Assembly panel concerned over WKH coke factories

SHILLONG: The Meghalaya Assembly standing committee on Environment has taken cognizance of the mushrooming of coke factories in Shallang belt of West Khasi Hill during the last two years as 16 new coke factories were given clearance to by the Single Window Agency and seven were functional.
The apprehension is that these coke factories which emit large quantity of toxic carbon monoxide gas endangering the lives of the local residents.
The Committee viewed the matter of mushrooming of coke factories seriously as it is causing health hazards in the area.
According to member of the Committee, HM Shangpliang, as per the report of the Deputy Commissioner, eight factories were set up illegally without permission and the Committee has directed the authorities to see that the illegal factories are not allowed to operate.
Earlier, chairman of the Committee, SK Sun said that coke factories fall in the red category of industries sector causing health hazard even as it was informed that the Committee would visit West Khasi Hills on August 18 and inspect the ferro-alloy and coke factories.
Earlier, the Committee also inquired about two cement companies in East Jaintia Hills emitting smoke leading to air pollution and the Committee was informed that one of the factories was closed for a long time due to COVID situation and when machines are re-started, the level of smoke is much higher.
Shangpliang said that in another factory, the machines are quite old and the Committee has asked the State as well as the Central Pollution Control Board to visit the site and suggest them ways to improve the emission of smoke.
As far as installation incinerators for disposals of water, the Committee was informed that there are three proposals for setting up of incinerators at Shillong, Tura and Jowai.
The Committee also expressed concern over the disposal of hospital waste in Jowai where medical waste was found in a paddy field.
“We are not satisfied with the report and inquiry has to be done by the Health Department by involving the Pollution Control Board.
The Committee also took cognizance of the act of the PWD where the department for widening of a road towards Shillong Peak cut down 12 trees without permission from the Forest department.
The Committee members opined that such forests especially close to the city must be protected besides urging the department of Forest to come with proposals to declare such forests as protected.
Draft notification on Environment
Meanwhile, the Committee expressed that minor minerals of the state should be given considerate views in the draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2020 since majority of the rural people in the state are dependent on sand mining and extraction of other minerals.
Shangpliang informed that the state governments have been given time till August 11 to give their views on the EIA. “We were told by the Principal Secretary of the Forest department that the government is going to have a discussion to take a stand on the matter” he said.
Shangpliang said that state governments should suggest the Centre to give more considerable avenues within the draft in the Sixth Schedule areas.
Earlier, Sunn expressed displeasure that the public consultation period in the draft has been reduced to 20 days from 45 days and even certain projects need not be consulted with the public. The EIA notification is an important regulation through which the impacts of land-use change, water extraction, tree felling, pollution, waste and effluents management for industrial and infrastructure projects are to be studied and used in developmental decision making.

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