1,000 acres of land yet to be acquired by the company

The Centre came out confident on Wednesday that with the renewal of environment clearance, South Korean steel giant Posco’s project in Odisha would take off soon.

“The government is working to expedite clearances for the $12-billion project of steel major Posco in Odisha that was awarded environment clearance last week,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said in Delhi on Wednesday.

After a meeting with visiting South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Yoon Sang-jick, Mr. Sharma told the media: “So far, 1,700 acres of land — out of 2,718 acres — have been transferred to Posco and the rest will soon be given.”

The Union Environment and Forests Minister had recently taken a U-turn on the Ministry’s position to renew a piece-meal environmental clearance for Posco’s steel plant without awaiting a holistic review of the entire integrated project or the forest clearance, which is under dispute before the National Green Tribunal. Green activists also accused the Ministry of breaching a 2012 Supreme Court judgment, often referred to as the “Lafarge judgement,’ which said environmental clearances cannot be given for projects that require forests unless the government has already given the nod to use the forest patch under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

Mr. Sharma did refer to the legal dispute over the acquisition of forestlands acknowledging that roughly 1,000 acres were still to be acquired by the company. He said: “Approval for only about 13 per cent of the land requirement is pending before the National Green Tribunal. The Union government and the government of Odisha will ensure that an early view will be taken on this. The first phase of the project is now ready for take-off. They won’t need all the land overnight.”

The tribunal is currently hearing a petition against illegal felling of trees on the project site. The State government is yet to give the formal letter of forest clearance though the Centre has given an in-principle approval for the same. The tribunal has stayed any cutting of trees on the disputed land.

PTI adds:

Special package extended for Himachal, Uttarakhand: Anand Sharma

The Centre on Wednesday extended the special package for Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand till March 2017, a move that will help accelerate industrial growth of both the hilly states.

“The Cabinet extended the special package for the states of Himachal and Uttarakhand, which has two components - the capital investment subsidy and the freight subsidy. And this special package will continue through the 12th Plan up to 31st March 2017,” Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma told reporters in New Delhi.

A special package for industrial development in both the states was extended by the government in 2003. In 2007, it was curtailed, before being restored till 2010.

The capital investment subsidy was one of the major component of a special industrial package offered to the states by the union government.

According to a media report, Himachal Pradesh got maximum investment from 2003 to 2010, when there was a special industrial package from the central government in force. Most investments were in pharmaceutical, food processing, textile, packaging and light engineering sectors.