New Delhi, Jan 24:
The National Green Tribunal on Friday prevented the South Korean steel company Posco from cutting any tree in its proposed plant site until the Odisha government grants appropriate orders to that effect.
Leaving the final decision to the state government, the NGT bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar said while Posco steel project has secured environment clearance (EC), the permission to cut trees is to be given by the state government as per the Forest (Conservation) Act.
While disposing of the petition filed by social activist Prafulla Samantara, the bench said Posco is free to approach the state government for permission to cut trees. At the same time it directed the steel company not to cut any tree ’till such orders are passed.”
Samantara who had challenged the forest clearance ( FC) granted to the project on the ground that while the Centre had the power to approve of the clearance, the final order in the matter is to come from the state government.
The tribunal agreed with Samantara’s contention that under the Forest Act, it is the state government which is required to pass an order permitting non-forest activities in forest area, once such activity has received approval of the Centre.
The Odisha government’s counsel informed the tribunal today that appropriate orders will be passed by the state.
The tribunal, however, refused to take any view on whether the FC is to be granted prior to EC or vice versa.
It may be mentioned here that while the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has, recently, granted EC to Posco’s steel plant project, it has not given clearance to its captive minor port project there. The NGT had ordered status quo to be maintained regarding cutting of trees at the project site on May 28 last year.
Posco was granted environment clearance for the project in 2007 but this was suspended by the green tribunal in March 2012 which then directed the MoEF to review the clearance afresh.
After reviewing the matter, the Expert Appraisal Committee, in May 2013, had recommended re-validation of the clearance for the steel plant till 2017.
However, the EC was finally granted by the MoEF in January 2014, days before the visit of the lady President of South Korea to India.