People who stand to be displaced by POSCO's steel plant in Odisha, India, mobilize to express their opposition to the project. (c) Video Volunteers
a South Korean multinational corporation and the world's fourth largest steel
producer, seeks to establish an integrated steel venture in India's eastern
state of Odisha. POSCO, via its wholly-owned and operated subsidiary
POSCO-India Pvt. Ltd, plans to invest approximately US$12 billion in the
project, making it the largest single instance of foreign direct investment in
India to date. The proposed POSCO-India project consists of iron ore mines, a
steel processing plant, a captive port facility, and related transportation and
water infrastructure. It is planned for a production capacity of 12 million
tons per year and will require 600 million tons of iron ore over 30 years.
POSCO-India project will use over 12,000 acres of land, including 4,004 acres
for the steel processing plant and port in coastal Jagatsinghpur district,
2,000 acres for a company town and associated infrastructure and a further
6,177 acres for the iron ore mine in an area roughly 200 km inland known as
Khandadhar Hills. The company additionally seeks an unspecified amount of land
to facilitate transportation of millions of tons of raw materials and to supply
the water needed for the processing of the steel.
project has made little progress in part due to significant and sustained
opposition from affected communities who have used non-violent protest and
democratic processes to resist their forced evictions from lands that they have
cultivated for generations. The project threatens to displace over 22,000
people in the plant and port area alone, and thousands more face destruction of
The government of Odisha entered into a
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with POSCO on June 22, 2005. Since then,
Odisha has taken numerous steps to help ensure the project moves forward. For
example, it agreed to support designation of the proposed project area as a Special
Economic Zone (SEZ), which affords POSCO significant tax breaks among other
benefits. In 2005, POSCO committed to pay Odisha a royalty of Rs. 27 (approx. US$0.46)
for each ton of iron ore that it extracts. In May 2013, the market value of a
ton of iron ore was US$124.32.
Odisha also agreed to facilitate "all
environmental approvals and forest clearances from the Central Government
within the minimum possible time for the project." In June 2007, India's
Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) granted environmental clearances for
the project plant and port despite concerns about how POSCO conducted its rapid
environmental impact assessments (rapid EIAs). A local environmental activist
appealed in 2011 to India's National Green Tribunal ("NGT"), a specialized body set up to handle
environmental disputes and deliver "speedy environmental justice." In March
2012, the NGT suspended the environmental clearance of the MoEF, calling for "a
fresh review of the Project" due to multiple concerns with the original
environmental impact assessment. The NGT then reiterated the project's lack of
environmental clearance in May 2013, and ordered POSCO to cease deforestation
activities. Despite the NGT ruling, and the fact that the MoU for the
POSCO-India project expired in 2010, efforts to acquire land for the project
Since the signing of the MoU, the
POSCO-India project has given rise to a formidable grassroots resistance.
Formed in August 2005, the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (Anti-POSCO People's
Movement, "PPSS") is a local social movement that represents the residents of
areas that stand to be directly affected by the steel plant and captive port
project. The PPSS has undertaken numerous efforts to participate in decisions
related to the POSCO-India project and express their concerns about the
government's forcible acquisition of land. They have carried out protests and
lengthy non-violent sit-ins, or dharnas,
participated in village resolutions denying consent for diversion of forested
land, made submissions to government committees, issued press statements and
held events in New Delhi, the capital of India. They have also, together with
their allies, filed an OECD complaint against
the Dutch National Civil Pension Fund (ABP/APG) and the Norwegian Government
Pension Fund - Global (GPFG).
what must happen
The Government of India, the Government of
the Republic of Korea, the POSCO Corporation, and all of POSCO's investors must
take immediate action to ensure the protection of human rights in connection
with the POSCO-India project.
The Government of India should:
Suspend the POSCO-India project until
and unless international human rights standards are fully complied with.
Ensure full implementation of the
provisions of the Forest Rights Act and cease all land clearance and acquisition until and unless
the rights claims of forest-dwelling communities are adjudicated and recognized
rights-holders consent to the diversion of forest land.
Take decisive steps to ensure that police
officials act in accordance with international standards on the use of force
and do not engage in arbitrary arrests and detentions.
