Forest laws openly violated by big companies in Orissa: WSO
Forest laws are being routinely violated in the state by large companies with officers actively conniving with them and often turning a blind eye to their illegal activities.
Mr Mohanty said after violation of forest and environment by the Vedanta and POSCO another multi-crore scam involving 168.232 hectares of forest land in Angul District has surfaced.
The WSO secretary, who obtained the information through RTI Act, said suppression of by senior forest officers who failed to report to the Ministry of Environment and Forests the violation of Forest (Conservation) Act,1980 (FC Act) by a large corporate has led to the forest clearance of a huge steel plant worth Rs 10,000 crores.
Mr Mohanty further alleged that several mega projects, involving diversion of hundreds of hectares of forest land have obtained forest clearance in Orissa breaking the law.
The state forest officials have allegedly connived with such companies and played facilitators instead of being regulators.
Mr Mohanty further alleged that several mega projects, involving diversion of hundreds of hectares of forest land, have obtained forest clearance in Orissa by breaking the law. The state forest officials have allegedly connived with such companies and played facilitators instead of being regulators. Citing one instance, Mr Mohanty alleged that the M/s Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) setting up an integrated steel plant of 6 MTPA capacity and a captive of 1,000 MW at Badkerjang in Angul district was directed not to start any construction work before the forest clearance.
Out of total 2160.385 hectares land required for the project, about 168.232 hectares covered as forestland has been obtained Clearance in February 2007.
The forest diversion proposal was forwarded to MoEF on August 4, 2008.
However, during the pendency of the application, the company violated the provisions of Forest Conservation Act 1980 which was detected by the local DFO.
In his show cause notice on October 6,2009, the then DFO, Angul Forest Division pointed out violation of F.C Act,1980 as work had started on non-forest land prior to clearance. The user agency was directed to stop all work.
The WSO secretary further said shockingly, the State Pollution Control Board also ignored the advice of the DFO for further punitive action against the company.The Pollution Control Board failed to inform the MoEF which would have resulted in cancellation of the Environment Clearance.
Mr Mohanty further said the suppression of the violations enabled the company to obtain Stage I forest clearance on March 30, 2010 adding that the forest clearance was illegally obtained as vital material fact and developments subsequent to the filing of the diversion application were suppressed.
The Steel and Mines Department also chose to remain tight lipped and concealed this fact from the regulatory agencies which shows their involvement,the WSO Secretary said and urged the MoEF to take suitable action under the law.
He demanded that the Stage I forest clearance should be withdrawn as it was obtained by suppressing material information about violation of Forest Act, 1980.
The Environmental Clearance should be cancelled as condition no.
A (xvi) expressly prohibits construction activity without clearance under the Forest Conservation Act,1980 has been violated by the Company.
The officers of the forest department and board who have connived in suppressing the violation information should be penalized as per law by MoEF, Mr Mohanty demanded.