Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, June 5:
The Odisha government’s inrodinately delayed decision to cancel forest land allotted to Bhushan Steel Limited (BSL) for its steel plant in Dhenkanal on grounds of blatant violation of the Forest Act has come a cropper with the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) agreeing to restore the final forest clearance for diversion of 61.48 ha revenue forest land/DPF in Dhenkanal and Angul districts.
“The MoEF has agreed to restore the final forest clearance (stage II approval under FC Act, 1980) clearance for diversion of 61.48 ha revenue forest land/DPF in Dhenkanal and Angul districts for establishment of Integrated Steel Plant by Bhusan Steel Ltd stipulating certain terms and conditions,” said the chief general manager (Land) of Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco) in a letter to district Collector of Dhenkanal.
Idco has asked the company to comply with the terms and conditions stipulated by the MoEF for clearance of the land diversion.
It is to be noted that IDCO had asked the district collector to cancel the allotment of forest land to the company on 24 April this year for violation of the Forest Act.
On the basis of preliminary approval from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), IDCO had handed over 58.24 hectares of revenue forest land and 3.23 ha of Protected Forest land in favour of Bhushan Steel and Strips Ltd (which is now BSL) for non-forest purpose in Dhenkanal and Angul districts respectively in 2007.
However, BSL utilised the entire forest land for non-forest activities before the issue of final clearance from MoEF, in violation of Section 2 of the Forest Conservation (FC) Act.
Whereas the MoEF had issued an order on 11 December, 2006 in respect of 61.48 ha forest land stating that approval had been kept in abeyance by MoEF, the state government cancelled the lease only after eight long years.
Although the MoEF had asked the state government to furnish a detailed report on the Bhushan project, the state government did not respond to it even once in the last eight years.
The Ministry had expressed surprise that the state authorities allowed the company to utilise the forest land even though the final approval for the land’s diversion for industrial use had been kept in abeyance.