Provide effective protection for
project-affected communities against acts of violence committed by private
Ensure project-affected communities
unencumbered access to work, adequate food, healthcare, and education services
Ensure that the living conditions in the
POSCO-India Transit Camp abide by international human rights standards.
Devise a permanent resolution to the
temporary housing situation of Transit Camp residents, in a manner that realizes their
right to an adequate standard of living and involves their informed consent.
The Government of the Republic of Korea
Take all necessary steps to ensure that
POSCO respects human rights throughout the course of its activities, including
in its projects in India.
Establish a legislative framework that
requires companies domiciled in Korea, such as POSCO, to adopt measures to
prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts in their operations overseas.
Ensure access to effective judicial and
non-judicial remedies for those affected by the POSCO-India project.
Avoid facilitating or investing in
projects that fail to meet human rights standards.
Prevent or mitigate adverse human rights
impacts that are directly linked to its operations in India, even if it has not
caused or contributed to those impacts.
Ensure compliance with Indian laws and
Ensure that the corporation's commitment
to upholding international human rights standards is clearly communicated in
all business relationships and fully implemented by company officials.
Provide for or cooperate in the
remediation of any adverse impacts to date.
All investors in POSCO, including ABP,
Berkshire Hathaway, Blackrock, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, NBIM, and Bank of
NY Mellon should:
Take reasonable and prudent measures to
ensure that POSCO: respects human rights throughout its operations; complies
with domestic law; and seeks to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights
impacts that are linked to its operations.
Consider withdrawing their investment if POSCO does not fully comply with human
acquisition of land for the project will destroy the thriving local economy and
the livelihoods of thousands of local residents, and will result in the
effective displacement of the area's 22,000 residents. Many of those at risk of
displacement are farmers who have cultivated plots of land for generations, yet
many of them do not possess formal title. Although many villagers have applied
to have their claims over forest lands recognized under the Scheduled Tribes
and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006,
the process is rife with red tape, and residents have met with limited success.
Thousands of non-residents - including Dalits
- who participate actively in the local economy also stand to lose their source
of income. The proposed port threatens access to the sea, which provides food
and jobs for residents and non-residents alike. Some reports indicate that the
livelihoods of as many as 20,000-25,000 local fishermen stand to be negatively
affected by the project. Thousands more stand to be affected at the proposed
mining site in Odisha's Khandadhar Hills, Sundargarh district, which are
popular with local tourists for their beauty and powerful waterfalls. The
area's Khandadhar forest is also home to the Paudi Bhuiyans, a vulnerable
indigenous (tribal) group that sustains itself from the forest, either by
cultivating rice and indigenous lentils and grains on fixed plots of land, or
by practicing a shifting agriculture method known as podu
by the Government of India to promote the POSCO-India project have resulted
in the violation of a range of human rights - including economic, social and
cultural rights . Mounting social conflict around the project has lead to
numerous acts of violence against people opposing the POSCO steel plant,
leading to multiple injuries and several deaths. People living in
project-affected communities have been effectively trapped in their villages by
ongoing threats of violence and baseless arrests and the continued police
presence in their area. Living in a state of siege, they face substantial
barriers to their ability to work, access health care, educational facilities
or other essential services. This has also disrupted local social and
cultural practices, impeding people from attending weddings or religious events
or maintaining other social ties.
POSCO-India project has given rise to significant concerns related to the
diversion of the local water supply and to environmental impacts, including
potentially irreversible effects on endangered species and on coastal sand
dunes that act as natural barriers against powerful storms. Many species of
animals live and breed in the area's waters, lush estuaries, and dense forest.
