| Officials conduct assessment of extracted coal. File picture |
Shillong, Sept. 3: The committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal has been able to assess more than 65 lakh metric tonnes of extracted coal in the eight mining districts of Meghalaya.
The assessment was carried out in the East Jaintia Hills, West Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, South West Khasi Hills, West Garo Hills, East Garo Hills and South Garo Hills districts.
However, the assessment in the West Khasi Hills and South Garo Hills is still in progress, as the work had been affected because of adverse weather conditions.
East Jaintia Hills recorded the highest amount among the eight mining districts with 37,58,929MT of extracted coal.
In the South West Khasi Hills, the amount of extracted coal assessed was 18,76,475MT.
On the whole, including the assessment, completed in the West Khasi Hills and South Garo Hills, the amount of extracted coal has been pegged at 65,81,147MT.
The total quantity of coal declared by mine owners initially and the fresh stock found/declared during inspection in the eight mining districts was put at 136,37,707MT.
The committee, headed by additional chief secretary Kuljit Singh Kropha, was formed by the NGT in Shillong on August 1 after the green tribunal had done away with a similar committee, which it had constituted in June.
While issuing guidelines as to how the extracted coal should be transported, the committee observed that as the coal stocks are wet, weight obtained through weigh-bridges would not be accurate as this will give the weight of wet coal.
“The assessment of the extracted coal quantity in metric tonnes has been done by adopting a volumetric method as notified in Rule 10(2) of the Meghalaya Mineral Cess Rules, 1989. Hence, for the sake of uniformity, monitoring of coal exiting the state needs to be done by the volumetric method,” the committee’s report said.
The committee also came out with an observation that some mine owners had grossly over-declared and under-declared their coal stocks.
“The process of assessment of the coal quantity has revealed certain disturbing trends in respect of declarations made by the coal owners. A large number of coal owners have made false declarations without having any coal stock. Some mine owners have grossly over-declared their stock,” it said.
These, the committee stated, can only be attributed to “malafide intent” to mine coal despite the interim ban or illegal disposal of the coal after the declaration, but before the assessment.
“Such cases need to be penalised. There are a few cases of gross under-declaration as well, but this is addressed now since the actual quantities have been assessed,” the committee added.
In its recommendations, the committee said the state government might now, in its discretion, issue notifications permitting the transportation of coal from the six districts subject to strict adherence to the guidelines.
In doing so, the committee recommended that seven working days might be kept for preparatory work of printing requisite forms and issue of orders detailing modalities for collection of royalty and issue of transport permits in accordance with the guidelines.
The Movement for Indigenous People’s Rights and Livelihood — Meghalaya (MIPRL-M) today found fault with the guidelines issued by the committee and asked chief minister Mukul Sangma to remove “draconian conditions”.
“The group has seriously considered the implications that the state government has created serious economic roadblocks by putting harsh and intractable conditions like prepayment of royalty within 14 days. This will create a severe financial burden on the coal mine owners, operators and traders especially the small and marginal sections,” the group’s legal adviser, Erwin K. Syiem Sutnga, said in a statement.
He said the state government has failed to appreciate the dire financial circumstances of thousands of people and the guidelines reflect the priority of the state government “to only fill its coffers” by way of collecting revenue at any cost without considering the interest of the people. Sutnga said the group had written to the chief minister requesting him to remove such draconian conditions inherent in the guidelines.
“We request the people involved in the coal trade to have patience so that this matter can be resolved in the mutual interest of all concerned, including the state government. The group is waiting for the decision of the government within 10 days on this matter,” he added.