Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding illegal mining of laterite stone, Khordha, Odisha, 01/10/2020

  • 01/10/2020

Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Bidu Bhusan Harichandan & Others Vs District Collector Khurdha & Others dated 01/10/2020. The case relates to illegal mining of laterite stone by rat hole mining method without following the standard operating procedures (SOP) for mining and other environmental laws. It was stated that there are at least 40 different sites at Khordha district of Odisha, where such mining is going on that covers 500 acres bringing within it several villages namely Tapanga, Anda and Jhinkijhari under Nijigarh Tapang panchayat.

The areas have cashew jungle, gramya jungle and ghochar land. No Environmental Clearance (EC) or Consent to Operate are stated to have been obtained. Large numbers of trees have been felled in the process of the mining operations.

The Sub-Collector, Khordha, Odisha informed the NGT that the Odisha State Pollution Control Board had been requested to furnish detailed assessment of Environmental Compensation in accordance with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines. The compensation had been assessed at ₹1,80,46,411/- and that this amount had been directed to be recovered from the vehicles carrying the illegally extracted materials.

Further it was decided that the owner of the land, Jagganath Temple Administration, would take steps for restitution and restoration of the area by reclamation of land with pulverized fly ash in the abandoned laterite quarries in the area. Also some minor mineral deposits existing on Plots No. 1330 and 2056 of Jhinkijhari had been allowed to be operated in accordance with law by Sri Jagganath Temple Administration. The temple administration had been permitted to auction the sources having potential for extraction of minor minerals and to take steps for filling up of extracted area having no potential as per the provision of law and to take up social forestry with the help of Forest and Environment Department.

The NGT said that it was not clear as to how Environmental Compensation was being recovered from the drivers of the trucks instead of the person running the illegal mines and as to how Sri. Jagannath Temple Administration could be permitted to extract the mineral without first obtaining the EC by following the due process of law.

Justice Sonam Phintso Wangdi said that "the exercise undertaken by the Government is an attempt to hoodwink the Tribunal in order to protect the perpetrators of the illegality," and the State PCB has remained a mute spectator. The NGT directed the Joint Committee to examine and submit a report on the identification of the persons running the illegal quarry and as to whether or not the unavoidable EIA process had been followed while permitting Sri. Jagganath Temple Administration to mine the area.

The matter would be listed again on December 4, 2020.