Shillong, Oct. 20: The Maitshaphrang Movement, a social organisation, today warned of approaching the judiciary if the Meghalaya government failed to address the issue of deforestation to meet charcoal requirement for ferro-alloy industries in the state.
Addressing reporters after the first meeting of the expert committee to study the ongoing deforestation to meet the charcoal needs of ferro alloy units of Meghalaya, Maitshaphrang Movement convener Michael N. Syiem said: “Earlier, the committee was to be headed by the chief minister himself. But now that has been altered and the additional chief secretary in-charge of forests and environment is heading the committee. It would have been more useful had the chief minister himself been at the helm as the issue is utterly serious.”
Syiem, who is a member of the committee, said the panel had been mandated with the task to recommend to the government steps to be taken to address the issue of deforestation.
The committee is headed by Barkos Warjri, additional chief secretary in charge of forests and environment. The other members include officials from various government departments.
“Ri Bhoi and West Khasi Hills district have been severely affected because of largescale deforestation to feed the ferro alloy units. But the larger question is, will the recommendations of the committee be binding on the government? Will the government act as per the recommendations?” Syiem asked.
He said that hundreds of trucks, each carrying six tonnes of charcoal, exit from West Khasi Hills every month.
Syiem warned that if nothing comes out of the recommendations of the committee, he would file a writ petition in the high court.
“If the government does not act on the issue (charcoal used by ferro alloys at the cost of the environment), we are going to approach the court with a writ petition,” he said.
Through the RTI Act, the movement brought to light largescale use of charcoal by ferro alloy industries in the state.
The RTI documents revealed that around 11 ferro alloy industries in Ri Bhoi district had consumed 5.61 lakh tonne of charcoal till August 2010 resulting in largescale denudation.
The movement had calculated that going by the total amount of charcoal used by the 11 industries, the environment has so far lost Rs 785,96 crore.
Besides, the state government had provided a total subsidy of Rs 6.53 crore to 10 out of the 11 industries till March 2007, but the revenue generation till 2009-2010 from these industries was Rs 6.05 crore.
The loss is without calculating the figure of Rs 35 crore allotted to these industries as transport subsidy by the Centre.