The Orissa government on Thursday said forest laws had not been infringed upon in the process of building the proposed Posco steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district, close to the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
The state government also said no tribal family lived in the area identified for the plant, implying that the question of livelihood issues did not arise.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh had written to Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday, seeking his views on the split verdict of the Meena Gupta panel report, which had alleged that South Korea-based Posco had violated forest laws.
While Gupta, who headed the panel, said there were no serious violation of the Forest Rights Act and that environmental damage could not be assessed now because the project had not become operational, the three other members disagreed with her.
Gupta was an IAS officer of the Orissa cadre and had also served as Union environment secretary. The other three were tribal affairs expert Urmila Pingle, former director-general (forests) Devender Pandey and advocate V Suresh.
While replying to the Centre, the Orissa government has relied more on Gupta’s content to claim that there has been no violation of rules and that the state government should be allowed to acquire land for the project.
“It is premature to raise questions on the violation of environment and (coastal zone) regulations now,” the state government said in its reply.
Orissa chief secretary B.K. Patnaik told mediapersons: “We have demanded that the Centre should allow the project work to resume at the proposed plant area.”
The Union environment ministry had issued a notification to the state government in August to stop work at the proposed area, about 120 km from Bhubaneswar, following the N.C. Saxena Committee report, which found “gross violations of the Forest Rights Act” in the area.