Forest clearance not for land acquisition: Ramesh

New Delhi: Amid protests by locals against land acquisition for Posco`s steel plant in Orissa`s Govindpur village, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Sunday asked the state government not to use environmental clearance for the project as a "license for forcible acquisition of land".

"The Posco steel-cum-power-cum-port project in Odisha was given environment and forest clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests after a great deal of thought and a careful balancing of various factors.

"However, I hope that the state government will not use this clearance as a license for forcible acquisition of land," Ramesh said in a statement.

He said the "intent" and "purpose" of the environmental clearance was not not to allow forcible acquisition of land.

"I have often said that environment and forest clearance process should not be used to fight other battles that have to do with important issues like land acquisition, compensation and livelihoods…I appeal to the Odisha government to ensure that land is acquired only through peaceful and law-governed means," the Union Minister said.

Govindpur villagers, who have refused to give away their land for the steel plant have formed a three-tier human barricade at the entry point Orissa government has declared the protests as "unlawful" and re-deployed about 800 personnel in the area.

Ramesh said while all parties should adhere to democratic norms and procedures, "I earnestly hope that the state government will not take any precipitate action."

Dialogue and discussion, not coercion is as essential to ecological security as it is to democracy, he said.