Tribunal ban on rat-hole mining stays lSale of extracted coal allowed

NGT refuses, HNLC opposes

A large number of people gather outside the Meghalaya HC during the hearing of the NGT ban on Monday.  (ST)
A large number of people gather outside the Meghalaya HC during the hearing of the NGT ban on Monday. (ST)

SHILLONG: In a major setback for the coal mine owners of the state, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday refused to revoke its interim order banning the rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya, but at the same time permitted sale of coal that already had been extracted.

The tribunal’s special circuit bench, eastern zone, held its hearing at the Meghalaya High Court and was chaired by Justice Swatanter Kumar. The expert member Ranjan Chatterjee passed the order much to the dismay of those involved in the coal mining industry who gathered for the crucial judgment from all over the State.

The tribunal ruled that ban on rat-hole coal mining would be in place until the next hearing on August 1.

Soon after pronouncement of the verdict, proscribed HNLC has called a 24-hour shut down staring from 6pm of June 10. Medical service, media houses and religious ceremonies are exempted from the purview of the bandh.

The NGT put an interim ban on rat-hole mining of coal in Meghalaya after the Assam-based All Dimasa Students’ Union and Dima Hasao District Committee filed a petition before it, stating that the acidic discharge from unscientific coal mines of Meghalaya was polluting the Kopili river downstream.

Speaking to media persons after the hearing, the counsel of the All Dimasa Students’ Union Arunabh Choudhary said that the tribunal also dismissed the petition of the coal mine owners who wanted a modification in the interim order of NGT. The tribunal passed the order on the basis of the report of both the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MPSCB).

According to Choudhary, NGT also ordered for the formation of a committee which would visit the coal mining sites to ascertain the quantity of extracted coals lying there and suggest mechanisms for transportation of the extracted coal out of the state within seven days.

According to sources, the State Government has been directed to formulate rules and guidelines for shipment of the extracted coal by ensuring there is no pollution threat to the environment. The tribunal also clearly mentioned that the transportation of the extracted coal should be completed within three months time even as indicating that they might give an extension if the extracted coal cannot be transported within this specified time.

Arunabh Choudhary further informed that the royalty recovered from the disposal of the coals would be shared between State Government and District Councils and maximum amount of royalty would be kept for afforestation and land reforms

NGP ban echoes in Assembly: The Opposition on Monday raised the issue of the NGT ban on coal mining in the State Assembly. While participating in the general discussion on the budget, HSPDP legislator Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit said that the failure of the Government to implement the Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012 led to the imposition of ban on the mining activities.

“The ban has affected the people of the state at various levels,” Basaiawmoit said.

While asserting that he did not subscribe to the idea of unregulated mining activities, he said that there was a need to strike a balance between protecting and preserving the nature, environment, ecology and safeguarding the interest of all the stakeholders. Echoing a similar view, Opposition leader Dr Donkupar Roy said that the failure of the Government to take cognizance on the negative impact on the environment due to the unregulated mining activities had forced the NGT to intervene.

“It is time for the Government to act before the court step in,” Opposition leader said.

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