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NGT had to intervene into the alleged illegal coal mining by Star Cement Limited after hundreds of villagers from Lumshnong and nearby of East Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya registered strong protest opposing public hearing for expansion of limestone mining in the area, conducted by Meghalaya Pollution Control Board and Deputy Commissioner of the district in the office premises of Star Cement Pvt Ltd March 20 this year.

The NGT, in its report also stated that the committee constituted, will now look thoroughly into illegal coal mining in Meghalaya. NGT also mentioned that illegal mining of coal had not stopped and transportation was still going on in its second interim report though remained ban promulgated by it in 2014.

The NGT stressed on preparing a Disaster Management Plan and its implementation in the areas of mining and its surroundings, the interim report observed.

Meghalaya government, in the meantime, assured the NGT Committee on submitting a comprehensive report on illegal mining with facts and figures of yearly requirement, source of collection and supply of coal to cement factories, power plants, and captive power plants in Meghalaya in the next meeting of the committee.

On the other hand, The NGT also directed the Central Pollution Control Board to submit a factual report on the requirement, supply and source of collection of coal to thermal power plants and cement factories,  and whether it violets terms and condition set up in the environment clearance.

NGT panel was told by the Commissioner and Secretary, Mining and Geology Department that cement manufacturer companies of the state have conceded to fund the project to decontaminate the acid from the streams of rivulets around the mining sites. In response, the NGT committee asked officials to go for implementation of the “decontaminate project” immediately.

This apart, the NGT also sought reports from all the superintendents of police on the inquiry they carried into 1,139 cases that registered for the alleged transportation of illegal mining.

It has been further alleged that cement companies are procuring call from local areas and claims transport subsidy for a longer distance. It may be noted that the central Government in order to promote industrialisation in the Northeast region has given 90% transport subsidy from the procurement of raw materials and supply of a finished product. It has been alleged that cement companies are taking maximum benefit of this provision of industrial policy and a lot of complain of manipulation were received by the Central Government. It is, of course, nice to note that Cement Company now agreed to make the fund available for the pilot project for neutralization of acid mine drainage contaminated water on selected streams in mining areas. It may be noted here, that the coal in Jaintia Hills contains high sulphur content which was mixed with water producing sulphuric acid killing and threatening all the aquatic organisms.

It is up to the planner and the scientists to check how further limestone mining will be useful for the people of the region.

EP Desk

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