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Pradeep Pattanayak

For the third time, the proposed mega steel project of JSW at Dhinkia in Jagatsinghpur district has been denied environmental clearance at the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) meeting. 

This new development has provided the Opposition parties a peg to hang their attack on the BJD government for being in a tearing hurry to facilitate the JSW to set up its project. 

As per sources, the EAC of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had convened a meeting on January 28 and suggested the company to submit as many as ten documents including a detailed report on land acquisition apart from a corrected map of the plant excluding the high tide areas and sand dunes. 

The company has been suggested to submit a report regarding the construction of the road and the damage to sand dunes in the proposed area. This apart, a report on reusage of water from iron ore slurry pipelines and steps for compensatory afforestation for 1.3lakh trees to be felled for the proposed project has also been sought from JSW.

Most importantly, the EAC has also suggested the company to submit an undertaking not to carry out any types of construction works in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) area. 
Speaking in this regard, social activist Manas Ranjan Kar said, “Clearance has been denied to JSW for failing to submit all the necessary related documents to the MoEFCC. It seems the company would face problems to get the clearance in future as well."

Jayakrushna Panigrahi, an environmentalist, feared the JSW project might also have to face the same fate as that of POSCO if the problems in the proposed area and their solutions are not considered carefully. Pointing out that the regulations of the Environment Ministry are very strict in India, industry expert B. S. Pani said the government is well aware of how to get things done and the people are also not ignoramus. 
“In my opinion, the JSW authorities must take things seriously before proceeding with its project,” observed Pani.

At a time when, no MoU has been signed nor has the most important requirement, the environmental clearance been given to the company, serious questions have been raised on how the project work was going on and under whose authority. How and why did the administration destroy crores worth of vineyards of local farmers without even verifying the JSW’s papers? 

Now with the information relating to denial of environmental clearance to the JSW trickling in, the Opposition parties have started cornering the government. 

Senior BJP leader Bibhuprasad Tarai criticised the Odisha government saying “The viewpoints supposed by the company as well as the government to set up a plant are elusive here. Now it feels extremely unfortunate the way the state government used the police force to destroy lives and livelihood in the area.”

In a caustic rant, Congress leader Lalatendu Mohapatra demanded the State government to explain as to why it is so adamant to set up of the plant by taking away ancestral lands of the people through sheer force particularly when necessary permission for the project has not been granted.

Odisha Water Resources Minister Raghu Nandan Das had earlier refused to term the police action on the people of Dhinkia as barbaric. “The government has decided to set up the plant on the government land. So whatever steps taken in the past were only to implement the decision,” Das had said. 

With respect to the denial of environmental clearance to the company, neither the plant authorities nor the district administration has come up with their reactions.

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