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Jairam in a fix as panel is divided on Posco clearance.

THE ENVIRONMENT ministry was guarded in its response to granting clearance to South Korea- based Posco to set up a steel plant in Orissa after a fourmember committee set up to look into the project was divided over the plant's future.

In August, environment minister Jairam Ramesh had shot down a proposal by Vedanta to mine in Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa citing grounds under the Forest Rights Act. He is now under pressure from three members of the committee who maintain the same Act must be implemented in the case of Posco.

However, Jairam is in a fix as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had told the South Korean government that the project would go through, is scheduled to visit Seoul in the second week of November.

" If he ( Jairam) cancels the clearances for Posco at this point, it will put the Prime Minister in an embarrassing position," a government source said.

Conscious of this aspect, Jairam chose his words carefully on the two dissenting reports given over the Posco project.

" The reports will be placed before the Forest Advisory Committee on October 25, while the coastal regulatory zone and environmental clearance divisions will separately go into them. I will hold discussions with the state government on the issue before giving a decision." Jairam, though, chose to sidestep a query on whether a decision would come before the PM's visit to South Korea.

Of the four committee members, retired IAS officer of Orissa cadre, Meena Gupta, has sought a comprehensive assessment on the environment impact of the Posco project.

But Meena is of the opinion that this can be done without cancelling the existing environment and forest clearances.

The ' majority' view of the committee is that the clearances must be cancelled as there are clear violations of the Forest Rights Act by the Orissa government.

The members -- former director of the Forest Survey of India Devendra Pandey, civil rights activist and advocate V. Suresh and tribal affairs expert Urmila Pingle -- also raised concerns on the overall impact of the project on the region.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9SOUT
Date:Oct 19, 2010
Words:359
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