The National Green Tribunal today directed that South Korean major Posco will not cut any trees at a village in Odisha for developing its Rs 51,000-crore steel project till the State Government gives the final forest clearance.

“It is now between them (Posco) and the State,” a Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said after noting that the project has been granted environment clearance (EC) and as per the Forest (Conservation) Act permission to cut trees is to be given by the Odisha Government.

“Environmental clearance has already been granted to them. The State Government has to pass order for forest clearance. It is for the State Government to pass an order. It is between them (Posco) and the State.

“We dispose of the petition. The project proponent (Posco) is at liberty to approach the State Government for appropriate orders. Till such orders are passed by the State Government, no trees be cut by the project proponent,” the Bench said.

The order came on the plea of one Prafulla Samantara, who had challenged the FC granted to the project, in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha, on the ground that the Centre only had power to give approval for FC and the final order in that regard has to be passed by the State Government.

The tribunal, while disposing of his petition, concurred with his view saying that according to the provisions of the Forest Act, it is the State Government which is required to pass an order permitting non-forest activities in forest area, once such activity has received approval of the Centre.

“Once the Central Government accords its approval, it is to be followed by appropriate orders by the State Government..,” the bench said.

The tribunal, however, made it clear it is not examining any other aspect of the case like whether the FC is to be granted prior to EC or vice versa.