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Decision on Posco will have to wait

The environment ministry’s prohibition on land acquisition for $12-billion Posco’s steel plant in Orissa is looking to be a long haul.

delhi Updated: Oct 25, 2010 23:14 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The environment ministry’s prohibition on land acquisition for $12-billion Posco’s steel plant in Orissa is looking to be a long haul. A ministry committee on Monday decided to seek the opinion of the tribal affairs ministry on alleged violation of the Forest Rights Act.

The Forest Advisory Committee, which is examining the fragmented report on alleged environment violations at Posco site, failed to decide whether traditional forest-dwellers existed at the site. The report, where the majority view was to scrap environment clearance was submitted to environment ministry Jairam Ramesh on October 18.

The FAC will ask the ministry to suspend the forest clearance that was granted to Orissa government for acquiring land for Posco’s steel plant in December 2009 till the tribal affairs ministry submits its views.

Two government panels, led by NC Saxena and Meena Gupta, had said traditional forest dwellers existed, a claim denied by the Orissa government citing historical evidence.

While all the stakeholders had provided evidence to support their claim, the FAC was in the fix as having accepted the contention of Saxena and Gupta committee reports would have resulted in questions being raised over FAC’s clearance to the project in December 2009.

As per the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the forest clearance cannot be granted unless the state government presents a consent certificate for the project from the local gram sabha.

However, Orissa government has not submitted the consent certificate claiming that FRA was not applicable. The FAC did not seek the tribal affair ministry’s opinion, though the matter had been raised before. On Monday, the issue was raised again and many committee members were of the view that FRA violation has taken place but the committee decided to take opinion from the tribal affairs ministry before taking a call on scrapping of the forest clearance approval.