of the proposed plant and port threatens the area's unique biodiversity. The
site of the proposed captive port includes beaches, which serve as a nesting
site for over 100,000 endangered olive ridley turtles every year, one of only
three such sites worldwide and the only site in the Eastern
Hemisphere. Ecologically important horse shoe crabs also depend on
the sediment along the coast in the port area, and fish and shrimps use the
estuaries and coastal waters as breeding grounds. There also exist well-founded
concerns regarding air pollution and the diversion of water resources. POSCO
has already received approval from Odisha's Department of Water Resources for
the daily withdrawal of 10 million gallons of water from sources that supply
drinking and irrigation water to the nearby cities and districts. The
construction of the proposed plant and port will also destroy the coastal sand
dunes that act as natural barriers against powerful storms, the removal of
which would leave the area more exposed to the harmful effects of powerful
National Green Tribunal ("NGT") suspended the environmental clearance
granted to POSCO due to serious inaccuracies with the company's environmental
impact assessments. A final determination by this Tribunal is expected in September
systematic human rights violations are taking place in the area proposed for
the integrated steel plant and captive port, as well as in POSCO-India's
Transit Camp. There is evidence of significant and ongoing attempts to
illegally evict people from their lands, as well as serious abuses against
individuals and communities who are resisting forced eviction and defending
their human rights.
Rights Violations in Project-Affected Communities: Indian
authorities have targeted people who speak out against the POSCO-India project
with violence, arbitrary arrests and detentions. Police forces have barricaded
villages, occupied schools, leveled thousands of fabricated criminal charges
against individuals opposing the project, and failed to protect individuals
from attacks by project supporters.
As a result
of these abuses, for the past eight years, entire communities in the
project-affected area have been living under siege and have suffered clear
violations of their rights to security of person and freedom of movement. The
right to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention, and the right to be free
from discrimination-particularly on the basis of political or other opinion,
have also been violated. This has also affected a host of economic and social
rights, including the right to work, health, education, and food. Generally,
should the project move forward as planned, displaced communities face a
serious risk of impoverishment, which in turn would undermine a range of human
rights and their ability to live a life of dignity.
Rights Violations in Transit Camp:Since
leaving their villages, the fifty-two families currently residing in the
POSCO-India transit camp have suffered dramatic declines in their enjoyment of
the right to adequate housing, food, water, health, education, and work. Residents
live in cramped one-room homes with roofs containing asbestos. The houses fail
to protect residents heat and rain and pose serious health risks. While they
previously enjoyed access to abundant, clean water in their villages, residents
now share one tubewell and complain of irritation to the throat and skin upon
contact with the water. The sanitary facilities are limited and in poor
condition, and women and girls lack privacy when bathing.
to an official investigation of the National Commission for Protection of Child
Rights (NCPCR), Indian authorities have failed to ensure access, by residents
in the Transit Camp, to essential health care, educational, and child welfare
services, which has had an acute impact on children residing in the camp. Relocation
to the Transit Camp-located far from work opportunities or land on which to
farm-has impoverished residents and pushed previously self-sufficient families
into economic dependence. Without sufficient employment opportunities they are
forced to rely on a daily allowance provided by POSCO: Rs. 20 (approximately
US$0.33) per person, an amount that is grossly insufficient to meet their needs
and the needs of their families. There is no public evidence to suggest that
POSCO has attempted to rectify the sub-standard living conditions in the
Anticipated additional human rights threats if the project goes forward If the POSCO project in Odisha proceeds as planned, and the forcible acquisition of lands results in the anticipated displacement and evictions, project-affected people will face serious threats to their ability to realize the right to food, right to adequate housing, the right to health, right to education and the right to work. The Government of India and POSCO have failed to guarantee compensation that is adequate in nature and scope and effectively guards against impoverishment and serious declines in the standard of living of people affected by the project.
Women living in the project-affected
villages have been severely affected by the repression of people opposing the
POSCO-India project. They have been the targets of violet attacks and have
suffered serious medical problems as a result of their inability to access
adequate health care facilities. Women and girls who are members of
project-displaced households living in the POSCO-India Transit Camp have
suffered severe declines in their living standards, including the inability to
bathe or use sanitary facilities in privacy.
Women residing in project-affected
communities have expressed concerns that the POSCO-India project will contribute
to a gender gap in employment opportunities. Betel leaf cultivation, the
mainstay of the local economy, employs both men and women and allows all adult
members of the community work under conditions of equality. While individuals
and families displaced or affected by the POSCO-India project will be eligible
for employment in the steel plant, families may only nominate one person to be
considered for employment. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)
Committee on the POSCO-India project noted that it is likely that women and
young people will largely be overlooked for employment in the steel plant
because they lack the skills and education necessary to get jobs with
POSCO-India. Although the project authority must make "special efforts to
facilitate skill up-gradation of the nominated member of the displaced family
to make him/her ‘employable'," it is not clear how these efforts would
sufficiently eliminate a gender gap in employment opportunities.
