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Posco upbeat despite green hurdle

January 19, 2011 09:38 IST
PoscoThe meeting between Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and senior Posco officials have given hope to the prospects of the steel major in Orissa.

"Speculation about a happy resolution to the tangle has gained ground following the meeting of three senior company officials (including Posco India managing director G W Sung) with Ramesh last week.

"This stems from the fact that the minister, at least, has given a hearing to the company top brass after all the controversies.

"The cause for celebration is the minister's assurance to discuss with his officials about allowing the company to have its captive port," said a senior Posco executive.

The company's Rs 54,000-crore (Rs 54-billion) steel project in Orissa had run into trouble with the ministry over alleged violation of environment norms.

The ministry is expected to take a call on the steel project by the month-end.

There were speculations that Posco may not be allowed to build a captive port at Jatadhari Muhan because the site fell within the coastal high tide zone -- a no-go-area as per the new guidelines of the MoEF.

This was a major development from the perspective of the investors who thought the captive port was crucial for the success of the project.

In a letter to the MoEF on December 22, Posco had urged the minister to treat the plant and the port as a single unit.

Stating the project was conceived as a port-based steel plant, Posco said, the two aspects have to be seen in unison.

"Any change in plan or partial clearance would render the project unviable," the letter had said.

Apart from the port, the MoEF has to take a call on the two other aspects of the project -- environment clearance and diversion of forest land.

As the reports suggest, the environment clearance and use of forest land may be allowed with certain riders.

"We are not averse to additional conditions, but it all depends what type of conditions are being imposed. If the conditions are doable, we will comply with it.

But if they are stiff, the company may have a relook at the project," the official said.

He said Posco had met all statutory requirements to take the work forward before the MoEF created hurdles by deciding to review the clearances granted by it earlier.

Saroj Mohapatra, senior general manager (HR, administration and land acquisition), is little reticent to take a guess on the outcome of the current review of green issues involving the project.

"We do not comment on speculations," he said but was quick to add: "We will welcome any happy resolution to the issue."

Dillip Satapathy in Bhubaneswar
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