Guwahati: The Eastern Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed 31 illegal coke plants in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district to pay a fine of more than Rs 4.75 as compensation for environmental damage.
The NGT also instructed the state government to frame an action plan against such plants established prior to 2021 within four months.
According to sources, in East Jaintia Hills district, atleast 31 coke oven plants were working without obtaining the required consent from the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB).
The 31 illegal coke plants were ordered by the NGT Eastern Zone Bench in Kolkata on Friday to pay a fine of more than Rs 4.75 crore as environmental compensation for their disregard of the legal processes.
“We therefore direct the State of Meghalaya to take the necessary steps to formulate an action plan for the offending coke oven units that were established before December 23, 2020, in order to bring them into compliance with the norms laid down in the notification of December 23, 2020. This action plan must be carried out, together with its implementation, within a four-month period.”, said official.
“No further order is required by the tribunal except to instruct the State Pollution Control Board to recover environmental compensation in accordance with the law’s specified procedure as far as the recovery of environmental compensation is concerned”, official added.
Additionally, the MSPCB has been instructed to monitor coke factories continuously to see whether environmental norms are violated and if so, to take legal action.
Meanwhile, on May 10, the MSPCB filed an affidavit informing the NGT that it had conducted unexpected night and day inspections of 31 coke plants against which complaints were filed in the East Jaintia Hills District Court.
However, the MSPCB also notified the NGT Bench that it was finalising and imposing environmental compensation on negligent and non-compliant coke plants that were found to have started establishment works/operation without obtaining the necessary board consent, as well as on those plants that had violated closure notices.
The affidavit further claimed that the state government has no action plan to relocate the 12 coke oven factories which have been established in accordance with law as existing at the relevant point of time (December 23, 2020).
Except two coke units, no other unit is situated within the distance of 500 metres from a village, it stated.
In a different affidavit, MSPCB claimed that all 31 negligent and non-compliant coke plants had been found to have founded establishment or operation without the necessary Board approval and to have violated closure notices. As a result, 13 environmental compensation penalties had been imposed on all of them.
The MSPCB further added that the coke plants should be placed at least 1 km away from habitations, hospitals, schools and tourist attractions as well as 100 m from water sources for solo plants and 3 km for clusters.