The case set an important precedent regarding the applicability of the OECD Guidelines to the financial sector. The Dutch NCP confirmed that the OECD Guidelines also apply to minority shareholding of financial institutions.
Oct 12, 2012, OECD complaint filed
On October 2012, an OECD complaint
was filed against the Dutch National Civil Pension Fund (ABP/APG) and the
Norwegian Government Pension Fund - Global (GPFG).
National Civil Pension Fund (ABP/APG) - ABP/APG has shares in POSCO worth
approximately € 17m and is cooperating with the Dutch National Contact Point. On 06 March 2013, a joint statement was issued in which APB/APG confirmed they are "committed
to using their influence to make POSCO's activities and practices consistent
with international principles and standards." On 13 March 2013, the Dutch NCP
issued a preliminary statement, which confirms that the OECD Guidelines "are applicable
to financial institutions and to investors, including minority shareholders."
It also clarified that the term "business relationship" applies to financial
relationships. The Dutch NCP is currently attempting to set up an evaluation
and research mission and is seeking to ensure that the mission is jointly
commissioned with the Norwegian and Korean NCPs.
(2) Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG)
- GFPG is managed by the Norwegian Bank Investment Management (NBIM) on behalf of the Norwegian government and owns 0.9
per cent of POSCO. Arguing that the OECD guidelines do not apply to minority shareholders,
NBIM has refused to cooperate with the
Norwegian National Contact Point in its assessment of whether NBIM is violating
human rights through its investment.
to its Human Rights Statement, JP Morgan Chase "supports fundamental principles
of human rights across all [its] lines of business and in each region of the
world in which [it] operate[s]". Additionally, JP Morgan Chase believes it "can
play a constructive role in helping to promote respect for human rights by
[its] own actions and by seeking to engage with the governments of the
countries with and in which [it] operate[s]".
In JP Morgan's Code of Conduct, President
and CEO Jamie Dimon makes the following introductory remarks: "At JP Morgan Chase,
our strong reputation is our most fundamental asset and one that can only be
preserved by each of us and what we do every day on behalf of the Company. We
act with integrity because it's the right thing to do for our customers, our
shareholders, the industry and the larger community [...] Harm to our
reputation affects the entire Company and is enduring. Any perceived ethical
transgression, no matter how isolated or minor, can damage our Company".
By its Code of Responsible Conduct for
Business, Deutsche Bank AG has committed itself to the principle that "business
must serve the good of the people." Deutsche Bank's Code elaborates that "the
competition between communities and countries to attract business and the
consequences of social change have led to a ‘devaluation' of familiar,
traditional ways of working. At the same time, the demand for other ways of
working is increasing. This leads to progress and benefits, but it also causes
hardships. We are committed to avoiding these hardships as far as possible, or
at least to limit their consequences, in cooperation with our social partners
and state institutions."
Deutsche Bank is also committed to
international agreements such as the OECD Principles for Multinational
Enterprises and the UN Global Compact Principles. The OECD Principles state
that businesses should "avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights
impacts and address such impacts when they occur", as well as "seek ways to
prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to
their business operations, products or services by a business relationship,
even if they do not contribute to those impacts." The National Contact Point of
the Netherlands recently stated that it "The NCP would like to emphasis that
the Guidelines are applicable to financial institutions and to investors,
including minority shareholders. The NCP finds that the term "business
relationship", as referred to by the Guidelines, is applicable to financial relationships".
Similarly, according to Deutsche Bank's commitment to the UN Global Compact, it
is required to "support and respect the protection of internationally
proclaimed human rights" and "make sure [it is] not complicit in human rights
Deutsche Bank has remarked, "business can
only perform its role of social cooperation in the service of the people if all
of those involved live up to their responsibilities. For us, corporate
responsibility primarily means that we have to be reliable and keep our
promises. We must keep to the rules and pursue any infringements of the rules
as far as we are able".
