Environment ministry asks Orissa to stop work on POSCO project

New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) The environment ministry has asked the Orissa government to stop all work, including land acquisition, related to the $12 billion steel project of South Korean steel major POSCO in the state as it violates the Forest Rights Act (FRA), officials said Friday.

‘I am directed to say that state government shall take all necessary measure and ensure that work, if any, being undertaken for the project, including handing over of the forest and non-forest land shall be stopped forthwith,’ said H.C. Chaudhary, assistant inspector general of forests.

The ministry’s decision was based on the recommendation of a joint panel of the environment and tribal affairs ministries.

According to the panel, land acquisition work related to the project which started on July 27 is a violation of the FRA and the conditions laid down by the environment ministry on forest clearance.

The environment ministry has also asked the state government to report to it at the earliest about the action taken in this regard.

The ministry had given clearance to the project in the state’s Jagatsinghpur district on the condition that it would ensure proper implementation of the FRA, settling the land rights of the people living there before acquiring forest land for the project.

POSCO requires about 4,004 acres, mostly government land, for the project of which 2,900 acres are forest land.

Thousands of villagers have been protesting the project, saying it will displace them from their homeland and ruin their betel leaf farms. Posco and the government maintain the project will bring prosperity and employment to an impoverished region.

Posco had signed a deal with the Orissa government in 2005 to set up the project near the port town of Paradip by 2016. The ministry order is likely to delay the project further.

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