Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding illegal mining and stone crushing units in Rajmahal hills, Sahebganj, Jharkhand, 23/09/2020
Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Syed Arshad Nasar Vs Union of India & Others dated 23/09/2020.
The matter related to quarrying and crushing units in Rajmahal hills of the Vindhya mountains, district Sahebganj, Jharkhand.
A joint inspection report March 12, 2020 was filed before the NGT on September 21, 2020 and was signed by the representatives of Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
The report stated that the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) was not in existence in the state of Jharkhand as its tenure expired on November 8, 2019 and no new body has been constituted. The report gives details of some of the crushing units and mining units inspected. All the crushing units and mines were not inspected.
Details of the visit:
- The committee members visited the crushers and mines in Bakudi. Most of the crushers violated the rules of environment clearance (EC) and consent to operate (CTO). No boundary wall or metal sheet was found in the boundary. There was scanty plantation in all the units. Presence and effectiveness of pollution control equipments especially water sprayers were present but their implementation was poor.
- Stone mines visited in Bakudi, Sahebganj by the committee revealed that almost all the mines bench height and width was not proper. Unscientific and unsystematic mining was being done in all mines visited. Haul roads were kutcha and there was inadequate arrangement for water spraying on haul road.
- The committee members also visited Mundli area in Mizrachowki, Sahebganj district. There were large number of crushers (around 40-50 crushers) in that area. Most of the crushers had no boundary wall or metal sheet boundary around their periphery. There was no plantation around the crushing units except in a very few. The trees in the area were laden with dust. Roads were full of trucks. Human habitation was not far away and appeared to be in impact zone of these crushers. Mining activities were also carried out in the hills adjacent to these crusher units.
It was further stated that total Environmental Compensation of Rs. 6,33,57,000 had been imposed by JSPCB cumulatively on the stone mines and stone crusher units out of which Rs. 2,36,25,000 was upon 55 stone mines and Rs. 3,97,32,000 against 141 stone crushing units. An Environmental Compensation amounting to Rs. 1,66,71,000 had been collected by JSPCB cumulatively from the stone mines and stone crusher units.
The NGT after going through the reports filed noted that it was quite clear that the violation of environmental norms was rampant and in spite of orders passed by the tribunal in the last three years, the situation has only deteriorated on account of failure of the statutory regulator in taking adequate action. The JSPCB appears either to be in collusion or incompetent in performing its duties of taking stringent action against rampant violation of law.
"The damage to the environment and public health cannot be brushed aside and effective measures are required to be taken for realizing the guaranteed Fundamental Right to clean environment which is part of Right to life," the NGT order said. The NGT said that the environmental compensation assessed was highly inadequate.
To enforce the rule of law and for protection of environment and public health, the court said that a scientific action plan was required to be prepared after in-depth study of the problem with a clear road map. For this purpose, the tribunal directed the constitution of a four-member Committee to be headed by an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary in the MoEF&CC. Restoration plan and mode of execution should be proposed and the report submitted within three months.
Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sonam Phintso Wangdi of the NGT said thaty there was a need to examine as to how many stone crushers and mining units could be allowed and subject to what special conditions and to what extent the existing activities needed to be regulated.
The JSPCB had been directed to perform its duties of of maintaining necessary vigil and close polluting activities not complying with the norms and permit them only when norms are achieved. Further, ‘Polluter Pays’ principle should be implemented effectively having regard to the cost of restoration, extent of damage and the deterrent element. The Chief Secretary must take steps to revamp the JSPCB and file affidavit of compliance.