The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday suspended the environment clearance to South Korean steel major Posco\\\’s $12 billion project in Odisha, the biggest foreign direct investment in the country.
The Tribunal directed the Union Environment and Forest Ministry to review afresh the clearance for the long-delayed project and attach "specific conditions" which Posco would have to follow in a "defined timeline".
"The environment clearance granted on January 31, 2011 to the project shall remain suspended till such review and appraisal is done by the ministry," the tribunal stated.
The environmental clearance was granted to the Posco project on JAnuary 31, 2011 by the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
According to tribunal, the memorandum of understanding between the state government and Posco states that the project is for production of 12 million tonnes of steel per annum (MTPA) but the environment impact assessment (EIA) report has been prepared only for 4 MTPA steel production in the first phase.
The tribunal further said that no meticulous scientific study was made on each and every aspect of the matter, leaving lingering and threatening environmental and ecological doubts unanswered.
Tribunal also talks of managing plant\\\’s discharge and impact on surrounding wetlands and mangroves, as well as cyclone risk.
POSCO signed the agreement for the mill in 2005 and was scheduled to begin production by the end of 2011. Protests by villagers and activists, environmental concerns have delayed it.
Three back-to-back blows to POSCO
First, the state law department objected to the proposal to renew the memorendum of understandng between Posco and state government which expired in 2010.
Second, The CAG stated that the Odisha government has misused the Land Acquisition Act for acquiring land for several big industricl projects, including POSCO.
Now, the National Green Tribunal on Friday suspended the January 2011 environmental clearance to the project and asked Ministry of Environment and Forest to review it afresh.
Villagers, activists hail the order
The locals, actvists opposing land acquisition for the POSCO plant in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha and environmentalists have hailed the suspension of environmental clearence granted to the steel giant.
Abhaya Sahoo, president of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti that spearheads protest against the project, said these major blows have strenghten our movement.
He also criticised Jairam Ramesh and chief minister Naveen Patnaik for selling the livelihood of the villagers to the highest bidders.
While, CPI leader Ramakrishna Panda said now, when the tribunal has also vindicated our stand, state government should not make further delay in scrapping the project.
The National Green Tribunal, established in 2010, is a specialized description equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.