After coal, NGT glare on illegal stone mining in Meghalaya

After rat-hole coal mining, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has turned its attention to alleged illegal gravel and stone mining in Meghalaya.

Based on a complaint by Assam-based activist Jitul Deka, the NGT has asked Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district administration, the State’s Forest and Mining and Geology departments besides the State Pollution Control Board officials to inspect the stone quarrying areas and submit an action-taken report by October 11.

Mr Deka said the Meghalaya government had in September 2016 struck gravel and stones from the list of minor minerals to facilitate stone quarrying. Through Google imagery, he illustrated the adverse transformation of an area in Ri-Bhoi district due to stone mining.

He also said that the area where the illegal mining was going on falls within the prohibited distance from Assam’s Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary close to the border with Meghalaya. This, he added, would entail obtaining the clearance from the National Board for Wildlife.

“Considering the facts and circumstances set out in the application, we are satisfied that substantial question of environment arises in the case,” NGT’s judicial member S.P. Wangdi said in the order on August 26, seeking appropriate action if the allegations about illegal gravel and stone mining were found to be correct.

In another order on August 30, the NGT directed the Arunachal Pradesh government to check illegal logging in the Frontier State. The order was based on a petition by Jorjo Tana Tara, a resident of Seijosa in Pakke-Kessang district regarding unauthorised felling in Papum forest under the Khellong Forest Division.

Underlining the “serious environment questions”, the NGT asked the government to identify the “hotspots” where illegal felling of trees and deforestation in the area.

Apart from the State’s administrative and Forest heads, the National Tiger Conservation Authority has been made a respondent in the case.

Mr Tara had approached the NGT in April, seeking an end to indiscriminate logging inside the Papum Reserve Forest adjacent to the Pakke Tiger Reserve. The forest officials concerned, in their report to the green tribunal, admitted to illegal felling of trees but “not to the extent as projected”.

Mr Tara countered the report, insisting that the timber was being transported illegally by trucks as well as via the Pakke River to Assam across the border.

The NGT sought an increase in the strength of forest guards considering the size of the forest land that plays the role of a carbon sink. It also called for ensuring effective enforcement of the forest laws, and protection of the rich forest resources while asking the State Chief Secretary to form a high-level committee and put into action. EOM

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 3:48:41 PM |

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