NGT slaps Meghalaya govt with ₹100 crore fine for failing to curb illegal coal mining

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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday imposed a fine of ₹100 crores on Meghalaya State government for failing to curb illegal Coal Mining in the State. The order came days after a judicial panel headed by Retired Justice BK Katakey found large-scale violations of a coal mining ban in the state.

National Green Tribunal in its order also stated that the fine amount can be recovered from illegal miners & responsible officials. The Order further stated that it has to be deposited in the Central pollution control board within 2 months from the date of order.

The order comes as operations to rescue 15 miners trapped in an illegal rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills since December 13 is still underway.

A high-level committee had submitted a report to the NGT – which had imposed a ban on coal mining in 2014 – two days ago. The report said that a majority of mines in the state were operating without a lease or a license.

The National Green Tribunal order came on a day when the highest court took a strong stand on the slow pace of rescue efforts and asked the Centre to file an affidavit in this regard. The Supreme Court while hearing a PIL expressed disappointment for the slow pace of rescue operation. A Public interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the apex court accusing the government of going slow on the operation.

While the government told the top court that seepage of water into the mine from a nearby river was causing obstructions in the rescue operation. It also pointed at the lack of a blueprint of the 355-feet well.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma told reporters that “We respect what Supreme Court has said in this regard and will abide by it. I want to assert once again that we have tried our best efforts. It’s a multi-agency operation and we are facing challenges and overcoming them in transport of men, machines, pumps to such a remote location. An operation of this magnitude in that location is extremely difficult.

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