Social Activist to challenge Environment Ministry nod to POSCO

Bhubaneswar, Jan.11: Social activist Prafulla Samantara on Saturday slammed Environment Ministry for clearing POSCO's planned steel plant in the country saying he would challenge the clearance in the court

"Now, question arises the forest land is diverted for 12 million tonnes. They can't do it. Secondly, that is not an integrated steel plant including the port. Now, the ministry of environment has de-linked port from environment clearance. So, it is not valid. So, we'll also challenge and all matters will come to green court because green court will consider whether the Government of India is justified or not," said Prafulla Samantara.

The Environment Ministry had cleared the project, which was stuck for more than eight years due to delays in getting various clearances and acquiring land, and asked it to spend on "social commitments", raising the project's cost by $600 million to $12.6 billion.

The revalidation of the South Korean firm's lapsed environmental clearance comes days before the country's president, Park Geun-hye, visit to India for four days starting January 15.

The proposed 12 million-tonnes-per-year plant will come up in Odisha.

The company is hopeful that Park's visit will speed up the project - India's biggest foreign direct investment.

The company will have to spend five percent of the total investment on "enterprise social commitments", POSCO-India spokesman IG Lee said, adding it was not immediately clear what that would entail. The ministry could not be contacted outside regular business hours.

POSCO first signed an agreement with Odisha in June 2005 to set up the steel plant on 4,004 acres of land.

It has already been allotted about 2,700 acres to begin the project's first stage, which involves setting up two 4-million-tonne plants in two phases. But much of the work can begin only after a nod from India's environmental court, which in May put on hold felling of trees for the project.

The first phase of the plant may be commissioned sometime in 2018, POSCO officials have said.

--ANI (Posted on 11-01-2014)

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