JSW Steel's plan to procure land for its proposed 12-million-tonne steel plant in Odisha has encountered a forest diversion hurdle.
The Sajjan Jindal-led steel company had sought the same parcel of land that was once acquired for the Posco project. The state government through its land acquisition agency, Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Idco), had acquired 2,700 acres for a mega steel plant proposed by Posco. Idco took back the land after the Korean firm froze its plans.
Though stage-II forest clearance was accorded to the Posco project, it was project-specific. If the same land parcel is to be transferred to JSW Steel, the forest diversion plan needs to be filed separately. Filing of a fresh forest diversion proposal has apparently thrown a spanner in works for JSW Steel.
"Except for coal mining projects, the statutory clearances cannot be automatically transferred to the new land allotees in case of industrial projects. For JSW Steel, 2,900 acres of land have been approved by the state government. But, the land could not be transferred due to pending forest clearance issues", an official source said.
To complicate land transfer in favour of the JSW Steel project, the affected locals had earlier petitioned the National Green Tribunal (NGT) alleging Idco had arbitrarily diverted the forest land for non-forest purposes. This step, they claimed was illegal as the state government did not obtain prior consent to use the forest land for non-forest purpose.
That apart, Idco has de-reserved around 1,300 acres of forest land straddling six villages in the area. This violated the conditional stage-II forest clearance granted for the Posco project. Locals had also filed individual and community forest rights over the land under Forest Rights Act, 2006.
The petition filed by the land losers of Posco project is pending with the NGT. In the petition, they alleged that construction of the boundary wall violates Section 2 of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 as no order of the state government has been issued for diverting nearly 2,900 acres of forest land.
JSW Steel has committed an investment of Rs 550 billion on the steel plant and associated infrastructure -- 900 Mw captive power plant, 32-million-tonne pellet unit, a captive port and a slurry pipeline to transport iron ore concentrates from Joda to the project site proposed near Paradip. In its proposal to the Odisha government, the company had asked for transfer of all land parcels acquired for the Posco project. The steel company has pegged its total land requirement for the Odisha project at 4500 acres. The land need, however, has been rationalised at 2900 acres by the Odisha government which had roped in consultancy firm Mecon Ltd to assess the requirement.
JSW Steel has formed a wholly-owned subsidiary, JSW Utkal Steel Ltd, to fast track the implementation of its 12 million tonne crude steel plant and other inter-linked projects in Odisha. While the port based steel plant was initially proposed to be developed by JSW Steel, another group company JSW Infrastructure got the clearance to build the slurry pipeline.
The company has requested the state government to transfer all clearances and approvals to JSW Utkal Steel Ltd.
Moreover, to secure iron ore supplies for its integrated steel project, the company has pitched for a long-term agreement for 50 years with state owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to supply 30 million tonne per annum of iron ore fines at IBM (Indian Bureau of Mines) declared price.