Posco gets final forest clearance

Structure revised MoU to avoid export of raw materials: Ramesh's advice to Orissa, Posco

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Neha Sethi | May 2, 2011



The stalled Posco project in Orissa got a final forest clearance from the ministry of environment and forests on Monday. In an order, union environment minister Jairam Ramesh said, “In view of the state government’s latest communication of April 29, final approval is accorded to the state government for diversion of 1,253 hectares of forest land in favour of Posco.”

The minister however added that the approval would hinge on the following being met -- “in addition to the conditions already imposed on compensatory afforestation, payment of NPV etc, Posco would also bear the cost of regeneration of an equivalent amount of open, degraded forest land in a district to be determined and indicated by the state government.”

On April 29, the Orissa government had written to Ramesh saying that the two Palli Sabha Resolutions of Dhinkia and Gobindpur are not valid documents under the Orissa Grama Panchayat Act, 1964 and Forest Rights Act, 2006. Such resolutions can neither be relied on nor be acted upon.

The minister had on January 31 announced that the final forest clearance to Posco would be given only after the Orissa government gave an assurance that there are no traditional forest dwellers residing in the forest land to be given to Posco. The two Palli Sabhas had then written to Ramesh on April 14 claiming that the resolutions passed by them were against him giving a forest clearance to the steel company.

The state government has also said that the resolutions passed by the Palli Sabhas are not available in the book (recorded by the gram panchayat secretary and signed by the sarpanch) and are therefore “fake ones”.

Ramesh has mentioned that after going through the Forest Rights Rules and based on information provided by the state government, “I have no option but to come to the conclusion that there has been no legally valid resolution of the Gram Sabha claiming recognition of forest rights under the Forest Rights Act.”

Stating that he had decided to “repose trust in what the state government has so categorically asserted”, the minister added, “faith and trust in what the state government says is an essential pillar of cooperative federalism which is why I rejected the second option (of instituting an independent inquiry into the clams an counter claims made by the state government and the Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS)”.

Ramesh said that since the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Orissa government and Posco is to be renewed, he expects that “the revised MoU between the state and Posco would be negotiated in such a manner that the exports of raw material are completely avoided.” He added that provisions for export of iron ore made him deeply uncomfortable with this project.

The minister added that he expected the “state government would immediately pursue action, under the Orissa Gram Panchayat Act, 1964, against the sarpanch, Dhinkia for what it has categorically said are ‘fraudulent’ acts.”

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