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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Meghalaya pulled up over illegal mining

Meghalaya to give the money to Central Pollution Control Board for failing to curb illegal mining in the state.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2019 23:58 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Last year in December, 15 miners were trapped in a mine after the illegal coal mine they were digging got flooded in the coal-rich East Jaintia Hills, an area where illegal mining was rife despite a National Green Tribunal ban on such activities.
Last year in December, 15 miners were trapped in a mine after the illegal coal mine they were digging got flooded in the coal-rich East Jaintia Hills, an area where illegal mining was rife despite a National Green Tribunal ban on such activities. (AFP)
         

The Supreme Courton Wednesdaydirected the Meghalaya government to deposit ₹100 crore with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for failing to curb illegal mining in the state and ordered the CPCB to use the money to tackle environmental pollution caused by the practice.

The state government is under an obligation to ensure a clean environment for its citizens, a bench of justices Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph said, while upholding a directive by the National Green Tribunal to the Meghalaya government to pay the cost.

“The state government is under {a} constitutional obligation to ensure clean environment to all its citizens. In cases pertaining to environmental matters, the State has to act as a facilitator and not as an obstructionist,” the court said.

The bench modified NGT’s order, passed in May 2016, to the extent that it allowed the state to release the money from the Meghalaya Environment Protection and Restoration Fund (MEPRF), instead of the state exchequer.

A direction was also issued to Coal India Limited, a central public sector undertaking, to take possession of the illegal lymined coal n the state and auction it.

Last year in December, 15 miners were trapped in a mine after the illegal coal mine they were digging got flooded in the coal-rich East Jaintia Hills, an area where illegal mining was rife despite a National Green Tribunal ban on such activities.

All the miner met a watery grave in the accident.

“Natural resources of the country are not meant to be consumed only by the present generation of men or women of the region where natural resources are deposited. These treasures of nature are for all generations to come and for intelligent use of the entire country. The present generation owes a duty to preserve and conserve the natural resources of the nation so that it may be used in the best interest of coming generations as well and for the country as a whole,” the top court bench said.

Clearing the air on mining in the state , the court said that coal mining can continue subject to compliance with the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, or MMDR Act, 1957 and the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960.

In its judgment, the court also acknowledged and affirmed the rights of the tribals over the lands and minerals.Mining in tribal lands shall be permitted subject to requisite permissions from the owner of the tribal land, and with an approved mining plan.

The bench passed the directions while dealing with a batch of petitions filed by Meghalaya government and several private miners challenging various directions passed by the National Green Tribunal in the past six years to tackle illegal mining, including the January 4, 2019 order imposing the ₹100 crore cost on the state.

Meghalaya’s appeal was opposed by private residents of the state who have been campaigning against the increase in so-called rat-hole mining operations there.

Senior advocate Nidhesh Gupta,a lawyer for the residents, submitted that mining operations were running illegally as none had the approval of the Centre, as required under the law.

Counsel for the Meghalaya government said that under the constitution, the state had the right to engage in mining without such consent and the MMDR law (central legislation to monitor mining) does not apply.

The court, however, rejected the state’s contention and accepted Gupta’s stand.

Meghalaya not only has to comply with the MMDR law but also the Mines Act and the Environment (Protection ) Act, it said