New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal Friday directed that South Korean major Posco will not cut any trees in a village in Odisha for developing its Rs 51,000 crore steel project till the state government gives the final forest clearance.
"It is now between them (Posco) and the state," a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said after noting that the project has been granted environment clearance (EC) and as per the Forest (Conservation) Act permission to cut trees is to be given by Odisha government.
"Environmental clearance has already been granted to them. State government has to pass order for forest clearance. It is for the state government to pass an order. It is between them (Posco) and the state.
"We dispose of the petition. The project proponent (Posco) is at liberty to approach the state government for appropriate orders. Till such orders are passed by the state government, no trees be cut by the project proponent," the bench said.
The order came on the plea of one Prafulla Samantara who had challenged the FC granted to the project, in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha, on the ground that the Centre only had power to give approval for FC and the final order in that regard has to be passed by the state government.
The tribunal, while disposing of his petition, concurred with his view saying that as per provisions of the Forest Act, it is the state government which is required to pass an order permitting non-forest activities in forest area, once such activity has received approval of the Centre.
"Once Central government accords its approval, it is to be followed by appropriate orders by the state government..," the bench said.
The tribunal, however, made it clear it is not examining any other aspect of the case like whether the FC is to be granted prior to EC or vice versa.
The counsel for the Odisha government informed NGT during the brief hearing that that it will pass appropriate orders.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had recently granted EC to Posco's steel project in the state, but it is yet to give the go ahead for the company's captive minor port project there.
On May 28, 2013, the NGT had ordered status quo to be maintained regarding cutting of trees at the project site.
Posco was granted environment clearance for its project in 2007.
On March 30, 2012, the EC granted to Posco's steel project had been suspended by the green tribunal which had directed the MoEF to review the clearance afresh.
After reviewing the same, the clearance for the steel plant was recommended for revalidation till 2017 by the Expert Appraisal Committee in May 2013, but the EC was granted in January 2014.