NGT notices to Tata Steel, Odisha govt in Kalinganagar case

The Eastern Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a notice to all the respondents, including Tata Steel and the Odisha government, following a petition seeking an injunction on alleged illegal construction of boundary walls and cutting of trees by Tata Steel for the proposed extension of its steel plant on forest land in Odisha’s Kalinganagar area.

The development comes after the NGT observed that Tata Steel is yet to file a counter affidavit in response to the one filed by the petitioners who are the residents of Kalinganagar.

The case will come up for hearing on March 21.

According to a letter dated February 6, 1993, to the Odisha government by the Union Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), 1419.95 hectares of forest land was cleared for being acquired and setting up iron ore-based industries. The plot for the proposed steel plant by Tata Steel is also located in that land. In January 2006, 14 tribals were killed in police firing during a protest.

Appearing for the petitioners, lawyer Sankar Prasad Pani alleged that Tata Steel is “illegally trying to occupy and is constructing boundary wall in about 76 acres of forest land without due clearance from the MoEFCC.”

He added that the MoEFCC letter does not mention Tata Steel at any point and so contrary to the latter’s claim it cannot be regarded as a forest clearance granted in their favour.

Earlier Tata Steel has submitted the related document before the NGT claiming it to be forest clearance granted to them.

Interestingly, in its reply to a RTI application by the petitioners, the MoEFCC said that they have no information in this regard.

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