Central panel inspects POSCO's proposed port site

The team, headed by former union environment secretary Meena Gupta, visited the Jatadhari river mouth in Jagatsinghpur district after the union government Aug 27 widened the panel's scope of investigation relating to the project. The members visited Jatadhari river mouth to assess its compliance with the environmental protection act, coastal regulation zone act and other clearances granted to it, a senior district official told IANS, declining to be named.

Besides, they also reviewed its compliance with statutory provisions, approvals, clearances and permissions under various statutes, rules and notifications, the official said.
The panel, which arrived Monday, earlier discussed with state forest and environment department officials on alleged violations of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) by the project.
The South Korean firm POSCO (Pohang Iron and Steel Company) had signed a deal with the Orissa government in 2005 to set up the project near the port town of Paradip, some 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, by 2016 with an investment of about $12 billion.

POSCO requires about 4,004 acres, mostly government land, for the project. Of the area identified, 2,900 acres is forest land.  The environment and forest ministry set up the Meena Gupta panel in July after the Orissa government opposed the report by a previous panel led by National Advisory Council member and former bureaucrat N.C. Saxena.
The panel led by Saxena recommended stoppage of all work at the project site pointing to various violations including of the Forest Rights Act.

Based on this report, the ministry Aug 5 asked the state government to halt all work related to the project. The Meena Gupta panel earlier visited the site last month and had held discussions with local villagers, district and state officials. The ministry is likely to decide on the fate of the project after the committee submits its report, probably at the end of this month.

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