Dissatisfied and angry over the government’s inaction to rein on illegal coke factories in East Jaiñtia Hills district, even with a number of pleas, hundreds of residents of Elaka Sutnga took to the streets for the second time today.
The locals were led by the Environment Coordination Committee (ECC) who carried out a rally from Moopala village to the office of the Deputy Commissioner in Khliehriat.
In one voice the residents from Moopala, Sookilo, Sutnga, Umlawang, Mookympad, Tluh, Jarain, Sakhain, SakhianMooliment, Latyrke, Lamyrsiang, Moolamylliang, Lelad, Tangnub, Byndehati, Umtyra, Umrangso, Nongrim Hills, Nongsning, JalaphetBri-Sutnga, MoolaitBri-Sutnga and others adjacent villages felt that all the coke oven plants, irrespective of whether they have the consent to establish or the consent to operate should close down within five days.
A memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner was also submitted wherein the committee demanded that concerned authorities should immediately shut down all the coke oven plants and take necessary action against the proprietors for the irreparable loss that have been caused to the environment and life of the people.
What angers the residents was the failure of the government to address their concerns even as the Deputy Commissioner had issued an order directing all illegal coke factories, which do not possess the consent to operate (CTO), to close down. While none of the coke factories complied with the order, the DC had to file a non-compliance FIR. This too had no effect.
Pointing to the environment impacts that the presence of coke oven plants has on the district, the committee in the memorandum pointed out that 31 plants have already been established without prior permission while approval is pending. They said this was in violation to the Water and Air Act.
“This is not a mere allegation as the Senior Environment Engineer (SEE) himself from the MSPCB on 22/06/2021 came for inspection. The member of the ECC was very much present along with the official, where it was found many as up to 40 (Forty) Coke plants have been established without CTE,” the committee said.
“Many of these plants found establishing near the villages without obtaining public consent or NOC from the directly affected villages or habitation villages and all these coke plants are establishing in a cluster manner and have never been obtained Environment Clearance. As per the rules available, this cluster has to obtain EC from the state Environment Impact Assessment (SEIAA),” the committee said.
While establishment of hazardous industries in and near the human inhabitation area can never be permitted as per the Supreme Court of India, the committee said coke industries are categorized in the First Schedule item 4 of the Factories Act as hazardous process factories. “The right to Pollution free environment has been declared as the right to life under the purview of Article 21 of the Constitution by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. Coke plants have a devastating both short- and long-term impact on the environment,” it said.
The committee further said that the District Magistrate has also failed to intervene even as powers were given under the Factories Act, 1948 and that there is rampant issuing of the Environment Clearance from the office of the Chief Forest Officer (CFO) JHADC without proper examination and survey prior for granting the clearance.
“This act and malfunctioning of the office of the CFO have put the life and future of the indigenous people of Elaka in peril,” the committee added.