NGT also in a related case accepted major environmental violations in mining in Tamnar and Gharghoda and as issued strict directions and remedial measures.
23 April 2020, Raipur/ New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a combined fine of INR 160 crores (1.6 billion) on two coal mining companies – Jindal Power Ltd (JPL) and South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL) for environment and health violations in Gare IV-2/3 coal mines of Tamnar Tehsil, Raigarh district in Chhattisgarh. The NGT order in the case of Dukalu Ram & Ors vs Union of India came after a high-level committee appointed by the court assessed the complaints of environmental and health damages by the coal mine in the region and arrived at the penalty amount. The committee had submitted its report in June 2019. The mine in question was owned and operated by JPL from 2004 to 2015 and has been since under the custody of SECL.
“The report is accepted on the subject of assessment of compensation”, said the NGT order dated 20 March 2020. The order further directed JPL and SECL to deposit the amount with the Central Pollution Control Board within in a month. The order also directed the Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board (CECB) to “prepare an action plan for utilizing the amount for environmental remediation and restoration of the area”. The NGT order further directed SECL to submit and implement time bound action plan to black top road and development of green belt of 125 m width around the lease boundary and provide adequate health facilities to villagers affected by coal mining in accordance with Tribunal’s previous order.
This order comes after long legal struggle of the residents of village Kosampalli and Sarasmal who have been fighting against the violations of environmental norms and other illegalities by the mining companies.
While the road to the actual implementation of the order will still be long, the residents of the affected villages and the petitioners see this as moral and legal victory. “The NGT Order is a victory for people who have suffered severe air pollution, depleting ground water, mine fires and heavy impact on their health for coal mines in the region. We welcome the Court’s order and now urge the state administration and the NGT to ensure that this fine is collected and these recommendations specially restoration, compensation and mitigation is implemented in the time-bound manner to ensure that there is no further damage from mining activities on our health and environment. We urge the government to ensure that no new mines are started in the region until all these violations are corrected and adverse impacts reversed”, said the a representative of the petitioners.
This is the second order of NGT with regards to ongoing environmental and health violations by coal mines in Raigarh district. In another related case in the matter of Shivpal Bhagat & Ors vs Union of India, the NGT in February this year had passed a comprehensive order noting the deteriorating environmental conditions in the region due to coal mines and power plants. It applied the ‘Precautionary’ and ‘Sustainable Development’ principles and stated that any further expansion or new projects in the area should be allowed after thorough evaluation only. That both the coal and environmental ministries will have to monitor these proposals in the light of the high level and contamination in the area as well as the near full carrying capacity. NGT has further directed against the conversion of underground mines into open cast ones, no more fly ash dumping in low lying or any open areas, strict maintenance and that the cost of all remedial measures will be borne by the polluter.
NGT also directed that an effective mechanism oversight of measures for health mitigation and entrusted the Principal Secretary, Health Department to oversee it. This is the first time ever that anywhere on a pollution matter, the court has involved the State Health Department into action and specifically entrusted it with the task of overseeing health mitigation plan.
The latest NGT order is one more step in the struggle that the people of the region have been fighting against violations of environmental norms by big coal mining corporations, which has caused severe pollution and harm to health.
The petitioners also thank all the lawyers, environmentalist and doctors that have supported them through this struggle and continue to do so and the experts who have helped in carrying out survey which created a base for proving their claims of environmental violation and adverse health effects.
On behalf of the petitioners
Dukalu Ram, Shivpal bhagat, Bhagwati Bhagat, Kanahi Patel, Durpati Manjhi, Rinchin
For more details contact:
Rinchin: +91 9516664520
Shivpal Bhagat- +91 6260706727