The National Green Tribunal has passed an order instituting a committee to probe large scale illegal coal mining in Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve in Assam.
The order was passed by the Eastern Zone Bench of the Tribunal upon hearing an application filed by Mr. Pradip Bhuyan.
The applicant brought to fore large scale illegal coal mining activities being undertaken in Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest in Tinsukia district of Assam in the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.
It is alleged that North Eastern Coalfields has been carrying on large scale mining in this region under its Tiktak Open Cast Mining project without having clearance from the Central Government required as per Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
The applicant submitted evidence that in 2003, North Eastern Coalfields had submitted a proposal to the Central Government seeking renewal of its mining lease but the proposal was not received by the Government. Despite not obtaining the prior clearance from the Government, North Eastern Coalfields continued mining coal illegally in the area which has continued till date.
In the year 2012, it had resubmitted a fresh proposal to the Central Government for prior approval for coal mining for the period 2003-2023 which included a proposal for post facto approval for the period 2003-2012. This application is still pending approval by the Government.
To substantiate the illegal mining activities in this area, an Office Order dated 3rd June, 2020 of North Eastern Coalfields was brought to the notice of the Tribunal. The Office Order sets out the fact that mining activities were underway in this region by the company as it refers to disposing off the coal generated by the company by mining in this area.
The Tribunal being prima facie satisfied that the issue raised a substantial question relating to the environment ordered to constitute a Committee to appraise the facts presented in the application. Such committee is to comprise of the Central Pollution Control Board, the State Pollution Control Board, the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, Assam, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Assam and an expert from Indian Institute of Technology, Gauhati.
It also ordered the State Pollution Control Board to be the nodal agency for coordinating the inquiry and for providing logistic support to the Committee.
The Committee shall visit the location of mining activities to verify the factual aspects of the application and submit a report to the Court. The Court stated that if the alleged infractions are found to be true, it shall take appropriate action to institute remedial measures as per the law.
The matter has been listed for hearing on 10 September, 2020.