Patnaik meets PM, seeks clearance to Posco, Vedanta

New Delhi, August 27 (Calcutta Tube) Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik hoped the centre would clear the stalled Posco and Vedanta projects in the state expeditiously and address its concerns over the Polavaram dam being built by Andhra Pradesh.

‘Prime Minister assured me of expeditious clearance to the projects,’ said Patnaik after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who in turn asked Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh to meet the chief Minister and address Orissa’s concern over the three projects.

Ramesh subsequently drove down to Orissa Bhawan and met Patnaik.

‘I met the prime minister and apprised him of the problem that Posco steel plant project is facing (on account of environmental clearance). I also pointed out to him that it is a project with the largest foreign investment in the country,’ Patnaik told reporters later after meeting Ramesh.

‘The project is not only in the interest of the state but also in the interest of the entire country as a revenue generator,’ he said, adding it will generate thousands of jobs in the state.

The environment ministry has halted land acquisition by the state for Posco steel project on the grounds of violation of the forest rights act.

Patnaik said he also took up the Vedanta and the Polavaram dam project with the prime minister.

He said he pointed out to the prime minister that Vedanta’s plans to source bauxite from the Niamgiri Hills in Orissa continued to hang in balance despite the same having been given judicial clearance from the apex court.

He added that the state forest secretary will come to Delhi Tuesday to discuss the state’s concern with the central forest and environment ministry.

An expert panel, headed by N.C. Saxena, has recommended that the Vedanta’s proposal to mine the Niyamgiri hills should not be given final clearance as claims under the Forest Rights Act are yet to be settled.

It has also said that the project would have adverse ecological impact and destroy the culture of primitive tribal groups such as the Dongria Kondhs and Kutia Kondhs.

The Forest Advisory Committee under the central ministry, which is evaluating Vedanta’s proposal, is yet to submit its recommendations to the environment ministry following the Saxena Committee recommendations.

Orissa is also opposed to the central approval given to the Polavaram dam project in Andhra Pradesh.

The state accuses the Centre of playing favourites, contending that while the environment ministry accorded clearance to the Polavaram-Indira Sagar project on the Andhra Pradesh government’s pleading, the same yardstick was not accorded to the Orissa government in its projects.

The state is seeking scrapping of the forest clearance given to Polvaram project as it will submerge tribal villages in its Malkangiri district.

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