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NGT forms panel on plea challenging coal mining

By Spl Correspondent

NEW DELHI, July 21 - The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday formed a committee to submit report on a plea challenging approval to mining in Tikak Open Cast Project under Saleki proposed reserve forest (PRF) that falls under Digboi Forest Division in Assam.

�In order to appreciate the factual situation and to verify the statements contained in the plea, we deem it essential to constitute a committee,� said an NGT bench comprising Justice SP Wangdi and expert member Nagin Nanda.

The committee comprises representatives from Central Pollution Control Board, State Pollution Control Board, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority of Assam, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and IIT Guwahati. The panel has been directed to submit its report by September 10.

�The committee shall visit the spot and verify on the factual aspects set out by the application and submit a report. The State PCB shall be the nodal agency for coordination and for providing logistic support,� the bench said while issuing notice to the parties in the case.

In the event there are infractions as alleged, appropriate action in accordance with law be instituted for taking remedial measures, the NGT said.

Environment activists Pradip Bhuyan and Joydeep Bhuyan have challenged the recent approval by the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), granted to the proposal for use of 98.59 hectares of reserve forest land from Saleki PRF.

The petition, filed through advocate Sanjay Upadhyay, contends that the NBWL Standing Committee in its 57th meeting dated April 7, 2020, without any legal or factual considerations, recommended the proposal, to regularise the violations under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, viz. the illegally broken up area, for which it has no powers under the existing law.

�The State (Assam) government has not complied with the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee for carrying out the study according to Part-II of Form A, and the user agency continued its mining operations, unabated and unmoved by the directives of the authorities,� the plea said.

The petition said the NBLW recommendation fails to consider that all statutory processes note that there is illegal mining and recommend action to be taken, yet grants it clearance and permits it to proceed to the next stage while blatantly ignoring the illegal mining activity.

It contended that the decision also violates the Environment Protection Act, 1986 as the concept of �Ecologically Sensitive Zones/Ecologically Sensitive Areas� is covered within the said Act.

It has sought directions to set aside NBWL clearance for the use of 98.59 hectares of reserve forest land from Saleki PRF for the Tikak opencast mining project.

The petition has also sought to ensure that no mining is allowed in Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve and direction to the Assam government to submit an action taken report pertaining to the penalties imposed on North Eastern Coalfields of Coal India Limited for its illegal mining activities.

The Assam forest department had earlier slapped a penalty of Rs 43.25 crore on PSU major Coal India for carrying out �illegal mining� inside the reserve forest for 16 years from 2003. � PTI

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