Staff Correspondent

SHILLONG, March 16: After nearly eight years, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) today disposed of the proceedings relating to the ban on unscientific and unregulated mining in Meghalaya. However, an Oversight Committee (OC) will monitor the State Government’s compliance with a Supreme Court order.

The principal bench of the NGT led by the Chairperson, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, judicial member Justice Sheo Kumar Singh and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda ended the proceedings with several recommendations and scathing remarks on the State Government.

Coal mining was banned in Meghalaya by the NGT on April 17, 2014. Several committees were set up by the Tribunal to oversee that illegal mining does not take place and also recommend ways to restore the damaged environment in the coal mining areas.

In July 2019, the Supreme Court, following an appeal by the State Government, lifted the ban on mining subject to compliance to the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and formulating a mining plan.

“We dispose of these proceedings with a direction that ownership of the task of compliance of the Judgment of the Supreme Court… should be taken over by the State Authorities, to be overseen by an OC,” the NGT order said.

The order laid the onus to prevent “unscientific and unregulated mining, restoring the environment, rehabilitating the victims and handling of illegally mined coal” on the State Government, which will be monitored by the OC.

“However, a disturbing fact is that even after 1 year and 8 months of the judgment of the Supreme Court, directing disposal of mined coal, the issue is still hanging fire. There is a possibility of such material being stolen or pilfered… Similarly, steps for restoration of the environment need to be taken on war footing,” the order noted.

The NGT ordered constitution of the OC with 12 members. It will be headed by the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).

The other members are the Chairman of the Expert Appraisal Committee, MoEF&CC, Chairman, Coal India, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Mining, Director General of Mines, Safety, and senior State Government officials.

This committee will meet within one month and “take stock of the situation and plan future course of action”.

“The Committee will be at liberty to take assistance from any other institution, individual. The Chief Secretary, Meghalaya will provide necessary logistics for functioning of the Committee,” the order said.

Even incidences of crime revolving around coal mining will be dealt with by the OC. The OC will submit “periodical reports to the Secretaries, Mines, Coal and MoEF&CC, Government of India and also place the same on the website of the State of Meghalaya and the MoEF&CC,” the order said.