The ministry in a letter nearly seven years ago informed the Odisha government that it had kept in abeyance the approval granted for diverting 61.48 hectares of revenue forest in the state's Dhenkanal and Angul districts for setting up an integrated steel plant by Bhushan SSL.
Although the ministry on Dec 11, 2006, asked the state government to furnish a detailed report on the project, no such report has been filed or received yet, the ministry said in a recent letter to the government, a senior official of the state forest department told IANS.
The ministry in its letter also expressed surprise that the state authorities allowed the firm to utilise the forest land even though the final approval for the land's diversion for industrial use was kept in abeyance.
The ministry has asked the government to furnish a comprehensive report indicating the reasons and circumstances under which the company was allowed to work even before the final approval was granted, he said.
"Why the approval accorded under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, shall not be permanently withdrawn and the user agency be directed to restore the forest land back to its original status after its full reclamation?" asked the ministry in its letter. A copy of the letter is in possession of IANS.
The ministry has also asked the state government to submit the name and designation of persons responsible for allowing the company to undertake work for construction of the steel plant even before the final approval was accorded it.
When contacted, a senior official of the company declined to comment.