Guwahati, May 30 : As a campaign against coal mining in Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) rages on, the Assam government today asserted that it will not permit mining by Coal India Ltd (CIL) or any agency if it damages the environment and wildlife. It also maintained that the Central government, which has the controlling authority over granting permission for coal mining, will not ‘bypass’ the state government if the latter opposes mining activities.
Addressing a joint press conference on the issue, state Forest and Environment Minister Parimal Suklabaidya and Industry and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said the state government was committed to protect the environment and wildlife of the state. Suklabadiya said, “Our government will not allow coal mining if it harms the environment. Our chief minister and government is fully committed to safeguard and protect the wildlife and environment.”
Echoing Suklabaidya, Patowary added, “The government could have given permission for the coal mining, but they asked for the government of Assam’s advice.”
“If the state government says ‘no’, this Central government will not bypass us and grant permission,” he said, when asked if the Centre, which is the authority in giving mining rights, could override the state’s advice.
A campaign has been raging in the state, especially through social media that has garnered support from across the nation and world, regarding illegal coal mining at Tikok Open Cast Project (OCP) by CIL since 2003. The CIL’s permit for mining had elapsed in 2003 but mining activities had continued till October, 2019, when it was stopped by the state government for non-compliance of 28 points of Stage I approval.
The CIL has also been slapped with a fine of Rs 43.24 crore for violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and if the PSU fails to pay the fine soon, the state shall inform the government of India. Suklabaidya further said, “Till date, no final approval for mining has been accorded. All 28 conditions will have to be fulfilled and the compliance report placed before the government of India for grant of stage II clearance. Only on grant of stage II clearance, mining can begin.”
On allegation of the Tikok OCP falling under Dehing Patkai WLS, he claimed that it does not fall under it, though it comes under Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest. He admitted that the OCP comes within the 10-km radius eco-sensitive zone of Dehing Patkai WLS, and hence, clearance for mining has been referred to the National Board for Wildlife and subsequently, the State Board for Wildlife. The minister said the Tikok OCP does come under the elephant reserve in Dehing Patkai, though it does not fall under any elephant corridor. “We will conduct a thorough survey of the entire area again and compile the report. We reiterate that the government will not act against the interest of the state or its people,” Patowary added. (UNI)