Orissa waits for environment ministry panel report on POSCO

October 8th, 2010 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 8 (IANS) The Orissa government Friday said it is waiting for the report of a central panel on the alleged violations related to $12 billion steel and port project planned by South Korean steel major POSCO in the state.

“We are awaiting for the report to decide our further course of action” Chief Secretary B.K. Patnaik told reporters here.

The panel, led by former Environment Secretary Meena Gupta, visited the proposed site of the project in coastal Jagatsinghpur district to examine various violations first in August and second time in September.

The panel was earlier tasked with assessing the rehabilitation and resettlement provisions, as well as the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. However, its mandate was widened last month to investigate compliance with the environmental and coastal regulation zone clearances as well.

The panel is scheduled to submit its report Oct 18, according to Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh.

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.

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 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 state government, which stopped land acquisition for the project since then, also said it will move the Supreme Court against a high court order disapproving its grant of permission to the company to prospect for iron ore in a state mine after examining the report of the latest panel.

“We will move the supreme court after examine the report of the latest panel” a senior official of the state steel and mines department told IANS.

A bench of the Orissa High Court July 14 set aside the permission granted to POSCO last year by the state government for prospecting iron ore in over 2,500 hectares in the Khandadhar hills in Sundergarh district.

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