BNY Mellon has committed itself by its Human
Rights Statement “to the protection and preservation of human rights around the
world” and that BNY Mellon’s commitment to human rights is reflected in its
“policies and actions toward [its] employees, suppliers, clients and the
communities and countries where [it does] business.” Additionally, BNY Mellon
strives “to create an environment of respect for all individuals” and believes
that, through its actions, the company can “be a constructive influence for
BNY Mellon’s Code of Conduct defines ‘doing
what’s right’ as “conducting business in full compliance with all applicable
laws and regulations, and in accordance with the highest ethical standards” and
“being willing to take a stand to correct or prevent any improper activity or
business mistake.” In addition, the Code of Conduct reminds all employees at
BNY Mellon that “It’s your obligation to do what’s right” and that employees
should ask themselves, “Could the action affect the company’s reputation?” or
“Would it look bad if reported in the media?”
to BNY Mellon’s CSR Statement, “CSR is fundamental to BNY Mellon's culture and
core values. It reflects the corporate social and environmental sustainability
commitments we make to our clients, shareholders, employees and to our
communities around the world. These commitments drive us to perform with the highest
standards of good governance and ethics[...] and improve the social and
environmental impacts of our business practices and those of our suppliers” (http://www.bnymellon.com/about/humanrights.html )
International Laws and Standards
According to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Guiding Principles assign responsibilities to respect human rights to both corporations and corporate investors. In an April 2013 letter, the Office stated that, “it is the view of OHCHR that the Guiding Principles apply to institutional investors holding minority shareholdings.” The letter added that “minority shareholders of institutional investors constitute a ‘business relationship’ for the purposes of Principle 13(b),” which, calls on business enterprises to “[s]eek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.”
The POSCO-India project violates fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, including but not limited: to the right to life and personal liberty (art. 21); the rights to peaceful assembly, to freedom of movement, and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India (art.19); and protection in situations of arrest and detention (art. 22). In addition, the Supreme Court of India has held that the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right deriving from articles 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006 protects individuals and communities’ land rights in forested areas, and applies to two distinct groups of forest dwelling people—members of Scheduled Tribes who primarily reside in and depend on the forest for their livelihood and “other traditional forest dwellers.” There are two key provisions that directly limit the government’s ability to evict individuals or divert forest resources. First, the FRA sets out a detailed procedure for determining whether an individual or community should be granted property rights under the Act. The Act clearly states that it is illegal to evict any traditional forest dweller until all forest rights claims have been fully determined. Second, once protected forest rights have been formally recognized, the local community is given significant powers and responsibilities for land management. As a result, proponents of projects that would divert protected forest resources must secure the consent of the affected villages via gram sabha (village councils) resolutions before advancing the project. Although there are some provisions that allow the government wider latitude to confiscate land for specific public purposes, there is no public evidence available that suggests that these exceptions would apply to land confiscated for use in the POSCO-India project.
All institutional investors should use their leverage to urge POSCO management to: refrain from any involvement in the interference of the human rights of local people affected by the POSCO-India project; uphold the provisions of India’s Forest Rights Act and refrain from further land clearance until the rights claims of forest dwelling communities are formally adjudicated and recognized communities have passed gram sabha resolutions giving consent for their lands to be used for the project; honor the National Green Tribunal’s suspension of environmental clearance for the project and refrain from any land acquisition and construction activities; and publicly recommend that Indian authorities permanently halt all attempts to forcibly enter into the project-affected area, and refrain from using illegal force against project affected communities. JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of NY Mellon should do what is within their power to respect the rights of the local people impacted by POSCO-India’s project.
Protesting the POSCO project at the Indian Consulate in New York
Aug 27, 2013 -
Dividends of Resistance: The POSCO-India Story
Aug 27, 2013 - Along the eastern coastline of India, in the state of Orissa, lie the four villages of Dhinkia, Patna, Gobindpur and Nuagaon. In June 2005, the government of Orissa announced its decision to hand over the villagers' land to the South Korean steel company, POSCO, for it to build a steel plant and a private port. This is land that the villagers have cultivated for generations, and within days the people announced their decision to resist POSCO's project. This film is a testimony to what seven years of resistance does to a people, and a record, we hope, of the real costs of resistance ... For more info, see www.miningzone.org