Posco’s mega project remains stuck

A year after Jairam Ramesh’s final environmental clearance, Korean giant waits for state govt to hand over land

Last January, the Union environment ministry’s approval for the Rs 52,000-crore mega steel project by Korean giant Posco at Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur district made headlines.

A year down the line, nothing has moved. While land acquisition remains the biggest challenge despite paper clearances, there’s an additional problem, with the district administration having Korean employees from visiting the project site. Says Posco India vice-president, Vikash Sharan: “We are at a loss to understand the recent order from the district administration, (issued) in the name of the law and order condition. How can such projects land up in a situation like this?”

Urging the state government and central government to expedite matters, Sharan said, “Although Posco has been billed as the biggest FDI (foreign direct investment) in the country, its progress has been very slow and frustrating. We understand that in a federal set-up like ours, both central and state governments have their distinct roles. But there is a need for centralised monitoring by an empowered authority to expedite large projects which are essential for growth of our economy.”

June 2005 Orissa government and Posco sign an agreement for an integrated steel plant, which includes a captive port and a power plant
Sep 2006 Posco applies for environmental clearance for captive minor port
April 2007 Posco applies for environmental clearance for captive power-cum-steel plant
May 2007 Gets environmental clearance for the port
June 2007 The Orissa government seeks approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for giving  1,253 hectares of forest land to Posco
July 2007 Posco  gets environmental clearance for the captive power-cum-steel plant
Dec 2009 Clearance for forest land comes
Jan 2010 The environment ministry tells the Orissa government approval for diversion of forest land to Posco is conditional, subject to the settlement of rights of forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act, 2006
March 2010 Orissa government writes to MoEF there are no traditional forest dwellers in the area
April-July 2010 MoEF forms committee under N C Saxena; sets up another four-member committee to examine transfer of forest land
Aug 2010 One of the committee’s report indicates tribals live there. MoEF asks Orissa government to stop transferring forest land
Jan 2011 MoEF gives conditional clearance to the project, based on a divided opinion by one of the committees
Jan 2012 Posco waits for Orissa State government to hand over land for the project

There is no point in selling India as an investment destination at Davos when the investments which have already come are facing multiple problems and not able to move forward, he said.

The ministry had first granted environmental clearance in 2007. The project was re-appraised in 2010-11 by its Expert Appraisal Committee.

After the review, then minister Jairam Ramesh had issued the final order granting environmental clearance to the project, with additional conditions, in January 2011.

Another key clearance for the project, for diversion of 1,253 hectares of forest land, came later, in May. As of on Tuesday, no clearance is pending at the central government. However, there is a case on against Posco based on a petition at the National Green Tribunal.

Asked about the developments since last year’s nod, the company spokesperson said, “Posco India has established its site office in December 2011 near Nuagaon village to improve communication with the local community and also to co-ordinate pre-construction activities.”

However, no substantial construction work has started yet, as the state government is yet to hand over the land required for the plant. Of the 4,004 acres required, 3,586 acres belongs to the state government. Around 578 acres of non-forest revenue land has been leased but this is scattered in small pieces.

“Its physical possession will be meaningful only along with handing over of the remaining land. Posco is waiting for land acquisition to be completed by the state government,” Sharan said.

Though Posco India declined to disclose the quantity of investments made in India so far, it says this was significant. “Posco India has made substantial investment towards statutory payment for forest diversion and compensation to affected people through Idco (an Orissa government agency) who have parted with their land.”

Besides, Posco made investments on stablishment of site office, conducting skill development programmes for locals, constructing and running transit camps for families externed by project opponents, supporting local schools and flood relief operations, Sharan added.

A recently filed status report by the Orissa government claimed 2,000 acres had been acquired so far.

[Source – Business Standard]

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