MoEF letter sent to forest dept for scrutiny: CM

Bhubaneswar: A day after Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) asked the state government to consider the concerns of the to be displaced villagers in the proposed Posco site, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday said the MoEF letter has been sent to forest department for scrutiny.

Yesterday, the MoEF had asked the state government not to ignore palli sabhas of Dhinkia and Govindpur which would tantamount to violation of Forest Rights Act (FRA).

"Ignoring these two Palli Sabha (village council) resolutions and not allowing them to be subjected to a due process of law as enshrined in the Forest Rights Act, 2006 would be tantamount, in my considered opinion, to violating the very essence of this legislation passed unanimously and with acclaim by Parliament," the minister had said.

"After receiving information from the state government that the appropriate authority has completed the process of recognition and verification procedure for all the villages from where the forest land is to be transferred for non-forestry purposes, a final decision regarding forest clearance will be taken," Ramesh had said.

Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), a body extensively campaigning against the proposed mega project, in an e-mail representation had urged the environment ministry to look into the matter as the palli sabhas were declared illegal by the district administration.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has said the MoEF letter has been sent to state environment and forest department for verification.

“The union minister’s letter has been sent to our state government’s forest department. They will examine his letter and appropriate steps will be taken,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said.

The state forest department has said appropriate action will be taken after it receives the MoEF letter.

“We will decide what the order is coming. We haven’t received any order from MoEF. We will decide on further course of action after receipt of order,” stat forest and environment department special secretary Bhanupratap Singh said.

As per highly placed sources in the state environment department, the palli sabha of Dhinkia does not hold much significance as it does not come under the ambit of proposed project area.

On the other hand, senior BJD leader and local MLA Dr Damodar Rout has said, there has been unnecessary hue and cry over irrelevant issues. There was never any forest in the proposed site, Rout opined.

“The government is looking into irrelevant facts. When the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was implemented, which government officer went for verification about forest cover? Was the extent of forested lands examined then? the minister asked.

Sticking to earlier stand, state Steel and Mines Minister Raghunath Mohanty reiterated that the report submitted to the MoEF is authentic.

“The facts presented by state government are authentic. If the Centre asks for further clarification, state government will address the issues,” state Steel and Mines Minister Raghunath Mohanty said.

On the contrary, senior Congress leader Narsingh Mishra has said, as per land records the proposed site was a forested area. In view of this, the MoEF is going by the law, he added.

“The state government has flouted laws and shown undue favor to industries,” senior Congress leader Narsingh Mishra said.

Earlier on January 31, the MoEF had issued a conditional clearance of the project for setting up 12 mtpa steel plant in Jagatsinghpur. The project requires about 4000 hectares of land, of which 2900 hectares fall under forest land category.

The Posco project which is dubbed as the highest ever FDI in India faced stiff opposition from locals over land acquisition and hit green hurdle. Meanwhile, the South Korean steel major which signed MoU with state government on June 22, 2005 for a period of five years is due for renewal.