New Delhi: Posco-India Pvt. Ltd, the subsidiary of the South Korean steel maker, has received an environmental clearance for the first phase of its proposed $12 billion (Rs49,200 crore) steel plant in Orissa.
The environment ministry’s expert committee for industrial projects has given its approval after assessing the plant’s impact on the environment; a formal letter is expected to be sent to Posco next week.
The first phase involves the development of a four-million tonne steel mill with an investment of over Rs16,000 crore. About 18,000 people are expected to be employed when the plant is ready in 2010.
The proposed steel plant represents the country’s largest foreign direct investment, but has hit a year’s delay due to trouble with acquiring land and iron ore mines. The next hearing at the mining tribunal for Khandadhar mines, for which both Posco and the state-run Kudremukh Iron Company Ltd are among dozens of contenders, will be held next month.
Actual construction of the first phase may still be delayed by at least four months, as clearance to Posco’s plan to build on forest land is still pending.
The forest diversion plan was prepared by the Orissa government to “green” alternative land in exchange for the forest area Posco will receive.
Orissa chief secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathi, who was in Delhi this week, said the forest diversion plan was submitted to the ministry three days ago. “We have submitted all the requirements as per law, including afforestation plans and payment of compensation,” said Tripathi.
The previous date for submission was 30 April, but the preparation of the diversion plan grew complicated and delayed when it was discovered that Posco’s total requirement of 4,004 acres of land included more forest land than earlier estimated.
In April this year, Posco’s port project received environmental impact clearance.
The controversial project, which is being monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office every alternate month, received a boost after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik that clearances for Posco would be fast-tracked.
Under a Supreme Court ruling, the forest advisory committee is to approve forest diversion plans within four months of their submission.
Following a dispute last year between the Centre and Supreme Court over who sits on the committee, several investment projects across the country have been held up.
“We are nine months behind schedule. The court has now asked us to clear all pending projects between September 2006 and May this year,” said an environment ministry official who did not want to be identified.
The goal for these clearances has now been moved to 3 July.