Shillong, Aug. 2: The committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on June 9 to assess the extracted coal and regulate its transportation has left countless questions unanswered, with coal worth crores of rupees lying in the open.
Yesterday, the NGT not only rapped the committee but also disbanded it before announcing the formation of a fresh committee to carry out the tasks outlined on June 9. “This committee failed to perform its functions and submit an appropriate report,” the tribunal said in its order yesterday.
Among others, the committee had failed to frame requisite guidelines for transportation of extracted coal in accordance with the June 9 order. It had also “delegated” its powers to various departments and authorities, which it was not entitled to do. The committee had also constituted sub-committees to perform functions, which it was not empowered to form. It also failed to submit appropriate report to the tribunal and did not take up the matter with the concerned authorities in terms of the directions contained in the June 9 order. The tribunal had ordered that no transportation of coal would be allowed before the committee submits a report and the government examines it.
The carriage and transportation of coal would be done strictly in terms of the conditions imposed by the committee and not otherwise, the tribunal had ordered.
The committee comprised the director of mines, Meghalaya, member secretary, Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, member secretary, Assam State Pollution Control Board, senior scientist, Central Pollution Control Board, senior representative of the ministry of environment and forests and the principal secretary, Meghalaya mining and geology department. The committee’s failures, as enlisted by the tribunal, do have a huge impact on those having a stake in coal-mining as the green court had wanted an inventory to be prepared on the extracted coal lying in depots and in and around the mining sites.
“We have no hesitation in observing that the committee has failed to perform its assigned function and caused serious impediments not only in environment-related issues and proper transportation of already extracted coal which was permitted by the tribunal, but caused huge revenue loss to the state,” the tribunal said.
It also observed that it was indisputable that a huge quantity of extracted coal was already lying at the depots and in and around the mining sites. The figures relating to the amount of extracted coal presently lying in the open are also incongruent. One figure stated by the committee is nearly 36,59,152 metric tonnes as declared by the mine owners/managers.
The other figure which was assessed by the committee is 37,36,352 metric tonnes. The committee also stated that the quantity of extracted coal declared by the mine owners/manages, which could not be verified, is 85,87,147 metric tonnes.
According to the old committee, the valuation of extracted coal is approximately Rs18,000 crore.
“We have already noticed that the proceedings of the committee even in this regard are not quite satisfactory but at this stage we will take these figures to be estimated figures, whereby coal worth Rs 18,000 crore can be transported, which itself may take a considerable time running into several months,” the tribunal said. The task of following the NGT guidelines now rests on the new committee constituted yesterday.
The members of this committee are Meghalaya additional chief secretary Kuljit Singh Kropha, Meghalaya principal secretary M.S. Rao, senior scientist of Central Pollution Control Board (not in-charge of the region in Meghalaya), member secretary, Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board, and a professor to be nominated by IIT Guwahati having expertise in mining activity.
The committee has been directed to confirm the quantity of extracted coal and its value as stated in the report of the earlier committee. It was also directed to perform all functions and carry out the directions contained in the June 9 order.
However, the tribunal gave liberty to the new committee to appoint/engage experts or such other persons from public or private sector or specialised institutions as is necessary to assist the committee.
But the tribunal has disallowed the committee from delegating its functions to any other sub-committee or body.