It had recommended approving diversion of forest land for iron ore mining in Jharkhand

Having rejected the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) — a statutory body on granting forest clearances — to approve diversion of forest land for iron ore mining by Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) in the Saranda Forest Division of Jharkhand, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh said he had exercised his “own judgment.”

“The FAC is a statutory body and I have made no effort whatsoever to interfere in its functioning. On the contrary, I have gone out of my way to ensure that it functions professionally and in an independent manner. I have brought in distinguished experts from outside government as its members,” the Minister wrote in the order.

“Most of the time, I have accepted its recommendations, but there have been occasions when the FAC has recommended approval and I have exercised my own judgment and rejected them, while giving clear reasons why I am doing so,” he said, citing the example of Renuka Dam Project in Himachal Pradesh.

While the FAC had given its approval, the Minister rejected it purely on ecological grounds.

“On the other hand, there have been two occasions when the FAC has recommended rejection and I have exercised my own judgment and overturned it — the first being POSCO and the second, Chiria.”

He said the FAC would continue to focus single-mindedly on forest and biodiversity-related issues and concerns while, as Minister, he would have to “necessarily take a broader view, but place on public record in a complete manner the reasons for taking that view.”

“That has always been and will continue to be my approach,” he said.

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