NGT suspends environmental clearance for JSW’s proposed ₹65,000-crore mega steel project in Odisha

The suspension will last for three months before the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change takes a fresh call on the project.

Published - March 24, 2023 03:29 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

A view of the National Green Tribunal (NGT)

A view of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The ₹65,000-crore mega steel project proposed by Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Group in Odisha received a jolt when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance granted to the project.

A four-member Division Bench of the NGT headed by Chairperson Adrarsh Kumar Goel ordered the suspension of the environment clearance for three months before the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change takes a fresh call on the project.

The NGT issued the order while hearing an appeal of Prafulla Samantara, rights activist and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, who had challenged the validity of the EC granted to the project. Mr. Samantara said the appraisal conducted by the Expert Appraisal Committee was procedurally, as well as, substantively erroneous.

Stating that the project was detrimental to the environment, the activist pointed out that water would be sourced from the river which was a source of water supply to the inhabitants, while it would add pollution to the already polluted area. It would result in a decrease in the forest cover and impact the flora and fauna in the eco sensitive area.

He submitted before the NGT that an identical project was earlier proposed by the South Korean steel major POSCO but did not proceed due to similar objections. It is to be noted that the JSW Group has proposed to establish a steel project capable or producing 13.2 million tonne per annum near Paradip where POSCO had earlier tried to set up a big steel project.

“We are conscious that the project involves huge investment. At the same time, the principle of sustainable development cannot be ignored. Apart from the significant issue of the public hearing, the project being located near a polluted area, the jetty being unnecessarily close to an established port, the huge water being drawn from the river which may affect the drinking water needs and the flow of the river, are other important issues which need express consideration,” the NGT said.

 “Permissibility of sourcing water from Mahanadi when drinking water is scarce has not been duly evaluated,” the NGT noted.

Mr. Samantara said: “the order of the NGT exposed the hush-hush manner in which the environment impact assessment was conducted for the project. People were kept in the dark about the EIA in the public hearing. The project would prove to be a disaster for a locality where people are self-sustained for their reliance on fishing and betel leaf farming.”

Prashant Paikray, spokesperson of the Anti-Jindal and Anti-POSCO movement, too expressed his satisfaction over the suspension of EC saying the government should stop pushing a polluting project in an environmentally sensitive coastal region.

Company sources termed the suspension of the EC as a temporary setback, stating that such bottlenecks are part of any mega project. In a recently concluded Make-in-Odisha conclave, the JSG group submitted another proposal to expand the crude steel production capacity of 24 MTPA with a cumulative investment over ₹1,00,000 crore.

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