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Posco land buy: Orissa to take 'correct' step

Source: PTI
August 06, 2010 17:27 IST
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PoscoWith land acquisition for Posco's Rs 54,000-crore (Rs 540-billion) steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district coming to a halt on a directive from the Union environment ministry, the Orissa government said on Friday it would take 'appropriate and correct' steps in this regard.

"We have received a communication from the Ministry of Environment and Forest. The state government will take appropriate and correct steps," Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar after the Environment Ministry asked the state government to stop work as it had violated the forest rights law.

A communication from the Union Ministry to the state government said: "Government of Orissa shall take all necessary measures and ensure that work, if any, being undertaken on the said land, for the said project, including handing over the forest and non-forest land to the said project, shall be stopped forthwith."

The communication came on Friday in the midst of Orissa government's drive to acquire land for the project near Paradip.

"We are waiting for a communication from the state government about our future course of action. The district administration has not handed over any land for the Posco project," Jagatsinghpur district collector N C Jena told PTI over phone.

In Delhi, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said, "We have asked the state government to stop all work related to the project."

The move was in line with the recommendations of a joint-panel of the Tribal Affairs and Environment Ministries set up to study and assess the impact of the Forest Rights Act at the project site with regard to the sustainable management of forest resources across the country.

The ministries had given clearance to the project on condition that proper implementation of the FRA that would settle the land rights of the people living there before acquisition of forest land was ensured.

The ministry's direction came following the N C Saxena Committee report, which detected gross violation of the Forest Rights Act at the proposed plant site of the South Korean steel major.

The joint-committee set up by the ministries of Environment and Forest and Tribal Affairs, which visited the project site area on July 28, in its report had pointed out that the administration did not take the views of 'Palli Sabhas' into consideration before recommending forest land diversion for the steel plant and a captive port.

The Committee had recently submitted its report to the union ministries stating that though a large number of traditional forest dwellers lived in the area, the district administration did not mention their dependence on forest land for a livelihood.

Of the 4,004 acre required for the Posco project, about 2,900 acre were forest land, the environmental clearance for which had been accorded by the union ministry in December, 2009.

Subsequently, in January, 2010 the union ministry stipulated a condition that the process should ensure strict adherence to the Forest Rights Act.

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