Freshly dug coal found in banned Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills
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A three-member committee of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Tuesday said it has found freshly dug coal in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district, where mining and transportation have been banned by the tribunal. The NGT in 2014 had imposed a blanket ban on mining and transportation of coal for its adverse environmental effect and the absence of safety measures for miners.
"We found certain freshly mined coal there, certainly not the ones that were mined way back in 2014. We also found stacks of coal in one location at Sutnga area in East Jaintia Hills," committee chairman Justice (Retd) B P Katakey told PTI.
He said, "We went to Khliehriat area because there was an allegation before the National Green Tribunal that although mining has been banned since 2014, illegal activities are still going on in the area." Kakatey and two other members of the committee - a mining specialist from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad and a scientific officer from the Central Pollution Control Board - visited Sutnga and Khliehriat areas, where RTI activist and environmentalist Agnes Kharshiing and her companion were attacked by coal mining mafias on November 8 last.
Kharshiing is now battling for life at the super speciality North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences near here.
The chairman of the committee also observed that the movement of coal from the state to Assam cannot be ruled out as borne out by the seizure of coal-laden trucks. "Where are they carrying the coal from? There has to be an order from the NGT or the Supreme Court for this. The NGT and the Supreme Court had earlier allowed transportation of coal but that was long back," he said.
The committee also found lubricated machines in certain mines which led the members to suspect that mining was likely to take place soon. Scientific tests have also been conducted on the water and soil samples to see the ill-effects of coal mining.
The committee will also be visiting coal mining sites in the Garo Hills region and in particular a mine in South Garo Hills where 15 people were reported dead in 2012 after water surged in from an abandoned mine drowning the labourers inside the mine.
Constituted in August this year, the committee will have to present its report to the NGT every two months until March 6 next year when the tribunal will meet again to consider the reports of the committee.
The committee was also tasked to take stock of the actions taken to restore the environment and rehabilitate the victims besides preparing a time-bound action plan to deal with the issue and ensure its implementation.
(With inputs from agencies.)