After 10 days of back and forth discussion, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) plans to recommend withdrawal of the clearance granted to the South Korean giant Posco for its Rs.54,000-crore integrated steel plant in Orissa.
“It was a conditional clearance that specifically mentioned the need to meet the FRA [Forest Rights Act] requirements,” said an FAC member, who did not wish to be named. “We have agreed that they have not met those conditions.”
If Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh accepts the recommendation of the FAC, a key statutory panel in his Ministry, India's largest foreign direct investment project could be shut down in its current location.
All work on the Posco project has already been suspended on the Environment Ministry's orders, following a report on the FRA violations by the N.C. Saxena panel.
Another committee set up under the leadership of the former Environment Secretary, Meena Gupta, then found there were many violations in the project, including those related to the FRA.
While Ms. Gupta recommended that a further comprehensive impact assessment report and a deadline for the FRA implementation be ordered, all the other members of her committee called for a withdrawal of the clearance.
The FAC also witnessed a similar divergence in views, according to sources.
At its meeting on October 25 to discuss the Meena Gupta panel's report, the FAC members expressed differing opinions on how to deal with the Posco project.
A “discussion over how to frame the minutes of the meeting” continued over the next 10 days through informal discussions and multiple drafts.
Informed sources say that the committee has finally come to a consensus to recommend the withdrawal of the clearance.