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Posco report in final shape

Bhubaneswar, March 8: The state government is likely to submit its compliance report on the $ 12-billion Posco steel plant project to the ministry of environment and forests by the weekend.

“The report is in the final stage of preparation and is expected to be sent to the Centre within two to three days,” said chief secretary Bijay Patnaik. However, about a month ago Patnaik had said that the report would be sent to the Centre within a week.

Official sources said the state government had sought a report from the Jagatsinghpur district collector as to whether any tribal families were residing in the proposed steel plant site. The report had been referred to the SC/ST welfare department for scrutiny following which it was sent to the forest and environment department for final shape.

However, in another development, the Centre had forwarded to the state government two petitions from Dhinkia village, claiming forest rights in the project area. After scrutiny of these petitions by the Jagatsinghpur district administration and the forest department, now the final report was under examination at the highest level, sources said.

On January 31, the Centre had accorded conditional clearance to the Posco project.

The ministry had imposed 28 fresh conditions relating to air, environment and water, in addition to earlier stipulations on the proposed 12-million tonne steel plant project to be set up by the south Korean steel major near Paradip.

The Centre said that final approval to the proposal for the diversion of 1,253 hectares of forestland for the project would be accorded only after the state government gave a categorical assurance that those, claiming forest rights in the project area, did not fulfil at least one of the three conditions.

The conditions require the persons concerned to have resided in the forestland in the project area for 75 years prior to December 13, 2005, have been in occupation of the land before that date and should presently be dependent on forest for livelihood.

The conditions were imposed following observations by two committees, set up by the Centre, that claims of other traditional forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act in the area had not been settled.

However, the state government had all along maintained that there had been no violation of the Forest Rights Act in the project area.

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