Shillong: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) Eastern Zone Bench has directed 31 illegal coke plants in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district to pay a fine of over Rs 4.75 crore as environment compensation and told the state government to frame an action plan against such plants established prior to 2021 within four months.

The 31 coke oven plants in East Jaintia Hills district were working without obtaining the required consent from the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB).

The NGT Eastern Zone Bench in Kolkata on Friday directed the 31 illegal coke plants to pay a fine of over Rs 4.75 crore as environmental compensation for their failure to abide by the procedures established by law.

We, therefore, direct the State of Meghalaya to take appropriate action to frame an action plan regarding the offending coke oven units established prior to 23.12.2020 to make them compliant with the norms laid down in the notification dated 23.12.2020. Such action plan and its implementation shall be carried out within a period of four months,” the bench headed by B Amit Sthalekar, Judicial Member and Saibal Dasgupta, expert member, said in its judgement.

So far as recovery of environmental compensation is concerned, no further order is required by the tribunal except to direct the State Pollution Control Board to recover environmental compensation according to procedure established by law, it said.

The MSPCB is also directed to undertake continuous monitoring of coke plants to check whether environmental norms are violated and if so, take action in accordance with the law.

The MSPCB had filed an affidavit on May 10, 2022 informed the NGT that it had carried out surprise night/day inspections on 31 coke units against which complaints were filed in the East Jaintia Hills District Court.

The MSPCB also informed the NGT Bench that it is in the process of finalisation and imposition of environmental compensation on erring and non-compliant coke plants which were found to have initiated establishment works/operation without obtaining the required consent from the board and also on those plants who have violated the closure notices.

The affidavit also stated that the state government has no action plan to shift the existing 12 coke oven plants which have been established in accordance with law as existing at the relevant point of time (December 23, 2020).

It further stated that except two coke units, no other unit is situated within the distance of 500 metres from a village.

In another affidavit MSPCB stated that all 31 erring and non-compliant coke plants were found to have initiated establishment of works/operation without obtaining required consents from the Board and have violated closure notices, 13 environmental compensation penalty has been imposed against all of them.

A coke plant should be set up at least 1 km away from any habitation, hospital, school or tourist spots and 100 metres away from water bodies for standalone plants while for clusters the distance should be at least 3 km, the MSPCB stated.

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