapada tehsildar Manas Kumar Tripathy admitted that AM/NS officials were forced to stop digging on government land as locals opposed the work. “The work was stopped with an ulterior motive. We will take legal action against the miscreants who opposed the work,” he added. In March 2021, the state government had signed an MoU with AM/NS for setting up a 12 million tonne integrated steel plant in the seaside villages of Mahakalapada block with an investment of Rs 50,000 crore. In August the same year, executive chairman of ArcelorMittal Lakshmi Niwas Mittal had visited the project site to chalk out plans for the proposed steel plant.

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