Orissa gets final nod for Posco project (Lead)

May 2nd, 2011 - 7:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 2 (IANS) The union environment ministry Monday granted final approval to the Orissa government for diversion of 1,253 hectares of forest land for setting up the $12 billion steel project of South Korean major Posco.

The decision was taken following the Orissa government’s reiteration last week that no traditional forest dwellers were dependent on or cultivating land in the project area.

“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,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in a statement.

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 conditions already imposed.

The union environment and forests ministry January granted conditional clearance to the project to be built near the port town of Paradip in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 100 km from Bhubaneswar.

While granting approval, the ministry asked the state government to give a categorical assurance that no traditional forest dwellers were dependent on or cultivating land in the project area.

The state government had reiterated in its reply that there were no tribal inhabitants or other traditional forest dwellers in the proposed site of the project.

Earlier this month, however, Ramesh rejected the state government’s stand following objections raised by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS). The Samiti has been spearheading the movement against the project, and asked it to re-examine the claim made by the local residents.

The group said the resolutions of two villages, Dhinkia and Gobindapur, had not been considered by the state government.

The Orissa government in its reply dated April 29 said that the resolution by the two villages was not under the laid procedure of law.

Ramesh in his statement said he was left with three options - to seek further legal opinion, institute an independent inquiry, or repose trust in the state government.

“I have decided to follow the third route because the primary responsibility for implementing the Forest Rights Act, 2006, is that of the state government. Faith and trusts is what the state government says is an essential pillar of cooperative federalism, which is why I rejected the second option,” it said.

“Beyond a point, the bona fides of a democratically elected state government cannot always be questioned by the centre,” he added.

The integrated steel, mining and port project - touted as the biggest foreign direct investment in the country - has been mired in controversy ever since it was mooted.

While thousands of people are opposing it saying it will displace them from their homeland and ruin their farm based economy, critics have accused the state government of pushing the project in violation of rules.

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