Posco's fate still uncertain

However, when contacted, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said he was not aware of such suggestions from the Forest Appraisal Committee (FAC) noting that he was yet to get the report. He said that decision in the Posco case will be taken within a couple of weeks.

"It is a complex issue...facts are being considered and we will take an integrated call and final view on it which will be fair and balanced. We have to review recommendations of the FAC and the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) on infrastructure and coastal regulation zone (CRZ).

"However, it is clear that we would not take months to decide its fate. The decision will be taken within a couple of weeks," Ramesh said on the sidelines of a function here.

In a bid to avoid further questions on the issue, he maintained that the FAC was a statutory body and as a Minister he would not intervene into its decision.

However, sources in the Environment Ministry said the FAC has suggested temporary rejection of the forest clearance to the project which may make things difficult for Posco in getting nod for the steel plant. Ramesh will take a final call in the matter, they said.

The FAC, which was divided on the issue, took a long time in finalising its decision and held a series of meetings. Several members were reluctant to give a clean chit to the project, the sources said.

They disfavoured forest clearance to the project as they felt that there were serious violation of the Forest Rights Act at the site in Jagatsinghpur district.

The FAC, the sources said, went by the observations made by the N C Saxena panel and later Meena Gupta report which gave divergent views with some of its members holding that the state government and the project have failed to implement the Forest Rights Act which was a preliminary condition while giving the forest clearance to it.

The EAC which had met a couple of days ago had deferred its decision after observing that there had been violations of CRZ regulations as establishment of coal/ore and slag yard.

However, Posco has said it has never "violated the rules and regulations" and is still awaiting the permission to set up the 12 million tonne project in Orissa which is touted as the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country.

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