South Korea’s Posco gets green nod for $12-bn steel plant (Roundup)

May 2nd, 2011 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 2 (IANS) Six years after receiving a proposal for India’s largest foreign investment project, a final green clearance was Monday given for using 1,253 hectares of forest land in Orissa for a $12-billion integrated steel plant of South Korea’s Posco.

“In view of the state government’s latest communication of April 29, final approval is accorded to the state government for diversion of 1,253 hectares of forest land in favour of Posco,” union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in a statement.

The clearance followed the Orissa government’s reiteration last week that no traditional forest dwellers were dependent on or cultivating land in the proposed project area.

The integrated steel, mining and port project to be built near the port town of Paradip in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 100 km from Bhubaneswar, has been mired in controversy ever since it was mooted in June 2005.

According to the statement, the approval has been given on the condition that Posco would bear the cost of regeneration of an equivalent open, degraded forest land in a district in the state.

This is in addition to the 60-odd other conditions already imposed and agreed.

“This has not been an easy decision to take and it will, I know, be both welcomed and criticised. That is perhaps inevitable, given the complex nature of issues involved,” Ramesh said, asking Posco and the state government to be extra-sensitive to ecology.

“But what I want to be clearly appreciated is that all along I have tried to uphold the principle of due to process. I believe as minister my responsibility is not just to do the right thing, but do the thing right.”

Earlier this month, Ramesh rejected the state government’s stand, following objections raised by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS). The group said the views of two villages — Dhinkia and Gobindapur — had not been considered by the state government.

The Orissa government in its reply April 29 said that the resolution by the two villages was not under the laid procedure of law, following which Ramesh said he was left with three options:

-To seek further legal opinion

-Institute an independent inquiry

-Repose trust in the state government

“But the primary responsibility for implementing the Forest Rights Act is that of the state government. Therefore, I hold that there has been no valid claim for recognition of forests rights in the two villages as required under the Act,” the minister said.

Ramesh also said the agreement between the state government and Posco had expired last year and was yet to be renewed, notably on export of iron ore. Ramesh hoped the revised accord will evoid export of raw material completely.

Thousands of people living in and around the project site are still opposing the project, saying it will displace them from their homeland and ruin their farm-based existence and critics have accused the state government of pushing the project in violation of rules.

The Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, led by chairperson Abhay Sahoo, said the clearance from the environment ministry was based on “brazen falsehood” by the state government.

“It is remarkable the ministry continues to take no action when the state government and Posco have broken clearance conditions, violated the Forest Rights Act and other environment laws,” he said.

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