Greener BeeGreen GadgetsCoal mine owners get partial respite

Green court okays payment of royalty in three equal installments

SHILLONG: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has offered partial relief to the coal mine owners in Meghalaya by allowing them to pay three equal installments of royalty on the extracted and assessed coal even as the interim ban will continue prohibiting unscientific, unregulated and impermissible rat hold coal mining in the state.

During the hearing held in city on Tuesday, the NGT in its order allowed the mine owners to pay the royalty in three equal installments.

“The three equal installments will have to be paid within a period of 45 days from the day of passing of the order,” the NGT order stated.

The green court passed the order at the Meghalaya High Court with the tribunal’s special circuit bench, eastern zone, comprising chairperson Justice (retd.) Swatanter Kumar, judicial member UD Salvi and two expert members — Devendra Kumar Agrawal and PC Mishra — conducting a hearing on issues relating to coal mining in the state.

The tribunal also mentioned that the transportation of coal would be allowed only after the payment of the royalty.

Senior Supreme Court layer Ranjan Mukherjee who appeared on behalf of the State Government said while talking to newsmen that the payment of royalty would be made either on the extracted coal or the assessed coal whichever is higher.

However, the tribunal said that royalty should be paid in accordance with the Section 9 of Mines and Development and Regulation Act 1957.

The NGT also suggested the State Government to provide online weighing machines in pockets where the setting up of weigh bridges is not possible due to lack of space. “We again insist that the guidelines framed by the committee should be followed while transporting the extracted coal,” the tribunal observed adding that no trucks carrying coal shall be allow to exit the State without passing through the weighbridges.

Meanwhile, the NGT also directed the State Government to put up 10 check posts and these posts shall operate in accordance with the content of the earlier order of the tribunal. “The Director General of Police (DGP) should check that there should be no illegal check gates,” the tribunal said

There are 6.3 million tonnes of extracted coal in the state valued Rs.3,078 crore. The royalty payable to the state government is about Rs.400 crore.

The tribunal said: “There should be pollution-free mining to protect human beings and the environment, to keep flora and fauna intact, and there should be no further deterioration of water bodies.”

Earlier, the coal miners associations had filed a petition before the court expressing its difficulty in paying royalty within 14 days as per the guidelines issued by the NGT reconstituted committee headed by additional chief secretary KS Kropha and principal secretary MS Rao.

Meanwhile, the NGT also directed the Government reconstituted committee to submit a comprehensive and detailed report on the methodology which it will adopt to introduce scientific mining including mining plan and mining policy. “The ban will continue prohibiting unscientific unregulated impressible rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya,” the tribunal stated.

The NGT said that the mining which the Government intends to introduce in the future should be pollution free to protect human beings and the environment, to keep flora and fauna intact and that there should be no further deterioration of water bodies which include rivers and stream.

“The report to be submitted by the State Government should also include measures for restoration of acidic water to ensure that the people of Meghalaya are able to drink water without fear of sickness or illness. It cannot be disputed that Meghalaya is one of the green state in the country,” the tribunal observed.

The NGT also suggested that the committee can engage a specialize agency Central Mine Planning Design Institute Limited (CMPDI)I to carry out specific study on the impact of the pollution on the environment.

Meanwhile, the NGT said that the tribunal will also issue appropriate orders to make the mine owners compensate as per Section 50 read with the Section 20 of the NGT Act. “The polluters (mine owners) will have to compensate,” the tribunal said.

The tribunal however observed that it is not disputed before us that there are different environment acts such as air, water, and forest acts are enforced in the state of Meghalaya. “It is the duty of all concerns to obey the law, to enforce the law is the mutual obligation of the state and the people. This neutrality must be respected to maintain the essence of the law particularly the essence of environment,” the NGT said.

Meanwhile, the tribunal stated that the entire incident which has led to this order can be linked to the death of the 15 persons trapped inside the coal mines on July 6, 2012 in South Garo Hills district.

“It may not be the subject the NGT but it is the duty of the state government to provide safety gadgets and proper renumeration for people engaged in the mining activities,” the NGT said.

On the case pertaining to South Garo hills, Mukherjee informed that the case has been postponed till the next round of sitting of the tribunal.

The court has also fixed that the next hearing on December 8 and 9.

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