Green panel slaps fresh conditions on Posco

BHUBANESWAR: A high-level committee set up by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to review the mega Posco steel project in the state has spelled fresh trouble for the much-hyped project.

The committee headed by K Roy Paul was constituted as per the March 30, 2012 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had suspended the environment clearance granted to the project.

The Paul committee had submitted its report to the MoEF in October. Though the report has not yet been made public, information obtained through the RTI about its findings reveals that the project proposal may have to undergo a complete change in the coming days, including layout, study of its impact on the environment, livelihood of people, water requirement and waste disposal management.

The committee said during its visit, state authorities like the IDCO had informed that land requirement for the project had been reduced to 2,700 acres ‘leaving out most of the private lands of Gobindapur and Dhinkia villages and a portion of the forest land where betel vines are grown by the villagers’. “This meant that the layout plan of the project would have to be altered substantially,” the report said.

The state government has created an impression that the size of the mega steel plant had been reduced from 12 mtpa to 8 mtpa. Posco authorities, however, have denied such speculation. “Our first phase target capacity is 8 mtpa out of the total 12 mtpa capacity, hence we need reduced area,” said Y W Yoon, chairman of Posco-India to a visiting media team at Pune recently.

The Paul committee, however, went by the statements made before it and said: “The project proponent should state unambiguously whether the reduced project area would be adequate to accommodate all plans of future expansion of the steel plant.”

While obtaining special CRZ (coastal regulation zone) clearance for road and other infrastructures, ‘environment impact should be reassessed for the revised layout plan with at least one month current baseline data for all the components of environment and submitted to the MoEF’, the report suggested. The committee objected to any move to draw underground water and took note of the state water resources department’s advice to Posco to seek alternate sources of water. “Water availability is a critical issue,” the report observed, analyzing the inputs submitted by different government agencies.

The area being prone to cyclone, flood and sea erosion, the report also took note of concerns expressed over construction of a sea protection wall and said the issue must be ‘seriously investigated’ through nationally reputed agencies. “A long term study may be carried out on the impacts due to erosion of creeks, banks, deepening of the creek and widening of the river mouth (Jatadhari river mouth where Posco wants to set up its captive port),” the report said. “On assessing the documents submitted to the committee, which include the comprehensive EIA (environment impact assessment) for 4 mtpa steel plant, there is still no clarity as regards the scenario relating to future expansion of 12 mtpa capacity, especially about the availability of land, water, minerals and infrastructure,” the report observed.

The committee said eight years after signing an MoU to start the project, the government and Posco have not yet carried out many basic studies on issues like actual water availability, the project’s impact on fisheries, which support more than 20,000 people in the area, plan for management of oil spills, impact of dredging of material for the private port, impact on marine ecology and wildlife, etc.

[Source — Times of India]

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