Tribunal respite for coal owners

From Our Special Correspondent

Transport of 38,6545 MT coal from West Khasi Hills okayed

NEW DELHI: Giving some relief to coal mine owners and workers, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday gave its nod to transportation of 38,6545 metric tonnes coal in West Khasi Hills district .

At same time the tribunal deferred its decision on mode of royalty to the next meeting to be held in Shillong on October 7.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar permitted the transport of coal according to the guidelines notified by the state government.

During a hearing on the vexed issue lingering since April this year, the NGT said that the extracted coal can be transported from West Khasi Hills where a substantial amount of coal had been extracted. “But since the same has not been done in case of South Garo Hills district extracted coal cannot be transported,” it said.

Earlier, an expert committee constituted by the tribunal had given consent for transportation of extracted coal under strict environmental guidelines in six districts of Meghalaya. The bench said that according to the letter of the Deputy Commissioner of West Khasi Hills dated September 12, 38,6545 metric tones (MT) of coal have already been extracted and are lying.

“Let this measured coal be permitted to be transported in terms of the guidelines already notified with any additional condition or guideline that the Committee may impose in relation to these districts,” the bench said.

“However, we make it clear that extracted coal which has not been measured, as of now, will not be permitted to be removed, in any manner whatsoever,” the bench said.

On royalty the NGT issued a notice to the Meghalaya Counsel Ranjan Mukherjee to file a reply on the opinion of the state by October 7.

The Coal Miners’ and Dealers’ Forum (a conglomerate of coal mine owners and dealers’ associations) wanted payment of royalty in installments as and when the coal is marketed but not at the point of transportation.

During the hearing, an affidavit was filed on behalf of Meghalaya stating that the guidelines with regard to six districts have already been duly notified and the extracted coal has been measured and was being permitted to be transported in accordance with guidelines.

The committee, headed by the state Additional Chief Secretary K S Kropha, has asked the state government to permit transportation of coal from six districts subject to strict adherence to the 21-point guidelines issued by it.

However, the assessment in the West Khasi Hills and South Garo Hills was to be completed, as the work had been affected because of adverse weather conditions.

The Coal Miners’ and Dealers’ Forum (a conglomerate of coal mine owners and dealers’ associations) have collected data about the total quantity of extracted coal which are lying in various coal depots across the State.

As per the assessment, around 85 lakh tonnes of extracted coal is lying in thousands of coal depots spread across the State, their leaders who arrived here said.

The Prime Minister’s Office had also constituted a six-member committee to work out an amicable solution to the issue of coal mining in the state that was banned by the NGT in April.

The committee, to be headed by Cabinet Secretary, Government of India, has Home Secretary, Secretary, Ministry of Coal, Secretary, Ministry of Mines, Law Secretary and Meghalaya Chief Secretary as members. (With inputs from PTI)