Today eight UN experts called for an immediate halt to the construction of a large steel plant in Eastern India which will forcibly evict as many as 22,000 people. Many more living nearby will loose their livelihoods.
Representing the wide scope of human rights concerns about the project in the Indian state of Odisha, those issuing the statement are international experts on the right to health, the right to adequate housing and the right to food among other human rights areas.
It is a rare occurrence for such a diverse representation of independent UN experts collectively to issue a statement addressing two foreign governments and a multinational corporation on their human rights obligations. I hope this action will send a strong message to the Governments of India and South Korea as well as the South Korean steel company, POSCO, that the project cannot go ahead as planned.
ESCR-Net, WITNESS, and in India Video Volunteers and PPSS, produced the video Investing in Abuse which was also released today. My organization, the International Accountability Project joined these organizations and many others in supporting the content and actions on www.stoposco.org. I urge you to visit the site to get involved.
The mounting pressure on POSCO and the Governments of India and South Korea is being felt. In July, POSCO pulled out of the multi-billion dollar project in the Indian state of Karnataka after significant resistance locally. Even though the project in Odisha is the largest foreign investment project in the country, costing an estimated US$12 billion, the Economist reported in early September that the going will be tough for POSCO.
Not only have local communities been resisting since 2005, the strength of their resolve is growing. Communities are fueled by reports from communities elsewhere in region, who were forcibly evicted to make way for mega projects and are, contrary to promises at the time, now worse off than before. Also awareness and support outside of India has increased – especially in countries where POSCO investors reside.
Ryan Schlief is the co-director of the International Accountability Project. He was previously Senior Program Manager at WITNESS where he led the global campaign on forced evictions. Follow him at @iap_ryan