India’s Green Tribunal suspends Posco steel plant license
India’s increasingly assertive National Green Tribunal, launched last October, has made its most high-profile ruling to date by suspending the environmental license given to the South Korean company Posco for building a steel plant in the state of Orissa and ordering a fresh review by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
The plant has faced stiff opposition from local people campaigning to save farmland and woodland. A government panel had been pushing for the license to be scrapped, but it was conditionally approved in January 2011.
The ministry had spelt out 28 "extra conditions" for the steel plant and 32 conditions for the port that Posco is also building to support the operations of the plant.
In ruling, the Tribunal said that while the agreement between the Orissa Government and Posco was for the production of 12 million tonnes of steel a year, the environment impact assessment (EIA) report had been prepared for only one-third of that.
The National Green Tribunal has been putting a lot of focus on rectifying flawed EIAs which appear to be all too prevalent in India. In February it ordered MoEF to develop a mechanism to have authentic data in EIA reports and blacklist consultants who "cook" the data.
It said the clearance was suspended until the assessment was done for the entire project.
Posco's USD12 billion steel plant, based in the port city of Paradip, was conceived in 2005 and is India's single biggest foreign investment. It was expected to create nearly 50,000 jobs.
It has been opposed by many groups who argue that Posco will exhaust Orissa's iron ore resources in two decades while creating lasting environmental damage.