22 October 2013
The UN has called on Indian authorities to suspend the construction of a massive steel plant which could make over 22,000 people homeless and destroy the livelihoods of thousands more.
The $12bn steel plant and port in the east-Indian state of Odisha is being built by Posco, a multi-national steel corporation based in the Republic of Korea.
However, the UN Human Rights Council was alerted following various allegations of human rights abuses, and sent in eight ‘special rapporteurs’.
A press release quoting the experts said that construction "must not proceed as planned without ensuring adequate safeguards and guaranteeing that the rights of thousands of people are respected".
Different rights have allegedly been abused; from the right to housing, food and water to the right to protest peacefully.
Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN’s water and sanitation expert, believes the residents’ need for water should come before that of the project (Credit: Rama/Wikimedia)
According to Maina Kiai, the expert on freedom of peaceful assembly, protesters have experienced "violence, harassment and intimidation, as well as arbitrary detentions and false charges".
The plant will force the eviction of residents, cause damage to the forest and therefore the livelihood of locals and also drastically affect water and sanitation for those in the surrounding areas.
Once the plant is up-and-running, residents could lose nearly 40 million litres of water daily.
Catarina de Albuquerque, the water and sanitation expert, said: "Access to safe drinking water and sanitation for nearby residents must be guaranteed and prioritised ahead of the water required for the large-scale investment projects."
The experts have urged Posco to carry out and act upon a human rights impact assessment, and ensure "meaningful consultations with potentially affected stakeholders".