SHILLONG, Feb 26 � Deputy Chief Minister, in-charge of Mining and Geology, Bindo Lanong literally tore apart a recent report of a High Level Committee (HLC), stating, cements plants in Jaintia Hills have not violated State laws.
The report of the HLC comprising six senior officers drawn from State Forest department and Central Ministry of Environment & Forests had recently indicted eight cement companies for allegedly flouting Meghalaya Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
The report said eight cement companies � Cement Manufacturing Co Ltd. (Star Cement), Meghalaya Cement Ltd. (TOPCEM), Adhunik Cement Ltd., JUD Cement Private Ltd., Hill Cement Company Ltd., Goldstone Cement Ltd., Green Valley Industries Ltd., and Amrit Cement Industries Ltd � have set up their units inside �thick forest� areas.
Last Saturday, Lanong led a team of officials from the State departments of Forest and Environment and Mining and Geology, Pollution Control Board, Sub-Divisional Officer, Khliehriat to the cement units of Star Cement, TOPCEM, Adhunik Cement, Hill Cement Company and Green Valley Industries, located in Lumshnong and Khliehriat area of Jaintia Hills district.
The Minister and the officials found that the cement companies have not violated any State laws. �All these cement plants we visited were set up in areas that were previously grassland or bushy areas. Moreover, there is no discharge of effluent into the water bodies and there were no signs of any pollution caused by these units,� Lanong said.
Asked if he had made the environment impact assessment based on scientific findings, the Minister answered in the negative. �What we saw outwardly is what I am saying,� Lanong said.
On the charges that these cement plants were set up by clearing large tracts of forest areas, Lanong said that the Forest department officials have stated there was no thick forest where these plants are situated and therefore no objection certificate were issued. �Even now when you visit there are only grassland and bushy areas near these cement plants,� he added.
Similar charges were also levelled against Lafarge Cement plant having its mining unit in Nongtrai, East Khasi Hills bordering Bangladesh. The matter reached the Supreme Court and eventually Lafarge was ordered to take up compensatory afforestation works in the area and also set aside a development fund for the villagers amounting to Rs 55 crore by the Apex Court.
Meanwhile, Lanong said that �if required� he wasn�t averse to the idea to order an independent inquiry conducted by a prominent organisation such as the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.