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Gauhati HC to impose "exemplary cost" on Dehing-Patkai stakeholders upon failure to submit affidavit by June 14

Guwahati High Court has taken up a suo moto case against coal mining in Dehing-Patkai

Gauhati HC

Sentinel Digital Desk

Guwahati: The Division bench of the Guwahati High Court, which has taken up a suo moto case against coal mining activities in Dehing Patkai, has issued an order that says if respondents -- including the Assam Government and the Central Government -- fail to file their affidavits "clarifying each aspect of the matter, whether before taking any steps for allowing mining, environmental impact has been assessed or not" by June 14, exemplary cost would be imposed. July 20 has been set as the next date of hearing.

The Court has directed the respondents -- The Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Assam, Forest and Environment Department, Union of India, Assam State Government, The Secretary to the Government of Assam, Home and Political Department, The Principal Chief Conservator and Head of Forest Force, Aranya Bhawan, The Director of the Directorate of Geological and Mining Department, Coal India, and the Deputy Commissioner of Tinsukia -- to file their affidavits before the afore-mentioned date.

After the issue of coal mining issue in the protected region came to light, it has been pleaded that the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve of which Seleki is a part, is the largest rainforest in India, and stretches for 575 square kilometers across Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, and Sivasagar districts of Upper Assam.

The Court maintained that it has been alleged that environmental disaster would be caused if approval of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change to allow coal mining in the area without proper scientific study, discussions, and taking into consideration various aspects of protecting the environment. "It has also been asserted that environmental impact is required to be assessed before any such activity is allowed in the area. However, the Environment Impact Assessment Report has not been prepared so as to ensure safeguarding natural habitat and protection of animals, birds, and reptile species existing in the region", said the Court.

The first PIL, 29 of 2020 alleges that there has been a violation of Forest Conservation and Environmental Laws relating to Wildlife and bio-diversity, and all other environmental laws due to the alleged illegal mining in the area.

Amid the furor over the Centre's alleged clearance to Coal India to commence mining activities in the Dehing Parkai Rainforest area, the Gauhati High Court bench comprising Chief Justice Ajay Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia has issued notices to the Centre, State Government, Coal India, and other stakeholders after taking up a suo moto case. Multiple Public Interest Litigations (PIL) were filed against mining in the forested area by advocates and a mountaineer.

It is pertinent to mention here that in its last meeting in April, the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recommended approval of the CIL''s proposal for legalizing the illegal mining provided it fulfills the 28 conditions. Meanwhile, Assam Forest Parimal Suklabaidya has said that the Centre is yet to give its final nod in regards to coal mining in the area.

There is opposition from different quarters to coal mining in the area on the ground that it will pose threat to the environment and wildlife. Meanwhile, Assam Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya has asserted that the Centre is yet to give its final nod to begin mining in the area.

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