All eyes on NGT hearing tomorrow

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Bhubaneswar: All eyes will be on National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) scheduled hearing Monday on its status quo, the green panel had imposed last May on the felling of green trees at Posco’s proposed steel plant site near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district.

The hearing assumes significance following the recent “conditional” revalidation of environmental clearance (EC) by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to the South Korean giant to build its Rs 52,000 crore greenfield plant, ending an eight-year delay for the project.

Citing environmental clearance lapse, in May last, the green panel had ordered a status quo on tree and vine felling on the company’s plant site until a decision was taken on the same. The tribunal, hearing a petition filed by activist Prafulla Samantray, had said that the company would not acquire any land before the dispute on the environmental clearance was resolved.

Analysts say, now, that the company has received government go-ahead for the much-awaited project, the panel is likely to clear the last major hurdle by vacating its order of status quo, thus paving way for the 12MTPA project, that involves the largest ever foreign direct investment in India.

Besides, the development centring around the steel mill, ahead of the South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s scheduled visit to the country on January 15, signals India’s effort for economic growth despite several hurdles for the particular project.

The project has also languished since 2005 because the local population refused to vacate government-owned land they had occupied for generations.

Meanwhile, optimistic about progress of Posco’s steel project, Odisha government on Saturday said it would sign a fresh tripartite agreement with the South Korean steel behemoth as the validity of the original MoU lapsed three years ago.

“The state government will sign a fresh agreement with Posco and Posco-India for setting up the proposed mega steel mill near Paradip,” Steel and Mines minister R K Singh said.

Though the state government had signed an MoU with Posco-India way back in 2005, its tenure lapsed after five years in 2010. Since then, there is no formal agreement with Posco for the proposed plant.

Singh said the fresh agreement would be signed based on a guideline given by the Centre. “We have sought certain clarifications from the company before signing the pact,” he said adding the issues could be sorted out across the table.

Notably, the state government has already handed over 1,703 acre of land to Posco-India for the purpose and another 1,000 acre of land is ready to be given, said Jagatsinghpur district collector S K Mallick. He claimed that Posco has already started construction of the boundary wall.

The company required 2700 acre of land to start construction for its 8 mtpa steel mill in phase one.

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