By Our Reporter
SHILLONG, Dec 13: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, Government of Meghalaya, Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB), the deputy commissioner of East Jaintia Hills and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) to file their counter-affidavits with regard to a petition filed by the Environment Coordination Committee (ECC) of Elaka Sutnga on the illegal coke plants operating in East Jaintia Hills District.
The NGT recently heard the legal counsel of the ECC, Vivek Singh and directed all the respondents to file their counter-affidavits within four weeks.
The ECC had filed the petition with the NGT on October 25 with the allegation that environmental pollution is being caused due to operation of coke oven plants in the area of Elaka Sutnga under East Jaintia Hills District in Meghalaya.
The petition also alleged that several coke oven plants have been established and are operating in the district in violation of environmental norms causing air and water pollution leading to health concern among the people.
During the submission before the NGT, the ECC’s legal counsel mentioned that some of these open coke ovens are located within 100-300 meters of human habitation.
Singh stated before the NGT that the minimum distance between two clusters of coke units should be 5 km.
In a statement issued here on Monday, the ECC said that this is only the start of legal proceeding and there will many more to come into light.
“In the near future the ECC will seek intervention from the Income Tax department since documents available with the ECC reveal tax evasion worth hundreds of crores of rupees by the non-tribal owners under the shadow of the local tribals. There are 41 coke plants in the district alone owned by non-tribals,” the ECC stated.
According to them, there was no verification or scrutiny by the Single Window Agency before granting approval to the project proponents of the coke plants.
There was random and irregularity issuance of SWA approvals by the Department of Commerce and industries, the ECC claimed.
Asserting that they will not hesitate to even move the Supreme Court in the near future, the ECC recalled that the state government had constituted an expert committee in this regard, but no action or steps have been initiated till date.
“This is a matter of serious concern and postponing the matter will cause irreparable damage to the public,” the ECC added.
The NGT has listed the matter for hearing on January 31, 2022.
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