In a significant decision, the eastern zone bench of the National Green Tribunal , has sought the response of Central Coalfields Ltd. (CCL), State Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment and Forest in respect of a petition filed by a local resident regarding large scale violation of environmental norms in the Rohini and Amrapali Opencast coal mines; both operated by CCL in Chatra district of Jharkhand.
The bench consisting of Justice S.P. Wangdiand Expert Member Siddhanta Das also formed a committee comprising of representative from the environment ministry, Central Pollution Control Board and Jharkhand state pollution control board. It addition it also appointed Dr. Sharad Lele, Senior Fellow, ATREE, who is also Member of the Expert Appraisal Committee (Thermal Power) of the environment ministry as member of the committee.
The committee has been directed to inspect the area in question and verify the factual position on the ground. The order of the NGT also directed that that in the event the violations as set out in the application are found to be correct, appropriate action be initiated in accordance with law against the project proponent and an action taken report is to be filed.
The orders were passed in petitions filed by Sanjay Chouhan, a local resident who has been raising these issues in electronic and other media for the past several years, and represented by Advocates Ritwick Dutta and Sharan Balakrishna. The petitions point out the continuous violation for over a decade of certain conditions crucial for pollution mitigation such as absence of Coal handling plant, conveyor belt and existence proper Green Belt to control the pollution. This has led to huge increase in air pollution in the area, the petition alleges. The petitioner further stated that an ambient air quality monitoring system which was required to be set up in 3 months from the date of approval in 2008, has still not been complied with even after a a decade in both mines. Measures for effective management of water resources and the prevention of surface runoff have also not been carried out.
The petition alleges that there has been a gross failure on the part of the environment ministry and state pollution control board in ensuring compliance of these conditions even after 14 years have passed since the Amrapali mine was granted an environmental clearance, and 11 years in the case of the Rohini mine. The residents of the area have been subjected to enormous amount of pollutants and it has become difficult for them to live in this area for imposition of environmental compensation to be imposed upon CCL for these continuous violations over such a long period.