Pushing for expediting the Posco steel plant, Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik today said he has received an assurance from both prime minister Manmohan Singh and environment minister Jairam Ramesh on speedy clearance for the Rs54,000-crore project in the state.
However, the Orissa chief minister was evasive when asked if the prime minister has given a similar promise on the multi-billion dollar proposed mining project of Vedanta group, which has been accused of violation of tribal and forest norms, in Niyamgirl hills of the state.
But, he said, the state forest secretary UN Behera said will be meeting the environment minister tomorrow to see that the Vedanta issue is expedited.
Upset over key projects in his state being stalled, Patnaik had met the prime minister to apprise him of the situation and seek speedy approval for them.
"I met the prime minister and Union environment minister regarding large projects in the state that they should not be stopped as they will bring a great deal of investment to Orissa and generate employment opportunities. They should be expedited," he said.
He said Ramesh has promised to "hasten" the South Korean steel giant's proposed project, billed as the country's single largest dose of FDI, which is lying pending for the last five years in the absence of green nod from the environment ministry.
Confident that both the projects will sail through in due course, Patnaik dismissed apprehensions that the Korean steel giant and UK-based Vedanta Resources will pull out of the state due to delay.
"They have not said they would be pulling out at all," he said adding "I think everyone is quite aware about these projects and I do certainly hope they would be expedited".
The chief minister said some members of a forest ministry panel headed by Meena Gupta will soon visit the Posco project site at Jagatsinghpur in Orissa to review the compliance by the state government with the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and Forest Conservation Act while acquiring the land for it.
The environment ministry has set up the Meena Gupta panel after Orissa government opposed NC Saxena committee's interim report on Posco saying it was based on falsified documents and that no one had traditional rights in the area under FRA.
Regarding Vedanta's project at Niyamgiri Hills, he maintained "our state forest secretary will meet the environment minister tomorrow to see that these matter is expediated."
Ramesh separately told PTI that he has asked the Gupta committee to expedite the Posco project but did not discuss the Vedanta proposal with the Orissa chief minister.
Vedanta Group firm Sterlite Industries is in pact with the Orissa Mining Corporation for the project and as per the agreement OMC would mine bauxite at the site.
On the upcoming visit of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to protest at Niyamgiri Hills on August 26, Patnaik said "he is free to visit any place in the state. But the developmental progress of the state ought not to be hindered."
The Congress leader had during his earlier visit in March, 2008, said he was opposed to mining activities at Niyamgiri hills which is a eco-fragile area in the Eastern Ghat.
Patnaik said the prime minister has also assured him on the Polavaram dam project in Andhra Pradesh, saying none of the tribal villages in Orissa would be submerged.