NGT constituted committee to check on reports of illegal mining in Garo Hills

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SHILLONG, Jan 11: In order to check whether coal mining is still going on in Garo Hills in spite of the National Green Tribunal ban on such activities in Meghalaya, an Independent Committee constituted by the Tribunal will embark on a two – day field visit to that part of the state.

This was informed by Justice (Retd) BP Katakey who is heading the Committee after holding its seventh meeting held here in the city on Friday.

This meeting was attended by officials of the Central and State Pollution Control Board, Home department, Mining and Geology department, Health department, NESAC, and others.

After the meeting, Katakey informed that the committee will conduct a field visit to Garo Hills particularly South Garo Hills District where the incident of coal miners trapped at Nangalbibra on January 30-31.

 “There are certain coal mining activities and we wanted to see if such activities are still going on despite the ban,” he said while informing that the committee will accordingly fix the date for the next meeting to be held in the middle of February.

Earlier, the committee had conducted a visit to East Jaintia Hills District on November 12, last year.

Katakey further informed that the committee has also directed the state authorities to share the status of investigations so far conducted on around 1200 cases registered against illegal transporation of coal.

He said a total of 98 cases were also registered in East Jaintia Hills District related to coal mining activities which continued despite the ban by the NGT adding however they are yet to submit the report relating to the investigation so far conducted on this matter.

“We have directed the SP of East Jaintia Hills District to submit the report in the next meeting because the investigation must reach to its logical conclusion,” Katakey said.

He said that the committee is taking up issues relating to mining activities and environment degradation.

He said based on the last order passed by the NGT on January 4, the committee had directed the state government to submit schemes for alternative employment of the coal mine workers as well.

During the meeting, the committee had also taken on record the status report of the ongoing rescue operations conducted at Khloo Ryngksan where 15 miners are trapped since December 13, last year besides the two bodies recovered recently.

 “They have submitted the status report of the ongoing redcue operation and we have not comment anything but have taken on record because I have been told that proceeding is coming up for consideration before Supreme Court,” Katakey said.

In its last meeting, the committee had expressed concern on the failure of the Meghalaya government to provide information about the number of people who have died or received injuries so far due to mining activities in the state.

Katakey said the committee had directed the deputy commissioners of all the districts to furnish such data if available.

 “Since they have taken a stand that data is not available we have directed the additional chief secretary to issue a public notice in newspapers and they have issued public notice,” he said.

He said the public notice was for inviting claims from the coal mine workers who either received injuries or from the next of kin of the coal miners who have died because of the mining activities.

 “The NGT in the last order had stated that at least from 2012, we should try to ascertain who are the persons affected the miners who received injuries and died so that we can pass some orders for payment of compensation,” he added.

Meanwhile, Katakey informed that the committee will submit its periodical report to the NGT by March 31.

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