A total of 2.8 lakh trees will be cut for setting up the Posco steel project in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district and the committee set up by the Supreme Court to examine mitigation measures is still awaiting notification from the Orissa government to begin its work.
South Korean steel major Posco signed an MoU with the Orissa government in June 2005 to set up a 12 million tonne (MT) steel plant in Jagatsinghur district with an investment of $12 billion (Rs 51,000 crore).
Owing to local protest and other factors, the foundation stone for the project could not be laid till date.
On August 8, 2008, the Supreme Court gave clearance to the project. The court in its verdict said, “M/s Posco, a company registered in the Republic of Korea, proposes to start an integrated steel plant in the state of Orissa. The Central Empowered Committee has examined the project and has recommended the diversion of 1,253.225 hectares of forestland. It is stated that about 2.8 lakh trees are to be cut and removed from this area. The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has also examined the project and has given its report. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) may take an appropriate decision in this regard and subject to the decisions of the MOEF, this project is cleared.”
The Supreme Court further said, “As there is involvement of cutting of a large number of trees, especially from the coastal side, examination of mitigation measures to be taken to protect this area from cyclone and other natural calamities is necessary. We appoint a committee consisting of S.K. Patnaik, presently acting as a member of Central Empowered Committee (CEC) as chairman….”
However, the committee to suggest mitigating measures is yet to begin its work. S.K. Patnaik, chairman of the committee told the Hindustan Times: “The Orissa government has not issued the notification yet to set up the committee. We will start work on mitigation measures after the committee is constituted.”
Asked on the mitigation measures to compensate for the loss of 2.8 lakh trees, Patnaik said, “I have not visited the area in the last 7-8 years. After visiting the area, I can comment more on the issue.”
On October 19, 2007, CM Naveen Patnaik had met Posco’s CEO Ku-Taek Lee in Delhi and announced that the plant’s construction will start from April 1, 2008.