Just three days after PM Manmohan Singh came up with an assurance to South Korea on the Posco project in Odisha, the National Green Tribunal on March 30 suspended the environmental clearance given to the controversial multi-crore steel project and asked the Environment Ministry to review it afresh.
“The environment clearance granted on January 31, 2011 to the project shall remain suspended till such review and appraisal is done by the ministry,” the Green Bench was quoted as saying along with an instruction to the ministry to “assess it for the full capacity right from the beginning”.
Terming this as proof of the fact that the clearance granted by the Environment Ministry to the project was “illegal”, environmentalists hailed the order. Environment Minister Jayanthi Natrajan, however, maintained that the tribunal’s recommendation of suspension of environmental clearance to Posco was not a setback to the government’s green policies, as “very strict and transparent” procedure was followed while giving the nod.
Maintaining that the government was “totally dedicated” to protecting the environment, she said her Ministry would examine in detail the judgment and decide on further steps. “Some issues have been pointed out by NGT. Certainly, we will take a look at them,” she said. Officials said the response to the NGT order and corresponding action against Posco would be formulated after the Ministry officially receives a copy of the order.
According to reports, the NGT said while the MoU between the Orissa Government and the steel giant stated the project was for production of 12 million tonnes of steel per annum, the environment impact assessment (EIA) report was prepared only for 4 MTPA steel production in the first phase. In the same context, it also instructed the Ministry to take a “policy decision” that in projects of such magnitude, the EIA should be done for the complete project.
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