Continued opposition by locals to Posco's Rs54,000 crore steel in Orissa is making the environmental clearance it got from the union ministry of environment and forests earlier this month almost meaningless.
In fact the forest clearance itself is now embroiled in controversy over issues of forest rights, which seem to have been ignored earlier. Since over 3,000 of the 4,000 acres of land allotted to the Korean steel major by the state is technically forest land, the environment ministry's decision has come in for fresh objections.
The land allotted to Posco has a large number of people who have lived on and cultivated it for many decades; and anti-Posco activists said that they have claimed rights under the Forest Rights Act.
Under this law, removal of any forest-dweller from his or her land until recognition of rights is complete is barred. In fact, it recognises the rights of forest dwellers to land they cultivate.
Besides, other sections of the act empower the community to protect community forests, and make any violation of these provisions a criminal offence.
As a result, the ministry seems to have done a rethink, and has reportedly asked Posco to take the consent of local dwellers as required under the Forest Rights Act before commencing work on its proposed 12 million tonnes a year steel project. It has also written a letter to the Orissa government in this respect.