Govt action plan on coke plants ready

SHILLONG, Dec 8: The state government on Thursday submitted before the full bench of the High Court of Meghalaya that it had on November 23 framed an action plan in terms of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order on coke plants and it is expected to be implemented within a month from the date of its notification.
The matter was adjourned on September 7 on the representation of the government that pursuant to orders passed by the NGT, the coke plants operating without meeting the required siting norms were required to be shut down.
The court said the order also recorded that the State Pollution Control Board had issued new siting norms which had been challenged by several parties during proceedings before it.
“It must be observed that the order passed by the NGT on July 8, 2022 called upon the State to take appropriate action to frame an action plan regarding the offending coke oven units established prior to December 23, 2020 to make them compliant of the sitting norms laid down in the notification dated December 23, 2020,” the court said.
Further, it said the NGT order was clear in indicating that “Such Action Plan and its implementation shall be carried out within a period of four months.”
“Clearly, the State is in breach as the action plan was prepared beyond the period of four months and its implementation is expected to be completed, if at all, by December 22, 2022, without seeking any extension of time or leave from the NGT,” the bench said.
The further direction contained in the NGT order of July 8, 2022 required the State to recover environmental compensation according to procedure established by law, it added.
The court was hopeful the government would take appropriate steps in this regard.
It asked the State Pollution Control Board to maintain a strict vigil for ensuring that the environmental norms are not violated and, if violated, appropriate action is taken immediately.
“In the suo motu proceedings instituted by the Court pertaining to illegal coal-mining in the state and the failure by the State to comply with the directions issued by the NGT and the Supreme Court pertaining to coal-mining in the State, it was noticed that in addition to the quantum of previously illegally mined coal that had been seized, a large amount of coal was available…
“Since the additional amount of coal has obviously been mined illegally as no licence in such regard has yet been issued by the State, the State has been called upon to take appropriate steps for disposal of both the previously illegally mined coal and the illegally mined coal subsequent to 2016 or thereabouts,” the bench said.
It further said that the order passed on the matter on December 7, 2022 noticed that several coke oven plants and ferro alloy plants are in operation without the source of coal obtained by such plants being indicated or otherwise available.
“The State has been called upon to ascertain the source of coal used by such coke oven plants and ferro alloy plants so that the rampant illegal coal-mining that continues in the State and continues to be reported in the press is arrested. It needs further mention that there is no prohibition on the mining of coal as long as it is done in accordance with law,” the court said.
However, it is the clear stand of the State that no licence for mining coal has yet been issued though applications, the court said. It added that the applications were forwarded to the relevant Ministry and they are in the process of being vetted.
“The Advocate General submitted that a civil appeal has been carried to the Supreme Court from the NGT order of July 8, 2022. Notice has been issued on the prayer for stay of the operation of the order made before the Supreme Court. The matter is due to appear on December 12, 2022. However, there does not appear to be any stay in operation at the moment,” the court said.

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