The Ministry of Environment has asked the Orissa government to stop all work related to the Rs 54,000-crore Posco steel project, following the recommendation of an expert committee to revoke the clearance given to the South Korean steel major in December 2009.
"We have asked the state government to stop all work related to the project including land acquisition, as it violated forest rights law," said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on the sidelines of a symposium on the future of the Bengal tiger.
According to an office order issued by the ministry, the state government was asked to submit a status report on handing over forest and non-forest land to Posco India for setting up an integrated steel plant and a captive port in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa. "The said information has not been received by the ministry till date," the office order said.
The ministry had given its clearance to the project on the condition that it would first ensure proper implementation of the Forests Rights Act (FRA) that would settle the land rights of the people living there before forest land is acquired for the project.
The panel members, who recently visited the Posco site to inspect into alleged violations of FRA concluded that both the district administration and the company had violated the FRA and the conditions laid down by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in its forest clearance dated December 29, 2009. The office order said "there were other traditional forest dwellers in the area, contrary to what the district administration was saying. Both documentary and oral evidence exist to this effect. The FRA process has not been completed and has not proceeded beyond the initial stages, for various reasons as observed by the panel members Ashish Kothari, Arupjyoti Saikia and Ravi Rebbapragada".