Conditional green clearance for Posco

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) After putting the project on holdlast year, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh todaygranted conditional clearance for South Korean major Posco''sUSD 12 billion steel mill project in Orissa.

The Ministry, while granting conditional green clearancefor steel-cum-captive-power plant and a captive minor port,however, sought Orissa Government''s assurances before it cangive final approval for diversion of 1253 hectares of forestland for the project, mooted as the single biggest foreigndirect investment in India.

"Environmental clearance for the steel-cum-captivepower plant is being accorded with 28 additional conditionsover and above stipulated in the original environmentalclearance of July 19, 2007," Ramesh said in his order.

"The environmental clearance for captive port is beingaccorded with 32 additional conditions over and abovestipulated in the original environmental clearance of May 15,2007," the order signed by the Minister said.

Ramesh also asked Orissa government to give acategorical assurance that those claiming to be dependent onor cultivating the land in the Posco project area do notbelong to the other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD)category under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

This, according to him, would make it clear that thereare no legally tenable claims of non-tribals wantingrecognition as OTFDs under the FRA.

"Final approval of diversion of 1253 hectares of forestland for the Posco project would be granted as soon as thisassurance of the state government is received by the MoEF,"the Minister said.

In August last year, Environment Ministry had directedthe Orissa government to stop land acquisition for Koreansteel giant Posco because it violates the Forest Rights Act.

The step was taken on the basis of a ground reportsubmitted by a three-member committee set up by theEnvironment and Tribal Affairs Ministries.

The state government and Pohang Steel Company (POSCO),signed an MoU on June 22, 2005 for setting up an integratedsteel plant of a total capacity of 12 million tonnes per annumat Paradeep in Jagatsinghpur district.

The plant would be located on the northwestern bank ofthe Jatadharmohan river creek, 12 km south of the ParadeepPort requiring a total of 1620.496 hectares of land of which1253.225 hectares is forest land and would affect eightvillages in Erasama block of Kujang Tehsil.

The MoU also envisaged that the company would develop andoperate a mining project in areas allocated by the government;a transportation project which includes a dedicated railwayline, road and port; integrated township and water supplyinfrastructure.

But the project was delayed over green issues andprotests by local residents who alleged that the setting up ofplant would affect their largely agriculture and forest-basedlivelihoods.

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