By Tarjei Leer-Salvesen and Morten Rønning
The efforts to find a fourth partner in the Utkal project (see above) has made for a uncertain start-up date at the site. Until recently Norsk Hydro has indicated that construction would not start until close to the end of the year.
After a recent visit in the area, NorWatch can confirm that problems related to purchase of land, compensation and rehabilitation are far from resolved. In spite of this, Utkal Alumina has chosen to invite tenders for the construction of a wall around the factory site.
Manager Information and Public Affairs Thomas Knutzen of Hydro Aluminum tells NorWatch why the company is starting this work:
- For us this is mainly a practical matter. We have planned the fence for a long time, and invited tenders from contractors in Orissa at the beginning of this year. We're doing this because we're required to mark off our area, but also because there is a need for jobs in the region. People ask us for jobs, and they know that the project has been planned for a long time, but they feel that they haven't seen any of the jobs they were waiting for. We're talking about 300-400 jobs for some months.
- How high is the wall?
- You won't be able to look over it, Knutzen assures us.
- Will you put barbed wire on top of it?
- I don't believe we will, answers Knutzen, and adds that the wall will be built according to local building traditions for walls around industrial plants. (Such walls in India often have broken glass on top of them, ed.)
- Who will get these jobs?
- We hire people according to fixed procedures. Those registered as affected by the project (PAP) will be offered work. We give priority to those who have to move, then those who will lose all their land, and finally those who will lose part of their land, says Knutzen.
NorWatch has reason to believe that if such construction is to take place without the above-mentioned problems having been resolved in a satisfactory way for the local population, the project might trigger massive reactions.
Norwatch Newsletter 4/98