Monday, January 31, 2011

Is POSCO decision a Death Certificate to MoEF itself?

Dear All,

We are shocked by the decision taken by MoEF minister Jairam Ramesh on the POSCO plant in Odisha.  Please find attached the decision that came today.  Some of the people who had been thinking Mr. Ramesh a champion of Environment and that of MoEF would find it surprising that he has in fact issued a death certificate for his own ministry by the way he has given clearance to the POSCO plants.  

We call India a democracy and here two independent committees detailed the fraud in clearance (forest and environmental), and two of the three statutory committees recommended against the coastal and forest clearances granted (only the Environmental Clearance Committee gave a somewhat questionable OK to it) , the Environment Minister has left it to the Odisha Government to give an "assurance" that the Forest Rights Act is not violated.  The same government who has been found cheating is now given the task to judge the theft?

This is a clear cut indication of the Ministry being sold out to Foreign Direct Investment and can be said that this decision challenges the very existence of the Ministry of Environment and Forests itself.  No balancing act between environment and development this; rather its a complete sale of natural resources to be destroyed by unsustainable industrialization.

The additional conditions that Mr. Ramesh has put are merely eye wash.  Further, the way it vests all the monitoring to be done by the state government and the other regulatory agencies (the ones who have pathetically failed to regulate and monitor pollution in this state) is a clear cut indication of the eye wash.  There is no condition laid out for the company and state government to return the land to the displaced people and environmental condition to the 'previous stage' if the conditions are not met by the government.

We had been demanding fresh EIA for the project since there was no comprehensive EIA done keeping in mind the various places and spheres of resources to be affected by the project.  Even the government of Odisha had itself said that it was assessing fresh the water allocation from different locations than the Jobra barrage.  However, there is no consideration of it given and serious environmental concerns have been conveniently ignored.

On January 21st this year news papers reported how visiting South Korean Trade Minister, Kim Jong-Hoon, on Thursday said India should not “disregard” the importance of the proposed $12-billion Posco steel project as the project would bring in a great deal of value for industry in the country and generate thousands of jobs.  And as we all know Mr. Ramesh was under pressure from almost everyone, including the Union Steel Minister.  So, finally, he has succumbed to the pressure of trade and given a ditch for his own environment.

We strongly urge upon him to reconsider this decision and order for fresh independent environmental appraisal of the projects that POSCO is proposing.  Or else, we are sure, he is just clearing the path of issuing a death certificate to his own Ministry.  This is a biased and political decision under pressure of capitalism.  This cannot be termed as the decision of the Environment Ministry.

Thanks and regards,

Ranjan Panda

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