A three-member committee of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday asked the Meghalaya government to either stop illegal coal mining in the state or face contempt of court.
The committee headed by Justice B.P. Katakey also took stock of the rescue operations to evacuate the 15 miners who have been trapped inside an illegal flooded coal mine since December 13 at Ksan village in State’s East Jaintia Hills district.
“They have given us a progress report about the rescue operations. We have strictly told them that unless you stop it, you will be hauled up for contempt of court,” Katakey told IANS.
He said the committee will also visit the coal mine areas in Garo Hills in western part of the state.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had revealed that there are more than 1,000 cases since 2014 against different individuals and organizations.
In April 2104, the NGT banned coal mining activities in Meghalaya after the All Dimasa Students’ Union and the Dima Hasao District Committee filed an application before the tribunal alleging that the water in the Kopili river was turning acidic due to coal mining in Jaintia Hills.
Last week, the Green Court had imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore on the Meghalaya government for its failure to curb illegal coal mining in the state.
Katakey said the Committee has also directed the government to prepare a rehabilitation plan for workers and an alternative employment scheme for them in the mining areas.
“We have also directed the government to explore the possibility of installing deep tube wells in the mining areas. We have asked them to hold discussion with the Central Ground Water Board and test the pH level (acidity or basicity) of ground water,” he said.
The committee also took stock of all actions taken for restoration of environment and rehabilitation of victims of coal mining in Meghalaya.
Meanwhile, the government has informed the three-member committee that awareness camps have been conducted in the villages about the ill-effect of illegal mining.
“They have also put up sign boards and in some rivers/streams giving warning that the water in those areas is acidic not fit for consumption,” he said.
The Meghalaya government on Friday issued a public notice seeking the names of miners injured as well as the next of kin of miners killed in accidents since 2012.