‘Forest Dept yet to carry out afforestation’

By Our Reporter

 Shillong: Despite the French cement giant Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited (LUMPL) depositing a total amount of Rs 3 crore towards the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), the State Government is yet to carry out the plantation drive of about 4 lakh saplings in 470 hectares of land in the State.

“Under compensatory afforestation, about 4 lakh trees would be planted in an area of 470 hectares in the State,” LUMPL Board of Directors chairman Shivesh Sinha said during an informal interaction with media persons here on Thursday.

When asked if they have the monitoring mechanism to see how the funds have been utilized, he said that it is not the job of the LUMPL to see what the State Government does with the funds.

“In fact, it is the job of the Supreme Court to find out if the Government has carried out the process of afforestation with the funds under CAMPA,” Sinha said.

As a penalty for carrying out limestone mining in forest land measuring about 116.589 hectare at Nongtrai Shella in East Khasi Hills district to facilitate supply of limestone to its cement plant located in Chatak, Bangladesh, the Supreme Court had directed LUMPL to pay a certain amount for compensatory afforestation from April 1, 2007 towards CAMPA.

Meanwhile, the LUMPL officials avoided a direct answer to a question on whether the supply of raw limestone from Meghalaya to Bangladesh via their conveyor belt has deprived the local people of the benefits that would have accrued to them if value addition happened in Meghalaya.

“This project has been approved to supply limestone to Bangladesh as per the agreement signed with the Government of India,” Sinha said.

He however informed that such questions are legitimate and have been raised even in the Supreme Court during the hearing on LUMPL case last year.

Lafarge Surma Cement Limited Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tarek Elba, claimed that the French Lafarge is equally concerned about the environment.

“We are following the same standards practised in Europe as far as environmental protection is concerned,” Elba said.

So far, LUMPL claimed that it has deposited Rs 41.2 crore towards the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to carry out socio-economic development like health, education, economy, irrigation and agriculture within the 50 km radius of the project area at Nongtrai Shella in East Khasi Hills district.

On July 6, 2011, the apex court in its ruling, had permitted LUMPL to resume mining operations at Nongtrai-Shella in East Khasi Hills with strict conditions. LUMPL has to fund the revised conservation plan of up to Rs 130 crore towards afforestation and development of tribal area around the mines.

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