New Delhi: In another setback to South Korean company Posco’s plan to build a steel plant in Orissa, India’s environment ministry has said a clearance granted to the domestic unit of the Korean steel maker depends upon it settling the rights of the local tribal people.
Posco-India Pvt Ltd last month was granted clearance to acquire forest land based on the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Forest (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
Stuck again: Posco’s steel production facility in South Korea. Seokyong Lee / Bloomberg
In a letter dated 8 January, the ministry has now asked the Orissa government to ensure that the company complies with the rights issue and 15 other condition before implementing the project.
Under the Act, it is the state government’s responsibility to ensure consent from all concerned village councils for any project that might infringe on their forest rights.
Posco, the world’s fourth largest steel maker, signed a deal with the state government in June 2005 to build a steel plant near Paradip port in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur by 2016. The project has already been delayed for at least two years due to local protests.
Lawyers and activists said the ministry was not giving the right signal by giving such “in-principle” clearances.
“This is not sending the right signal. It is like saying we give an environmental clearance and the public hearing can be held later,” Ritwick Dutta, a Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in environmental clearances, said of the approval granted last month. “It gives an impression that people are not really the decision-makers and only have a compensatory role.”
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh was unavailable for comment.
Tribal rights activists welcomed the move. “It is finally an acknowledgement,” an activist said on condition of anonymity. “Till August, this was missing, when Jairam Ramesh said that all clearances will be conditional. But by giving final clearance, they had directly violated their own order.”