ABHIJIT ROY CHOWDHURY
NEW DELHI: In a major set back to the Odissa government two crucial reports on environment submitted on Monday to Minister of State for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh on Posco India Pvt Ltd have put the project on dividing line.
One report submitted by Ms Meena Gupta strongly recommended that the exercise of recognisation of forest rights be undertaken in the project villages afresh. Gram Sabhas convened again, the Forest Rights committees of the Gram Sabha /Palli Sabhas be re-formed , claims be re-invited by them.
However, the other three members of the committee Dr Urmial Pingle, Dr Devendra Pandey and Dr V Suresh has asked for scrapping of the Posco project as the committee strongly feels that there have been many serious lapses and illegalities in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) process.
Basically, there were two divergent views, one held by three members and one held by a single member. Attempts were made to combine both views in a single report, but no agreement could be reached on the best way to do that.
After the submission of the Posco report, Mr Jairam Ramesh clarified that “It is important to note that POSCO and Vedanta are very different projects and operate in different environ and circumstances”.
Mr Jairam Ramesh further said that Vedanta alumina plant (and the bauxite mine for which lease was applied for by the Orissa Mining Corporation, is located at Schedule Area which is home to two Primitive Tribal Groups whereas proposed Posco project is located in coastal district, in the more developed eastern part of Orissa; the area is not a schedule area and has virtually no schedule tribe people.
Replying to question, he said there is no pressure on me either internally or externally to give final report on the Posco project but made it clear that Forest Advisory Commiittee will meet on October 25 and make its recommendation.
On the issue of Resettlement and Rehabilitation front , Ms Meena Gupta pointed out that the state government’s R&R package is good one, better that the norms laid down in the Orissa Govt’s Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy but the other three committee members felt that higher compensation should be paid for the paan plots, but basically they felt that the forest land should not be diverted at all.