Conditional clearance to Posco hardly a relief: environmentalists

January 31st, 2011 - 6:44 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) Environmentalists have taken the environment ministry’s conditional clearance to steel major Posco’s $12 billion project in Orissa with a pinch of salt, and say it has been cleared because of pressure from various quarters. “The basic issue here is that the environment ministry may put as many conditions as it wants, but the compliance level is very poor,” environmental lawyer Ritwik Dutta told IANS.

Posco is an integrated steel, mining and port project and separate clearances had to be given to all three. The project in Jagatsinghpur district also comprises a captive power plant to provide electricity to the proposed steel plant.

The ministry has imposed 28 additional conditions as part of the environmental clearance for the steel-cum-captive power plant and 32 conditions are imposed while according environmental clearance to the captive minor port in the state.

Dutta added: “The second point is that a four-member committee gave a comprehensive report, in which the majority said that the steel plant will impact the environment but the ministry has gone for the minority viewpoint.”

“The project has been cleared only because there has been a huge pressure for it to be done. The state government wanted it desperately because the project is of big nature.”

Shankar Gopalakrishnan of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity said: “The ministry has taken the stand that the project can proceed if the Orissa government gives it an assurance of compliance of the Forest Rights Act.”

“However, the state government has no authority in the matter and this was pointed out by both enquiry committees - the Saxena Committee and the Meena Gupta Committee. The Meena Gupta Committee found documentary evidence from the state government records of the presence of tribals and non-tribals in the area,” he added.

“The committees found that the state government had grossly failed to implement the act,” he added.

Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, said the point of conflict now is the Forest Rights Act, and what needs to be observed is the compliance of the conditional assurance sought from the Orissa government.

Posco requires 4,004 acres, mostly government land, for its project, the biggest foreign direct investment in the country. Of the land earmarked, 2,900 acres is forest land.

Thousands of villagers have been opposing the project, saying it will displace them from their homelands and ruin their betel leaf farms.

Posco and the state government, however, maintain the project will bring prosperity and employment to the impoverished region.

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