National Green Tribunal jolt to Posco steel plant

New Delhi: One more severe blow to the proposed Posco-India mega-steel project near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur. The National Green Tribunal today suspended the environmental clearance granted to the Rs 51,000 crore project dubbed as the highest Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) project in India.

The Tribunal bench comprising Justice C V Ramulu and Devendra Kumar Agarwal has asked the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to review the green clearance afresh thus putting up one more hurdle before Posco-India.

The MoEF had given conditional environmental clearance to the mega-steel project on May 31, 2011, despite the reports of the Saxena and Meena Gupta Committees which raised several objections regarding the implementation of the plant. The MoEF even had sanctioned conditional environmental clearance to its proposed sea-based port near Jatadhari.

The MoEF had laid down 28 additional conditions for the establishment of the steel plant and the captive power plant and 32 conditions for the establishment of its own port. The former Union Environment Minister Jayram Ramesh had sanctioned the green clearance to the plant considering the economic importance of the project for the country. The Centre had even asked the state government to take steps for diversion of 1253 hectares of forest land for the plant.

The South Korean steel major Posco had inked the MOU with the state government in 2005 and started project work five years after signing the agreement in 2010. But the work was stopped midway following directives from the Centre. The Saxena Committee and the Meena Gupta Committee then visited the project site for the reports creating speculations about the future of the project. Amid all these developments, the Posco-India project was sanctioned green clearance by the MoEF on January 31, 2011.

However, the trouble for Posco-India did not end there. The anti-Posco agitators led by the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti were hell bent to oppose the project. Human Right activist Prafulla Saaantra had challenged the environmental clearance in the National Green Tribunal. Even the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to Seoul had assured the South Korean President and industrialists about the early implementation of the project.