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Govt depts to come up with action plan

Move to clean up impact of coal mining  by treating acidity levels in rivers

SHILLONG: An action plan for treatment of acidity levels in the rivers due to rat-hole coal mining would be prepared by both the State Mining and Geology department and the State Pollution Control Board.
The decision was taken at a meeting of various stake holders held here on Friday as a follow up to the presentation by South Korean Government Agency, MIRECO, on Mines Reclamation Solutions.
The meeting, organised by the State Planning Board, was chaired by John F. Kharshiing, Co-Chairman, Meghalaya State Planning Board, and attended by public representatives from mining areas, land owners’ associations, traditional institutions, officials from Mining, Geology, Environment and Forest departments, State Pollution Control Board and other Government officials.
Kharshiing said that while the constitutional legalities of Coal Mining Acts, Rules, and Regulations vis-a-vis the customary land holding system under the Sixth Schedule areas were being discussed at the highest levels between the Centre and the State, it was the duty of all the stakeholders to come together to discuss responsibilities and address the environmental issues.
The meeting also discussed challenges related to mine reclamation, and the methodology for treatment of acidic waters in rivers and streams that may have been affected due to coal mining, with various stakeholders involved in mining activities in the State.
The various stakeholders were given a slide presentation from both the Mining and Geology departments and the State Pollution Control Board on the present scenario of coal mining including pollution control in the state and the issues that arose from such activities.
The presentation highlighted the fact with slides, graphs and photographs that the present coal mining practice in the State was the only mining method possible due to the very small seams spread out throughout the State. However, what was required to be addressed was the environmental and pollution aspect.
They stated that sample tests conducted on few water bodies

in Jaintia Hills, West Khasi Hills and Garo Hills showed that certain streams and rivulets had high acidic PH levels and that there was urgent need to study the matter in a comprehensive manner so that preventive measures could be undertaken by the concerned stake holders.

Serious environmental concerns were expressed by the meeting as to the extracted coal which was yet to be transported and felt that there was urgent need for the authorities concerned to look into the matter.

It was also mentioned during the presentation that the Mining and Geology department was awaiting government approval for conducting more sample and treatment tests in other parts of the State.

The officers of Mining and Geology department informed the gathering that a solution was possible, provided the Government received the cooperation from all, especially the coal miners and land owners, as land was owned by private individuals.

The Mining and Pollution departments informed that if the AMD (Acid Mine Drainage) was addressed at the source it would help in the elimination of acid levels downstream and this would work out to be more economical for the coal mine owners, land owners, district councils and for the state government.

A question was raised as to the responsibility of the traditional institutions, district councils and state government on mine reclamation, in view of the fact that they too collected tolls and revenue from such activity.

Concerns on the shape of the draft Mining Plan was also expressed, and the members expressed the hope that their views would be considered so as to synergise the various Acts, Rules and Laws with the aspirations of the local people and their way of life.

After a marathon two and a half hours discussion the meeting unanimously agreed that there was need for all stake holders to address the pollution and environmental issues and that all cooperation would be extended by the departments and the stakeholders to carry this discussion and engagement forward.

The meeting also resolved to meet again after the Action Plan on treatment was ready and submitted to the State Planning Board by the Mining and Geology Department.

The State Planning Board resolved to forward the views and suggestions from the meeting to the State Government for its consideration.

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