Bellary Investment Meet

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”.

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