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Forest panel rejects Posco nod

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: In the latest setback to Posco's Rs. 54,000-crore integrated steel plant in Orissa, an Environment Ministry panel has recommended that its forest clearance be rejected. After dithering for almost four weeks after discussing the Posco proposal at its October 25 meeting, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has finally made up its mind to reject the clearance due to violations of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), listed by the Mena Gupta and N.C. Saxena panels.

Sources in the committee indicate that the minutes have finally been signed and will be submitted to the Ministry.

Speaking to journalists on Friday, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said he was yet to see the FAC's recommendations.

He promised to take a final decision on Posco in the next few weeks, after receiving the recommendations of the coastal and environmental clearance divisions of the Ministry as well.

“It is a complex issue,” he said. “All the facts are being considered, and we will take an integrated call.”

He insisted that the FAC was an autonomous body, which functioned with no interference from the Ministry.

“Once we get the report, we will take a fair and balanced view on it. A thorough review takes time. It is clear we are not talking about months, but the review will take a few weeks…We will take a decision within a couple of weeks.”

The FAC was reportedly split on its recommendations, with one section of forest officials arguing that FRA violations were the domain of the Tribal Affairs Ministry. However, the other section, which argued that the FAC had the mandate to reject the clearance citing FRA violations, seems to have prevailed.

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