Posco gets green clearance

Posco’s $12 billion project in Orissa involves three units—a steel plant, a captive power plant for electricity suppy to the steel unit and a port. The Environment minister clears steel and power plant with 28 additional conditions; captive minor port cleared with 32 conditions. Ministry tells the Orissa government to provide comprehensive relief package to all forest-dwellers who lost land to the project in Jagatsinghpur district. Conditions include following national ambient air quality standards; carrying out a sustainability study of water requirement; green area within the plant to be 25% of total area and devoting 2% of net annual profit to corporate social responsibility .
In both Adarsh and Vedanta cases, the ministry of environment and forests had refused to condone past illegalities and violations. Posco, ironically, gained from the fact that the violations had been caught even before it began construction at the site. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh cleared the Korean steel firm in the crucial test against provisions of the Forest Rights Act. Earlier, three committees of the ministry, including one statutory internal one—the Forest Advisory Committee—had asked for the forest clearance to be cancelled. They had pointed out that the state was unable to provide village council clearances for using forest land and other documents as required by the environment ministry. The panels had also noted that the rights of people had neither been ascertained nor settled. Addressing these violations, Ramesh has merely asked Orissa for assurance that forest land being transferred to Posco is free of any claim under the Forest Rights Act. Even on the coastal regulations — another green standard that has been strictly enforced — Ramesh has given Posco the go-ahead after putting some conditions. This ignores the findings of several committees that the port was sitting in a high-erosion zone, and would impact the Paradip Port adversely. One panel had said that the project developers had hidden information from the Centre while seeking clearance. For Posco, the only hurdle now is a Supreme Court case against its right to mine. Another corporate group has taken the state government to court for handing over iron ore mining rights to the multinational in disregard of its prior claim on the ore.

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