The environment clearance granted to Posco's mega steel project in Orissa in January 2011 will remain suspended till the environment ministry reviews it afresh, the National Green Tribunal held on Friday.
"The environment clearance granted on January 31, 2011 to the project shall remain suspended till such review and appraisal is done by the ministry," a bench of tribunal comprising Justice C V Ramulu and Devendra Kumar Agarwal held.
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The tribunal pointed out that memorandum of understanding between the Orissa government and Posco states that the project is for production of 12 million tonnes of steel per annum (MTPA) but the environment impact assessment (EIA) report has been prepared only for 4 MTPA steel production in the first phase.
It said the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) should take "policy decision" that in projects of such magnitude the EIA should be done for the complete project.
"The EIA should assess it for the full capacity right from the beginning," it said.
The tribunal directed the MoEF to review the clearance afresh and attach "specific conditions" which Posco would have to follow in a "defined timeline".
It also directed the MoEF to set up a special committee to "monitor the compliance to the environment clearance" thus granted.
The bench said appointment of Meena Gupta as chairman of the committee to review the environmental clearance showed "departmental bias" as she had only "supported" the environment clearance granted to Posco earlier during her tenure as the Secretary, the MoEF.
"The entire process was vitiated in the eyes of law," the bench said in this regard.