Posco defends forest clearance, diversion

Cuttack, July 19: Posco India Ltd has told the Orissa High Court that no illegalities were committed either by the Centre or Orissa in giving forest clearance and diverting forest land for the South Korean company.

Senior advocate Sanjit Mohanty arguing during adjudication of a batch of PILs challenging land acquisition and grant of forest clearance for the steel project in the Court of Chief Justice V Gopala Gowda and Justice B N Mohapatra on Monday rejected the claims of the petitioners.

The petitioners had stated that the forest clearance for the project violated Article 14, 19, 21 and 300-A read with Articles 38, 39 (a, b, and c), 39-A, 46, 48-A and 51 A(g) of the Constitution of India.

The petitioners claiming themselves as ''other forest dwellers'' as per the Forest Rights Act maintained that they would be directly affected and would be victims of non-implementation of the Act for the purpose of recognition and vesting of their Forest Rights which they have been enjoying for generations.

But the Posco counsel rejected their claims, saying there was no claim either by any individual or any group before the statutory body which has been functioning since 2008.

More so, the claimants seeking recognition and vesting rights should also furnish certain documents in support of their claims as per the Forest Rights Act, but none has been filed till date, the counsel said.

"The land in question doesn't come under forest land as beetle vine is never considered as forest produce.

Moreover, the land belongs to the state government which was under illegal encroachment and the government lawfully transferred it in favour of Posco," the counsel said.

The petitioners, however, have claimed that out of 1620.496 hectares earmarked for the steel plant, about 1253.225 hectares is forest land that included 68.98 hectares of Jatadhar Reserve Forest, 1106.877 of Dhinkia-Nuagaon Protected forest, 27.68 hectare of Noliasahi Protected Forest and 49.688 hectares of revenue forest.


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