NGT uncovers freshly dug coal in banned region in Meghalaya
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 the miners.
"We found certain freshly mined coal there, certainly not the ones that are mined way back in 2014. We also found stacks of coal in one location in 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 in the National Green Tribunal. Also, that though mining has been stopped since 2014, it still going on."
Kakatey and two other members of the committee - a mining specialist from Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad and a scientific officer from the Central Pollution Control Board visited Sutnga and Khliehriat area, where RTI activist and environmentalist Agnes Kharshiing and her partner were attacked by mining mafias on November 8 last.
Agnes 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 cannot be ruled out as there were seizures 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 certain mines with lubricated machines which the members suspect that mining is likely to take place soon until the monsoon comes again. 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 the actions are taken to restore the environment and to rehabilitate the victims besides preparing a time-bound action plan to deal with the issue and ensure its implementation.
(With inputs from agencies.)