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Coal politics in Meghalaya

The Wildlife& Environmental Protection Group (WEPG), West Jaintia Hills must be appreciated for consistently taking up issues of grave environmental concerns and even approaching the Supreme Court on some cases. It is an open secret that has coal mining has been carrying on surreptitiously after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) put a cap on coal mining following the PIL filed by the Dimasa Students’ Union in the apex court. Unfortunately the NGT does not have the wherewithal to strictly monitor whether coal mining had actually stopped after its intervention. Those tasked by the NGT of correctly assessing the quantum of coal already mined and lying idle at various places for transportation have been giving unrealistic accounts. How is it possible for coal to be transported even now, four years after the NGT put a complete stop to coal mining? Common sense should tell us that the assessment is motivated by other considerations. Hence even law enforcement personnel are appointed based on their ability to allow this charade to carry on, all at a price of course.

The WEPG has rightly pointed out to an open collusion between the different departments of the Government which should actually be the custodians of the environment, foremost among which is the State Pollution Control Board whose activities are often in violation of their mandate. The WEPG unlike most so-called NGOs and pressure groups is not inclined to make a hue and cry out of nothing. They have done adequate scientific research to buttress their argument that the coal mined is of recent vintage. That the group will be placing this scientific documentation before the Supreme Court shows their commitment to the cause of the environment which too many only pay lip service to. Meghalaya suffers for want of such dedicated groups with a long term vision for the state of the environment.

Coal has dominated the political discourse in Meghalaya. It is not easily understood as to why the State has failed to come up with a mining policy that will bring in adequate environmental safeguards and not make mining a profit venture for the few engaged in the business. The National Peoples’ Party’s (NPP) campaign plank before the State Assembly elections was to try and revoke the NGT ban and rework the coal mines. This is at odds with the public stances of Chief Minister, Conrad Sangma who speaks of Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation at all public functions. Coal mining as it is being done in Meghalaya will only accelerate Climate Change.

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