The union ministry of environment and forests on Friday put the endlessly delayed Posco project on hold once more, pointing to violation of the Forest Rights Act and deliberate attempt by the Orissa administration to hide facts.
While not going as far as withdrawing permission given to the Korean company's Rs54,000 crore mega steel plant to use forest land, the ministry directed the Orissa government to stop all work at the project site, including land acquisition.
The ministry's step comes against the background of Orissa continuing to acquire land for the project and not responding to centre's demand for clarifications on whether the state government had complied with all provisions of Forest Rights Act. The decision was taken after the N C Saxena-Devendra Pandey committee appointed by the centre reported violations of the FRA at the Posco site.
''We have asked the state government to stop all works related to the project,'' environment minister Jairam Ramesh said. The ministry's order has cited the findings of a subgroup of the committee, comprising Arupjyoti Saikia, Ravi Rebbapragada and Ashish Kothari. The team's report concluded that the process of settlement of rights under the FRA has not been completed. To the contrary, the process has not ''proceeded beyond the initial stages''.
Earlier this week, in a letter to Ramesh, N C Saxena wrote, ''The team's conclusion is that any work related to the project in this area would be a violation of the FRA. This was informed by our team to the district administration on 24 July, and the state chief secretary on July 27, 2010.
However, we have been informed that the district administration is proceeding with land acquisition and demolition of the paan cultivation of people on forest land. Our clear view is that such work is in violation of the Forest Rights Act.''