Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh is expected to decide on fate of South Korean steelmaker Posco's plant in Orissa before Prime Minister Manmohan visits the country for a G-20 summit slated for November 11 and 12.
Although Ramesh refused to prescribe a deadline for deciding on recommendations of the four-member panel on alleged violations of environment clearance given to Posco, government sources expect the decision by first week of November. "There is no external pressure," he said, when asked by when the final decision will be made.
While agreeing that Posco's investment of $12 billion was biggest foreign direct investment in India, he said that will not be a basis for taking the decision. "Decision will purely be on the environmental grounds."
While three committee members have recommended scrapping of the clearances, its chairperson Meena Gupta has not recommended any such action.
This has resulted in Ramesh getting two different reports. The only unanimous suggestion was a fresh Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the plant and captive port at Paradip.
However, Ramesh did not rule out a middle path. And, possibility it could be a moratorium on environment clearance till comprehensive and integrated EIA, is done.
Ramesh said environment violations in Vedanta Resources aluminum refinery in Lanjigarh and Posco in Paradip are not comparable. In case of Vedanta, livelihood of Dongaria Kondh was involved whereas there is no such issue in case of Posco. Secondly, the Vedanta refinery is functional whereas Posco is yet to start construction work.
"The two operate in different environs," Gupta said, while the other three members made no reference of Vedanta.
Ramesh had scrapped clearance of bauxite mining for the refinery based on the N.C. Saxena committee report.