In strong observations during the hearing of arguments in the matter of Posco's Rs 51,000-crore mega steel project in Odisha, the NGT said that the whole process of granting permission has been made complex by Ministry and wondered this will help in sustainable development.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also questioned the concept of two-stage forest clearance which is granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to industries.

It asked the ministry how the concept is in conformity with the Forest Conservation Act, noting "the Act does not contemplate two stages of clearance".

The tribunal also brushed aside the MoEF's contentions that the guidelines have been issued to promote the object of the Act and that the concept of two stage clearance was evolved for administrative purposes.

"What administration? You are creating a mess. You take two-three years to grant clearances while industries are kept waiting. Is this sustainable development? Your whole process has been made so complex. You have made a mess of things. It
(guidelines) does not promote anything," the bench said.

The remarks were made by the tribunal while hearing arguments on whether a plea challenging forest clearance of South Korean major Posco's steel project in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha was filed too late.

Senior advocate Raj Panjwani, who appeared for the petitioner Prafulla Samantara, an environmentalist, argued that the plea has not been filed too late as cutting of each tree is a fresh cause of action.

He also argued there is apprehension that more trees would be cut and in such circumstances, the plea is not barred by time.

Under the NGT Act, a plea has to be filed within six months of when the cause of action arises. Posco, on the other hand, contended that since September 2011 it has not cut a single tree and added that the site in question is a sandy beach and not a natural forest area.

(Agencies)

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