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NGT summons Meghalaya to end illegal mining or risk facing contempt of court

PW Bureau 

A three-member panel of India’s environmental court has also undertaken the task of overseeing rescue operations to save the 15 miners 

New Delhi: A three-member panel of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has urged the Meghalaya government to launch a safety check on all coal mines and crack down on illegal ones, or else it will risk facing contempt of court proceedings. The committee, led by Justice BP Katakey, has also undertaken the task of overseeing rescue operations to rescue the 15 miners, who have been trapped in an illegal coal mine in the state for close to a month.

Even though India’s environmental court imposed a ban on rat-hole mines in 2014, campaigners in the country estimate that close to 5,000 rat-hole mines continue to function.

“They have given us a progress report about the rescue operations. We have strictly told them that unless you stop it, you will be hauled up for contempt of court,” Katakey said, adding that the panel will also visit the coal mine areas in Garo Hills in the western region of Meghalaya.

In light of the recent incident, NGT already imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore on the Meghalaya government for failing to stop illegal coal mining in the state.

The NGT panel has also asked the government to seek alternative employment scheme in the mining areas for workers while preparing rehabilitation plans.

“We have also directed the government to explore the possibility of installing deep tube wells in mining areas. We have asked them to hold a discussion with the Central Ground Water Board and test the pH level (acidity or basicity) of ground water,” he said.