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The construction of a mega steel plant in Odisha should be halted immediately, UN independent rights experts have urged, citing serious human rights concerns.

The project reportedly threatens to displace over 22,000 people in Jagatsinghpur district, and disrupt the livelihood of many thousands more in the surrounding area, a statement said.

“The construction of a massive steel plant and port in Odisha by multinational steel corporation POSCO must not proceed as planned without ensuring adequate safeguards and guaranteeing that the rights of the thousands of people are respected,” the group of eight experts stressed.

While India has the primary duty to protect the rights of those whose homes and livelihood are threatened by the project, the experts underlined that “POSCO also has a responsibility to respect human rights”.

They said that South Korea, where POSCO is based, “should also take measures to ensure that businesses based in its territory do not adversely impact human rights when operating abroad”.

“Forced evictions constitute gross violations of human rights,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik.

“(It) may only be carried out in exceptional circumstances and in a manner consistent with human rights law, including after a genuine consultation, without leaving people homeless or vulnerable to further human rights violations,” he said.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, warned that the forcible removal of people from their lands could be tantamount to depriving them of their means of subsistence.

“People who would be evicted for the POSCO project have relied on their lands for generations in order to obtain adequate food and sustain themselves and their families,” he said.

(Source: IANS)

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