Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Govt slammed for alienating forest land to cement cos

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: The State NCP has demanded an independent inquiry into the alleged use of forest land by as many as five cement companies in Jaintia Hills.

Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, Leader of Opposition Conrad Sangma asserted that these cement companies are operating in the middle of forest land which is a violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

“We should have an independent inquiry into this entire issue,” he added.

The NCP was referring to cement companies — Top Cem, Star Cement, JUD Cement, Adhunik Cement — adding that the NCP Youth Wing of the State had on Wednesday submitted a memorandum to the Additional Chief Secretary for his intervention into the matter.

According to Sangma, the State Government has given clearance to these companies vide the Single Window Agency (SWA) without even confirming whether the mining was going to take place in forest land or outside it.

The NCP is now contemplating to move the Central Government for their intervention into the alleged use of forest land by cement companies in Jaintia Hills as the Central Government has sent several reminders to the State Government which does not seem to be bothered at all.

“We are not against industrialisation but action should be taken against these companies who are operating within forest land,” Sangma asserted while talking to media persons here on Wednesday.

It may be mentioned that several cement companies are operating in Jaintia Hills producing hundreds of tonnes of cements every day.

The state working president of the NCP youth wing Clifford M Nengnong also reiterated that these companies are operating in forest area in complete violation of all forest regulations.

“We have seen with our own eyes that these companies are situated in the middle of the forest,” Nengnong added.

Taking a cue from the recent judgement where the Supreme Court had asked Lafarge cement to follow procedures of Forest Conservation Act 1980 and to pay compensatory afforestation penalty the NCP reiterated that these companies should also be directed to obtain necessary approval and submit their proposals for use of forest land as per the provisions of the act and also obtain environmental clearance under the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006.

The Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) has also come under severe criticism from the NCP as the party has accused the JHADC of issuing NOC to these companies without verifying the location of these cement companies.

“The Central Government in its map has clearly shown that all the areas where cement plants have come up are forested areas, so how can JHADC give NOC to these companies,” Sangma questioned.

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