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Supreme Court Recommendations

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The setting up of the steel plant and port requires a diversion of 1,253.255 hectares of forest land for non-forest use. This is a mandatory procedure to be followed as per the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The grant of clearance would mean felling of about 280,000 trees. As per procedure, the proposal was considered by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) under the MoEF on 9 August 2007. This committee recommended  (see full text of recommendations) the grant of forest clearance. However, the grant of clearance also required the project to be scrutinized by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court. This was as per a 27 April 2007 order of the Supreme Court order according to which all fresh decisions of the FAC would be subject to review by the Supreme Court bench in the T N Godavarman v/s Thirumulpad case.

The CEC assessed the facts at hand and submitted a report on 14 November 2007. It linked all three components of mining, steel plant and captive port in the report and established that POSCO’s proposal is only for forest land for the integrated steel plant and captive minor port. The proposals for forest land required for the other components like mines, railways, road, corridor etc are in the process of finalisation. It made some critical recommendations which included

“instead of piecemeal diversion of forest land for the project, it would be appropriate that the total forest land required for the project including for mining is assessed and a decision for diversion of forest land is taken for the entire forest land after considering the ecological importance of the area, number of trees required to be felled, adequacy and effectiveness of the R&R plan for the project affected persons and benefits accruing to the State”

Since the number of trees involved is about 2.8 lakhs, it would be in order that an independent expert committee including representatives of the NGOs should undertake a site visit in order to assess the impact of the cutting of such a large number of trees and suggest mitigative measures for the area, specially since there is a large dependence of local population on these forests.

The case was heard in the Supreme Court several times after this report where POSCO argued that they have been assured of the mining leases by the Orissa government and also that they should be allowed to go ahead with the plant and port construction.

On 8.8.2008, the Supreme Court passed an order where they asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to take and appropriate decision on the matter as a large number of trees are likely to be felled on this. This decision was to be taken in four weeks time. They also appointed a committee with one member of the CEC, Shri. S.K. Patnaik and nominations from MoEF and state government to identify mitigation measures.

See also: http://www.indiatogether.org/2008/feb/env-poscomp.htm; http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?articleID=139110; http://www.financialexpress.com/news/SC-clears-Posco-Vedanta-projects/346593/

(Also see: www.forestcaseindia.org)

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Written by janjagriti

October 14, 2008 at 5:04 am

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