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Social activists urge Supreme Court to ban coal mining in Meghalaya completely

The report also rubbishes claims that the ban on mining has hurt the livelihoods of poor indigenous people as it claims only a few rich people benefitted from mining.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2019 08:09 IST
David Laitphlang
David Laitphlang
Hindustan Times, Shillong
In this file photo taken on December 30, 2018, Indian Navy divers are lowered into a mine with a pulley during rescue operations to help 15 miners trapped by flooding in an illegal coal mine in Ksan village in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district. (AFP)

A report compiled by social activists has urged the Supreme Court to put a total stop to coal mining in Meghalaya as it has led to severe environmental degradation.

The 379-page report, entitled ‘Curse of unregulated coal mining in Meghalaya Volume 2’, was released on Sunday by Angela Rangad, Agnes Kharshiing, Michael Syiem and Amita Sangma, among others. The report also urged the apex court to disallow further transportation of already mined coal.

“Coal mining in Meghalaya has to stop completely and other forms of energy and livelihoods that are climate-friendly need investment,” the report said.

Despite the 2014 ban by the National Green Tribunal on coal mining in the state, illegal extraction has continued and the Supreme Court needs to use real time satellite data to take stock of the violations, they sought.

The report has been compiled across two volumes after collecting reports related to coal mining and transportation after the ban.

Rangad said that the second volume was submitted to the Supreme Court last week in the hope that it will be examined at a hearing on January 15. The first volume was submitted in December. She added that the report’s findings have been compiled after substantiating claims and figures from information received through the RTI Act, reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, newspaper reports, etc.

“Not only did coal mining allow the rich to grab community land for mining, but it destroys the environment and pollutes the rivers while not generating much revenue for the state. Coal mining leads to absolute degradation of the environment, extortion, criminal activities and the mafia raj,” Rangad said.

The report also rubbishes claims that the ban on mining has hurt the livelihoods of poor indigenous people as it claims only a few rich people benefitted from mining.

“We want the Supreme Court to understand that such people are abusing the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to grab land,” Rangad said, adding that 76% of tribals in Meghalaya are landless.

The report wants new land registrations to be frozen around mining hotspots until a proper regulatory framework on prospecting, granting of leases, necessary clearances, environmentally sustainable mining and labour laws are in place.

The court’s granting of more and more time for coal that was supposed to have been extracted before the 2014 ban to be transported has led to widespread corruption, Rangad claimed.

After the NGT ban mine owners claimed that 121 lakh metric tonnes of coal was above ground after extraction. But Rangad claimed that the real figure was 66 lakh metric tonnes.

“We are also surprised that out of around 52 months since the ban was imposed, 32 months have been allotted for transportation of coal. How can this be if there was no fresh digging of coal taking place?” she sought to know. “Extracted coal has never been exhausted because coal mining has been going on not only in East Jaintia Hills (the location where 15 miners have been trapped in a flooded mine since last month), but in other coal-rich districts,” she added.

The report has also sought legal action against government officials responsible for a loss of revenue through mining taxes for the state government and a direction that coal miners pay for reclaiming all coal mines.

It also states that it is important that there be an independent committee monitored by the apex court to check the conflict of interest that exists when it comes to mining — the families of several MLAs on both sides of the political divide have invested in mining.

First Published: Jan 14, 2019 08:09 IST