BHUBANESWAR: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday ordered status quo at the proposed Posco steel plant site in Jagatsinghpur district, putting a stop on further felling of trees by the state government.
“It is contended before us now that large numbers of trees are being felled by the project proponent (the state government) without the permission of any competent authority…We direct that status quo with regard to cutting trees as of today shall be maintained,” the NGT order said. The matter will come up for hearing on July 11.
Hearing a May 18 petition of Lok Shakti Abhiyan president Prafulla Samantara, a five-member bench of the tribunal, observed that the NGT had earlier suspended the environmental clearance (EC) to the project. Since the ministry of environment and forests has not passed any order on the recommendations of the experts committee, the EC remains suspended, it said.
Samantara had pleaded before the tribunal to direct the state government and Posco to stop cutting trees and destroying betel vines as the NGT on March 30 last year had scrapped the environment clearance to Posco. “The state government by disobeying the earlier order of the NGT illegally dismantled betel vines and felled thousands of trees,” said Samantara.
The status quo order provides succour for anti-Posco villagers at Gobindapur under Dhinkia gram panchayat even as the authorities have already cut thousands of trees after acquiring about 650 acre of land. “It is a welcome order but the damage has already been done,” said Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti leader Manorama Khatua.
Government authorities refrained from making any comment stating that they are yet to receive the NGT order. “I have not received any order from the NGT or the state government so far,” said Jagatsinghpur collector S K Mallick.