No luck for Posco's Odisha plant as green clearance cancelled

Korean steelmaker Posco's mega-project in Odisha (Orissa), which looked to be finally taking off after the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) cleared it earlier this year, has been stalled again on environmental grounds, as the National Green Tribunal today ruled that the project will remain suspended till the environment ministry reviews it afresh.

"The environment clearance granted on 31 January 2011 shall remain suspended till such review and appraisal is done by the ministry," a bench of the tribunal comprising Justices C V Ramulu and Devendra Kumar Agarwal held.

The tribunal said that while memorandum of understanding between the Orissa government and Posco states that the project is for production of 12 million tonnes per annum, but the environment impact assessment (EIA) report has been prepared only for 4 mtpa of steel production in the first phase.

It said the MoEF should take a policy decision that for projects of this size, the EIA should be done for the entire project.  "The EIA should assess it for the full capacity right from the beginning," it said.

The National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010 to ''expedite the disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including any legal rights relating to environment and giving relief to persons and property ,'' as the preamble to the act says.

The tribunal directed the MoEF to review the clearance afresh and attach "specific conditions" which Posco would have to follow in a "defined timeline".