NGT panel asks Meghalaya to submit coal transport policy

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SHILLONG, Oct 18 (PTI): A three-member committee of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday asked the Meghalaya government to submit a draft policy by end of this month for transportation of 32 lakh metric tonne of extracted coal lying at various depots in the state.

The panel, which was set up to supervise and look into the issue of environmental restoration plan and other related matters in Meghalaya, is expected to take up the issue of coal transportation in its two-day meeting starting from November 11, an official said.

So far the state government has not submitted the policy, though the Supreme Court had passed the order on July 3, this year. I have asked them to let me know by October 30 so that we can take it up for consideration in the meeting starting from November 11, committee chairman (retired) Justice B P Katakey said after a meeting with state officials here.

The Supreme Court had directed the Meghalaya government to deposit the Rs 100 crore fine imposed on it by the NGT for failing to curb illegal coal mining with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

The apex court also directed the state administration to hand over the illegally extracted coal to Coal India Limited (CIL) which will auction it and deposit the funds with the state government.

They are yet to take a decision on that (coal transportation). I have issued a direction to the state government and Coal India Limited to sit together and decide on it. I have also asked them to let us (Committee) know what is the outcome of your meeting by October 30, he said. The court had also allowed the mining operation to go on in the state on the privately and community owned land subject to the permissions from the concerned authorities.

A report of the committee had earlier stated that there were around 24,000 mines in Meghalaya and majority of them were operating illegally. Incidentally, a total of 15 miners were trapped on December 13 last year in an illegal coal mine at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, about 3.7 km deep inside a forest, when water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it.

The committee on Friday also instructed the state government to initiate an inquiry into the alleged illegal transportation of coal to Bangladesh following the Supreme Courts order in July.

The state government claimed that only three challans were issued by the land custom station at Gasuapara in South Garo Hills district in May for exporting coal to Bangladesh. Katakey said the custom department, in its report, said that they had allowed 461 trucks to cross over to Bangladesh during the same month. We have directed the state government to start an inquiry and get back to us. They have to identify the concerned officers who are responsible for these illegal activities, he said.

The state government, however, raised objection to the committees direction to initiate probe into the alleged export of coal to the neighbouring country and provide details of the break-up of extracted coal, official sources said.

Earlier in the day, a committee member who represents ISL Dhanbad expressed his inabilities to continue as a member of the panel.

We have decided to request the director of ISL, Dhanbad to nominate another member so that we can transact the business in the next meeting which is scheduled to be held on November 11 and 12, Katakey said.

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