New Delhi, Sept 2
South Korean major Posco today claimed before National Green Tribunal (NGT) that the plea challenging the forest clearance to its Rs 51,000-crore mega steel project in Odisha was not maintainable as it had been filed late and the issue had already been decided by Supreme Court in 2008.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) also agreed with Posco’s contention on its project in Jagatsinghpur district, saying the petitioner was aware for the last three years that trees were being cut, but it approached the tribunal only in 2013.
Refuting Posco and MoEF’s contentions, senior advocate Raj Panjwani, appearing for petitioner Prafulla Samantara, argued that the steel major had not been granted forest clearance under the Indian Forest Act and thus it cannot be considered as valid.
Posco India Pvt Ltd contended before a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar that the forest clearance (FC) for its project was granted in 2009 while it was challenged by the petitioner only in 2013.
“The petition is not maintainable as it is barred by time. Furthermore, the matter has been concluded before the Supreme Court. This issue cannot be re-agitated before this tribunal now,” senior advocate Pinaki Mishra, appearing for Posco, contended.
A special environmental bench of the apex court in August 2008 had allowed Posco to go ahead with its plans and had also cleared forest diversion proposal for the plant site, which required over 1253 hectares of forest land.
Pajwani contented that without proper forest clearance as well as environment clearance (EC), Posco “cannot touch a single tree”. He argued that as per environmental guidelines, EC can only be granted after FC is given.
He said that at present Posco has no environment clearance for its two linked projects – the steel plant and the captive minor port – and the forest clearance is not valid, hence it cannot cut trees. (PTI)