The Union Steel Minister, Virbhadra Singh on Wednesday said his Ministry could step in to seek a speedy clearance for the controversial Rs. 54,000-crore Posco steel project in Orissa from the Environment and Forest Ministry.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the Assocham steel summit here, Mr. Singh said: “if the need arises, we will take up the matter with the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the speedy clearance of the Posco's Orissa project.”

However, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh when contacted said the matter was now under examination of his Ministry and no deadline could be fixed for clearing the project. “Nobody from any Ministry has spoken to me till date seeking an early clearance for the project. We will strictly go by the law and rules,” he asserted.

Speaking on the occasion, Steel Secretary Atul Chaturvedi said that the issue regarding Posco's 12-million tonne per annum steel plant in Orissa could be resolved in a month's time. “Posco issue would get resolved soon, maybe in a month's time,” he said at the same summit.

The statement comes close on the heels of the Union Environment Ministry asking the Orissa Government to stop land acquisition process for the Posco project, saying it is in the violation of certain green norms. Posco requires a total of 4,004 acres to build a steel plant with an annual capacity of 12 million tonnes in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa.

The project has been delayed for over four years now, mainly due to protests and strong opposition by the locals and tribal people against the arbitrary land acquisition, as 2,963 acres out of the total land acquired falls under the forest cover.

Earlier, in her welcome remarks, Sminu Jindal, Assocham Chairperson and Managing Director, Jindal Saw, said the prevailing Indian economy had to foster growth in infrastructure. It was estimated that by 2020, India would need a steel production base of 200 million tonnes as against the existing base of 65 million tonnes. In order to scale up the growing demand of steel, it needed to strengthen cargo movement by 2020, increasing it by two-and-a-half folds as compared to its current capacity, she added.

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