New Delhi: Observing that rat-hole mining is rampant in Meghalaya despite the ban, the National Green Tribunal Monday formed an Oversight Committee of 12 members to prevent unscientific and unregulated mining in the state.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that under the public trust doctrine, the state authorities are bound to work for protection of scarce natural resources, the environment and public health.
The NGT said that since monitoring by it cannot continue forever further task needs to be taken over by the Executive Authorities to be overseen by an Oversight Committee of 12 members, headed by Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
“The Regional Officer, MoEF, Shillong will be the Member Secretary of the Committee to coordinate the working of the Committee and to deal with day-to-day issues as per decisions of the Committee.
“The Committee may meet within one month, take stock of situation and plan future course of action. Its task will be to take forward compliance of judgment of the Supreme Court and further orders of this Tribunal for preventing unscientific and unregulated mining, handling the already mined material and all other incidental issues,” the bench said.
The NGT directed the committee to ensure that no illegal or unauthorised mining takes place, keeping combat plan and mining mishap management plan is ready to avoid eventualities.
“Further, the Committee may take necessary measures for rejuvenating contaminated streams and rivers. The Committee will be at liberty to take assistance of any other institution/individual. The Chief Secretary Meghalaya will provide necessary logistics for functioning of the Committee,” the bench said.
The NGT said that restoration of environment, particularly water quality and rehabilitation of affected victims in terms of health, water supply, skill development, protection against illegal mining as well as steps to handle the illegally mined material remain a challenge which requires constant planning and action.
“Since sufficient deliberations have taken place and to an extent road-map for further action has been laid out, it is now the implementation which needs to be expedited,” it said.
Rat-hole mining involves digging of narrow tunnels, usually 3-4 feet high, for workers to enter and extract coal. The horizontal tunnels are often termed “rat-holes”, as each just about fits one person.
The green bench has prohibited mining in the entire state of Meghalaya but allowed transportation of extracted coal kept in the open with due “checks and balances”.
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