New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Meghalaya government to file an affidavit within two months on the action taken against illegal miners and stone crushers in the state.

A bench comprising Justice Amit Sthalekar and expert member Saibal Dasgupta also constituted a committee and asked it to submit a report on the environmental degradation caused to water bodies in Guwahati as a result of muck disposal from stone crushing quarries in Meghalaya.

The committee comprises senior scientists from the Central Pollution Control Board, Regional Office in Shillong, Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) and a professor from IIT Guwahati, Department of Civil Engineering.

The committee shall look into the issue of muck disposal from the stone quarries of Meghalaya into the Guwahati city and its surroundings, the NGT bench said in an order on August 2.

The panel will also assess amount of muck disposed due to illegal stone quarries, loss to the environment on land and water bodies, compensation on account of degradation and remedial measures for restitution of the environment.

The MSPCB will be the Nodal Office for filing the report of the Committee and for all logistic purposes, the tribunal said.

Advocates Sanjay Upadhyay and Salik Shafique, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that several persons named as illegal miners by the Meghalaya government have not been shown at all in its status report and it needs to be determined as to who these people are.

They submitted all these illegalities were being carried out under the nose of the District Magistrate-Ri Bhoai and, therefore, the concerned DM should also be held answerable and at least a direction should be given to the state government to take appropriate disciplinary action.

The state government had earlier told the NGT that it has imposed fine of Rs 153 crore on 133 illegal stone quarries, crushers and mining units in the state.

“The total number of units against which environmental compensation has been levied and recoveries under process are 133 in number. That a total amount of Rs 1,53,27,44,063 is payable by the legal and illegal miners..,” the state government had told the NGT.

The state government had submitted that levy and recovery of compensation are ongoing and are being taken up on utmost priority, and joint teams consisting of representatives of district administration, police, forest and environment department and the state PCB have been constituted to carry out continuous day-and-night patrolling.

Drones have also been deployed for aerial surveillance as and when required, it had said.

“The state government is taking all steps to ensure prompt recovery of the environmental compensation levied by the MSPCB. That during the COVID-19 pandemic, the resources of small states such as Meghalaya are being stressed, however, bona fide efforts have been made and have resulted in substantial controlling of the menace of illegal mining in Ri Bhoi district,” the state had told NGT.

“The state government has acted promptitude and has been proactive in carrying out inspection and sealing unauthorised and illegal mining activities and initiating appropriate prosecutions including measures of recovery for compensation,” it had said.

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The state government has also not granted any clearance contrary to the applicable law and therefore the contentions raised by the applicant are contrary to the factual position, it had said.

The report was filed by the state government in response to a plea filed by Jitul Deka raising the issue of rampant, unauthorised illegal mining in the state of Meghalaya, particularly in Ri-Bhoi District.

The plea claimed that Deka had submitted representations before various authorities against illegal stone mining in Ri-Bhoi, but no action was taken.

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