The two-day Global Investors Meet (GIM) in Bangalore turned into a Bellary investment meet. Mr Lakshmi (Arcelor) Mittal and the Karnataka govt. have plans to turn Bellary into a steel city. Known for large scale iron ore mining Bellary is poised to becoming man-made environmental ghetto. Mr Mittal has signed an MoU for a 6 mill tonne steel plant in in the district . Karnataka urban development minister, Mr S Suresh Kumar spoke of plans for a steel city in the same area entailing an investment of Rs.80,000 crores.
As if this isn’t enough by way of state-sponsored high pollutant investment the minister Mr Kumar spoke of other plans, not just for Bellary but also Bagalkot, Chitradurga and Gulburga. If the govt. has its way, these districts would be turned into a cement belt. Steel and cement, granite and deep-drilling for gold were the sectors that attracted attention of delegates to GIM-B . Mr Azim Premji of Wipro faults Karnataka for not being as ‘aggressive’ in drawing investment in manufaturing, as neighbouring Tamilnadu which has roped in Dell and Nokia for hardware manufacturing.
News reports on GIM-B should set us thinking, if Karnataka, in the name of promoting development, isn’t inviting environmental problems on a massive scale. Steel and cement are energy-intensive and high pollutant sectors, whose long-term social costs are bound to be higher than the immediate and mid-term economic benefits Viewed in this light Karnataka’s development agenda smacks of economic adventurism, for which future generations may well have to pay a high environmental cost. A mitigating factor is that expectations built up at international investors gatherings are never fully realised. MoUs that are signed with such media fuss and fanfare do not translate into reality. I’m not saying this . Mr Mittal did, at a Bangalore press meet soon after he signed the first of the MoUs at the Bangalore Global Investors Meet. Mr Mittal admits that his company is faced with, in Orissa and Jharkhand ‘lots of issues , particularly relating to environmental clearances and protests by local bodies”.