Days after a judicial panel headed by Retired Justice BK Katakey found largescale violations of a coal mining ban in Meghalaya, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday asked the state government to deposit Rs 100 crore with the central pollution control board towards restoring the environment.
The order comes even as rescue workers fervently pump out water from a 370-feet illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills, where at least 15 miners were trapped on December 13. Nearly 20 days on, they are now placing their hopes on a huge pump from state miner Coal India Limited that's being installed on a concrete platform near the mine.
The committee had submitted its report to the NGT -- which imposed the ban on coal mining in 2014 -- two days ago. It categorically stated that most of the mines in the state are operating without a lease or licence.
The NGT order came on a day when the Supreme Court took a strong stand on the slow pace of rescue efforts, and asked the Centre to file an affidavit in this regard. It was hearing a public interest litigation accusing the government of going slow on the operation.
The government, in its defence, told the top court that seepage of water into the mine from a nearby river was hindering the rescue operation. It also pointed at the lack of a blueprint of the 355-feet well.
"We are aware of the Supreme Court development. We respect their opinion and will abide by it. But having said that we also want to make it clear that in the given situation we have tried our best efforts. It's a multi-agency operation and we are bracing challenges and overcoming them in transport of men, machines, pumps to that remote location. An operation of this magnitude in that location is extremely difficult," Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said.
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