India on Monday gave final approval to South Korea's POSCO to build a giant $12 billion steel plant, in the country's biggest foreign investment deal since the launch of market reforms in 1991.
The plant, in the eastern state of Orissa, has been strongly opposed by locals who have campaigned since 2005 to save the farmland and forests needed for the project.
"Final approval is accorded to the state government for diversion of 1,253 hectares (3,100 acres) of forest land in favour of POSCO," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in a statement.
Ramesh said the approval was conditional on POSCO regenerating an equal area of forest in a spot chosen by Orissa, as well as paying for the land.
The plant had "considerable economic, technological and strategic significance," Ramesh said, adding that "at the same time, laws on the environment and forests must be implemented seriously".