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Cachar Paper Mill may face coal crisis

By Correspondent

SILCHAR, July 16 � Besides bamboo crunch, the burgeoning fund constraints, lacklustre approach by the elected local representatives and apathy of the Government has made the Cachar Paper Mill at Panchgram, a feeble industry despite immense potential and possibility. And now the threat of severe coal shortage is looming large over this solitary heavy industry in the Barak Valley.

Due to a petition filed by the All Dimasa Students� Union, district unit committee at Dima Hasao on the unscientific coal mining at Meghalaya, the supply of coal from Meghalaya to the Cachar Paper Mill, a unit of Hindustan paper Corporation has been stopped since May 15 this year and even the extracted coal cannot be loaded and supplied due to dispute over its quantity between Meghalaya and the owners of the mines. The mill fraternity is apprehending that come July 25, the existing stock of 12000 MT of coal will be consumed and there will be no production henceforth, unless the deadlock is solved.

It is learnt that the All Dimasa Students� Union, Dima Hasao district unit committee, filed a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Principal Bench, New Delhi against rat hole mining of coal in Meghalaya. Following this, the tribunal on May 19 this year passed an order stopping unscientific mining forthwith throughout Meghalaya and made it clear that any transport of coal shall not take place until further orders are passed by it.

The All Dimasa Students� Union filed the petition on the ground that the unscientific mining has been causing enormous degradation of greenery, environment, ecology and pollution of streams and rivers, particularly Kopili, the main source of drinking water for the people up and downstream.

However, by an order June 9, 2014, the tribunal allowed transportation of the already extracted coal lying in the open near the mining sites subject to terms and conditions. Hearing on the main application is to take place on August 1 next at the Tribunal�s Circuit Bench at High Court of Meghalaya, Shillong.

Against this backdrop, the Officers and Supervisors Association, Cachar Paper Project Workers� and Employees Union (independent and recognised) as well as the Employees Thrift and Credit Cooperative Society Ltd have submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to the Minister of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Ananta Geete, urging them for immediate intervention to solve the deadlock and restore coal supply to Cachar Paper Mill from Meghalaya.

In the memorandum, the bodies have stated that after a gap of over four years the sole heavy industry in south Assam has been able to produce impressive quantity of finished paper in the 2012-13 financial year and that there is a stock of 90000 MT of bamboo worth Rs 35 crore available for production of paper. But since the production also depends on the availability of coal, a crisis will hamper the entire process and could have a major impact on the fate of the mill and also might affect the lives of lakhs of people directly or indirectly associated with its activities. It has been mentioned in the memorandums that the mill requires 600 tonnes of coal per day to produce steam for cooking bamboo chip for pulp, drying of paper as well as generation of power. Also the stoppage in the coal supply might damage the existing stock of bamboo which will be unutilised, indicating a huge financial loss to the establishment.

Dipak Chandra Nath of the Officers and Supervisors Association said that the mill fraternity wants that the stalemate must be solved so that the coal supply can resume and once it is resumed, the Cachar Paper Mill must be able to purchase according to its requirements. The mill purchases an approximate quantity of 2 lakh MT of coal annually on a periodic basis from the Meghalaya coal mines. Copies of the memorandum have been sent to the concerned ministers of both the Central and the State Government as well as to the present and former local Members of Parliament.

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