A committee of the UN has called for Korean steelmaker POSCO to halt work on its plant in the Indian state of Orissa due to the negative impact on local residents.
The eight-man committee of experts under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Right (OHCHR) issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the world’s fourth-largest steel maker should immediately stop construction of its steel plant in the state's Jagatsinghpur district.
The statement was based on a report by civil environmentalists highlighting how the US$12-billion project has put 22,000 residents at risk of losing their homes, pushing them to the brink of severe poverty.
This is a follow-up measure after human rights groups published a report detailing how thousands of residents in Orissa are under threat of having their land illegally seized by the local government so that the project can proceed.
"People should not be impoverished in the name of development; their rights must take precedence over potential profits,'' said Magdalena Sepulveda, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in the statement.
The plan to build a plant that can produce 12 million tons of steel per year has already been delayed for eight years due to various legal barriers on land acquisition and environmental issues.
This year, POSCO overcame one hurdle by renewing its environmental clearance license, which it hopes would facilitate accelerated construction. But residents argued that their land had been illegally appropriated by the authorities, leading to further complications and delays.