With mounting controversies threatening to derail its mega Rs 52,000 crore project,South Korean steel giant Posco has broken its silence and lashed out at a committee of the Union environment ministry for describing the clearances granted to its mockery of the rule of law. Stoutly defending itself,the beleaguered company said it has never violated the rules and regulations and is still awaiting the permission to set up the 12 million tonne project in Orissa.
In course of a recent meeting of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC),Posco,through its written representation strongly countered the views of the dissenting members of the Meena Gupta Committee Urmila Pingle,Devendra Pandey and V Suresh who had pointed out that any infringement of the prescribed standards governing the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) amounted to a statutory violation.
In its reply,the company categorically denied having violated any provisions of the Environment Protection Act 1986. Had there been any violation of the regulatory provisions,Posco-India should have been informed by concerned authorities. Hence the conclusion drawn by the dissident members was untenable, it said.
In reply to the dissenting members suggestion that considering the scale of the project,which matched the capacity of SAILs Bokaro,Rourkela,Durgapur and Bhilai plants,the MoEF ought to have insisted for a comprehensive EIA,Posco argued that since the EIA notification called for a separate EIA for respective sectors such as port,steel plan,infrastructure etc,any comprehensive EIA was not possible. Moreover,comprehensive EIA for the plant prepared by its consultant M N Dastur and National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) for the proposed captive port have been completed. The expert committees of the regulating authorities at the state and the Centre had a threadbare appraisal of the
EIA report before issuing the No Objection Certificate for the project. Thus Posco has not violated or hidden any facts before the authorities as required by them under the prevailing rules, the South Korean behemoth pointed out.
On the views of the Committee that the EAC or the MoEF should have asked for a study to gauge the impact of the proposed port on the existing Paradeep Port,Posco cited a simulated model study undertaken by the Danish Hydraulic Institute and Consulting Engineering Services,which amply testify that there would be no impact on the Paradeep Port. Besides,NIO,Goa has extensively studied the impact of dredging and disposal of silt and sand,and it has been confirmed that there would be no adverse effect on the port, the company contended.
On the assertion of the dissenting members that the EAC has failed to apply its mind to the objections raised by various authorities and the public and also for failing to record any reasons of accepting or rejecting the objections and instead giving clearance,which makes a mockery of rule of law and procedural safeguards, Posco said that the public hearing was conducted by the Jagatsinghpur district administration and the issues raised therein was satisfactorily answered by Posco. The EAC members wanted to see the video recording of the proceedings following which the Regional Officer of the Orissa State Pollution Control Board came to Delhi and explained the proceedings. It was after this that the EAC gave its clearance. It is not correct to say that copies were not provided to people. Failure to comply to the issues raised could attract penalty. But before the implementation stage,under the assumptions of objections coming true cannot be pre-clued that the clearance per se is wrong, the South Korean giant said in its representation.
The company said that it willingly shouldered the risk of setting up its proposed steel plant near the Jatadharmuhan River Creek,despite zero infrastructural facilities there.