- NET Web Desk
Recently, the Meghalaya Government has decided to form an expert panel, in order to extensively study the repercussions of coke factories in the northeastern state.
The decision has been undertaken after a Civil Society Organization (CSO) staged protest rallies in East Jaintia Hills to bring attention to the illegal coke factories, functioning across the district.
According to state’s Environment and Forest Minister James P.K. Sangma, the panel will recommend environmental safeguards to understand the impacts caused by these coke units.
Besides, the committee will also address public health issues, forest clearances and pollution load study.
The Minister informed the 60-member Meghalaya Assembly that based on principles, the ‘Single Window Agency’ has approved 48 coke plants in East Jaintia Hills district.
Projects cleared by the agency only need consent to establish (CTE) and consent to operate (CTO) to start functioning.
“The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board granted CTE to 13 coke units and CTO to nine. But the pollution board served closure notices (under relevant laws) to 30 units that did not have CTE,” he said.
Mr. Sangma said that pollution board after conducting an inspection, found that 24 units had already shut down after receiving the closure notice but the factory was still in operation. A case would be registered against this unit, he added.
The local Environment Coordination Committee of Sutnga area has said it will file a Public Interest Litigation (PLA) in the Meghalaya High Court, if the State fails to take action against these illegal coke plants.
It is pertinent to mention here that civil bodies protesting against the aforementioned matter has asserted that under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) law, the state government is required to assess proposals for category B coke factories, and grant permission after asserting about strict norms.
The release further added that factories releasing high pollution should be approved by the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) as well as the State Environmental Appraisal Committee (SEAC).
Such forum will ensure that factories are not established adjacent to residences of human habitation, wildlife refugees, agricultural land, water sources, and tourist areas.
However, according to the CSO, officials appointed to CM’s Single Window Agency have misused their power to grant permissions to factories that flout all such rules.
It entirely ignored the utilization of technologies, such as beehive ovens, which are banned in other countries for extreme environmental repercussions.