by NEWSNER , 2021-08-06 14:55:49
Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui on Thursday clarified the government's position on the rise in the number of "illegal" coke factories in East Jaintia Hills, saying he has directed the Superintendent of Police, East Jaintia Hills, to oversee the operation of coke factories and take action against the illegal ones.
“After witnessing the growth of coke factories in East Jaintia Hills, I have directed the East Jaintia Hills SP to shut down all illegal coke manufacturers in the district. In the case of the lawful ones, the SP must investigate the coal supply utilised in these factories.”
The matter was brought to light last week after the East Jaintia Hills district's Environment Coordination Committee held a protest demonstration, expressing worry about the surge in the number of "illegal" coke plants throughout the state, particularly in the district.
When asked why there are so many coke plants springing up in the area, Minister-in-Charge of Commerce and Industries Sniawbhalang Dhar confessed that he gave the approval, but added that these companies can only operate with raw materials (coal) obtained from "legitimate" sources.
“I have given approval, but it comes with a condition that every coke factory receive coal from legitimate sources. This is a fairly evident situation. Because coal mining is prohibited in Meghalaya, raw materials (coal) can be obtained from Kolkata or West Bengal,” he said, adding that the responsibility for procuring raw materials for factories rests with the factory owners' management, who should shoulder that responsibility by obtaining raw materials from legal sources outside the state.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma informed the parliament earlier this year that the state had identified 21 coke companies, only four of which were lawful. Ten of the 17 illegal factories have gotten single-window permissions and are awaiting the Air & Water Act's Consent to Establish (CTE) and Consent to Operate (CTO).
Dhar further noted that he is required to approve the Single Window Agency (SWA) for businesses and manufacturers, and that the process should not be slowed down.
However, he stated that there are various more procedures that business houses must follow in order to obtain clearance, including contacting the Forest and Environment Department and the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB).
He further claimed that meetings with the MSPCB are held frequently in order to keep tabs on illicit actions.
"Without proper documentation, no one can start a business." No one is allowed to start a business without the right documentation. A step-by-step procedure is provided. An FIR should be lodged if there is an illicit coke manufacturing, he said.
To facilitate and expedite different permissions and investments in Meghalaya, the Governor recreated the Single Window Agency for all investments in the state in 2018, with the Chief Minister as Chairman and the Minister-in-Charge of Commerce and Industries as Vice-Chairman.
When asked about environmental concerns raised by the establishment of these industries, Dhar stated that it is the responsibility of the Pollution Control Board (PCB) to determine if such factories will impact water bodies and the surrounding communities. He also stated that because of the proximity of these factories to residential areas, he has received several complaints from locals regarding health-related issues.
Meanwhile, Revenue and Disaster Management Minister, Kyrmen Shylla, who is also the MLA from Khliehriat, said that businesses or factories that do not have proper documents should not be entertained. “It is best to have consultation among the headmen, doloi's (traditional chiefs), etc, before issuing NOC (No Objection Certificate) to the coke factories.
But being a local representative, I urge the people of East Jaintia Hills to know and follow the rules before issuing NOC otherwise we might (end up) making a mistake."
Meanwhile, Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Kyrmen Shylla, who is also a member of the Khliehriat Legislative Assembly, stressed that firms or factories without valid documentation should not be accepted.
“Before awarding NOC to the coke manufacturers, it is best to speak with the headmen, doloi's (traditional leaders), and others.
However, as a local representative, I urge the people of East Jaintia Hills to familiarise themselves with the regulations and observe them before issuing NOCs; otherwise, we may make a mistake."
He further stated that only factories with legitimate paperwork and that follow environmental regulations should be permitted to operate because they had invested a significant amount of money.