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Ministry to take a fresh call on JSW's steel project in Odisha, NGT put a stay

NGT suspended the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the project by Jindal Steel Works or JSW Utkal at the Paradip port in Odisha

By pragyaanant
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Jindal steel works paradip NGT put on hold

National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the project by Jindal Steel Works or JSW Utkal at the Paradip port in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur district. The NGT's decision was made in response to appeals to the EC for the JSW Utkal project. The project involved two sub-projects: an integrated steel mill (with cement and power plants) and a dockyard project close to Paradip Port. The appeals were filed on April 11 and 12, 2022. 

The land for the JSW project was formerly considered as a location for a project by POSCO, a South Korean steel company. But, POSCO backed out of the project in 2017 due to protests from the local community. Instead of returning the 1,253 hectares, it had previously acquired from locals, the Odisha government gave 1,083 hectares to JSW Utkal. The company had proposed a project worth Rs. 65,000 crores, including a 13.2 MTPA integrated steel plant, a 10 MTPA cement grinding unit, a 900 MW captive power plant, and an all-weather port with a 52 MTPA capacity.

What is the NGT decision?

According to the National Green Tribunal's (NGT) order from March 20, 2023, the Tribunal knew the project would require a substantial investment. Still, it was also impossible to ignore the idea of sustainable development. The NGT objected to the project's location, which was close to the polluted area of Paradip Port. The fact that the suggested dock was unnecessarily close to an established port, in addition to the issue the public hearing was held before the submission of the cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment.

The NGT concluded that high amounts of water from the Mahanadi River might also spoil the nearby village people's need for drinking water and the river's flow. They were significant issues requiring specific consideration. It further stated that the problem would require a new evaluation by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change's Environment Appraisal Committee and a new judgment within three months.

To investigate suspected human rights violations, a group of attorneys, including Sarita Barpanda, state director of the Human Rights Law Network, traveled to Dhinkia in February 2022. The frequent arrests and police presence have resulted in fewer anti-JSW protests. But, the court orders have provided some comfort to those opposed to the project. However, the conditions on the ground remained unchanged. There was a sizable police presence. People are scared, and Mr. Debendra Swain, one of the primary organizers of the last protest, is still detained in connection with an arms charge despite having been released on bail in 43 cases.

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