Jairam halts Posco

Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh addresses a press conference in Mumbai on Friday. PTI

The future of South Korean steel major Posco's integrated steel plant in Orissa is in jeopardy again after Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh halted its clearance, rejecting Orissa government's contentions and after listening to the people of two villages that come under the land earmarked for the project.

Ramesh has asked the state to review the entire issue of settling the rights of villagers at Dhinkia and Gobindpur under the Forest Rights of 2006 before granting the final forest clearance.

The ministry discarded communications from the Orissa government, which claimed that “at least one of the three stipulations regarding eligibility of an applicant to be regarded as other traditional forest dwellers for settlement of individual or community rights as per the provisions of the act is not fulfilled.” Ramesh said he had decided to suspend the forest clearance after receiving emails from two Palli Sabhas (village elected bodies) that their resolutions on land acquisition was not considered by the state government.

The state, however, denied the authenticity of documentations submitted by Posco Pratirodh Sangram Committee.

Ramesh said a final decision on forestry clearance would be taken only after the competent authority completed the process of recognition and verification procedure for all the villages.

Ignoring these two Palli Sabha resolutions and not allowing them to be subjected to a due process of law as per the Forest Rights Act would amount to violation of the essence of the legislation.

South Korean Pohang Steel Company received the environment and forest approval for its $ 12-billion integrated steel plant and a minor port in Orissa in January.

The proposed steel plant in Orissa is the country’s biggest forest direct investment project.

Posco was given the nod with 28 new conditions whereas sanction for the captive port was accorded with 32 fresh conditions over and above the initial conditions imposed on Posco.

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