SHILLONG: The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India for the year ended March 31, 2018, has revealed illegal mining and transportation of coal during the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban period.
It may be mentioned that the NGT had banned coal mining in Meghalaya on April 17, 2014 and subsequently from time to time allowed transportation of coal extracted prior to the ban.
The audit report observed that the district administration had noticed three cases of illegal mining and 847 cases of transportation of illegally extracted coal involving 24,750 metric ton (MT) of coal after NGT prohibition.
Out of the 847 cases, 716 cases are with reference to the East Jaintia Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts.
In addition to these, police administration also reported two cases of illegal coal mining in Laskein and Khloo Kynring in West Jaintia Hills district.
The CAG report also stated that it was noticed that there were cases of illegal coal mining in the reserve forest areas in Garo Hills as reported by the Assistant Mines Royalty Inspector, Williamnagar, East Garo Hills, to the district administration and Forest Department.
The Mining Department and district administration officials, during an inspection in Dipogre and Damal Asim area in West Garo Hills also reported of illegal mining operations at these two locations.
The audit team during the field audit in East Jaintia Hills further noticed huge coal stocks lying on the roadside.
“After the latest transportation phase allowed by the Supreme Court which ended on May 31, 2018, there was only 20,000 MT of coal stock left in the State,” the CAG report stated.
This was submitted by the State government in the Supreme Court on March 21, 2018, that around 20,000 MT of coal is left to be transported in the State apart from South Garo Hills.
At the request of the audit, officers from the district administration, police and mining department along with audit jointly conducted joint physical inspection in three sites — Rymbai road-village, Lad Sutnga and Dkhieh village in East Jaintia Hills district — on August 28, 2018.
During the inspection, 12 mining sites were seen in the Dkhieh village, where coal mining appeared to be carried out. In each of these sites, extracted coal measuring between 10-12,000 MT was lying dumped outside the coal mining pits.
“Labour camps, cranes, generators and diesel along with dumpers were also seen at these sites,” the CAG report stated.
On the Rymbai road area, there were 20 coal depots with coal measuring approximately 1.50 lakh MT. These coal dumps were located in the vicinity of the main road.
Heaps of coal weighing around five lakh MT was lying dumped on both sides of the main road over a stretch of 7 kms in the Lad Sutnga area.
“Coal measuring approximately 5,000 MT was found dumped in at least 12 locations in areas adjacent to the National Highway from Jowai to Khliehriat,” the CAG report stated.
The CAG further observed that all line departments like Police, Forest, Transport, Mining and Taxation departments including the district administrations have intersecting and collective responsibility to enforce the ban on coal mining even as it stated that the Mining Department remains the main stakeholder of mining activities in the State.
“The fact that these huge coal dumps are located near the highways with the intention to be transported, only highlighted the ineffectiveness of the checkgates,” the CAG report stated.
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