Irked by the State government’s inaction to close down coke oven plants in East Jaiñtia Hills district, people from about 22 villages under Elaka Sutnga today took to the streets for the third time and sought imposition of Section 144 CrPC on December 22.
The protest march was organised by the Environment Coordination Committee (ECC) Elaka Sutnga from 1 kilo to office of the office of the Deputy Commissioner in Khliehriat.
People carried banners and posters to decry the government’s failure to protect the people from pollution emitted by the factories in the area. They said the toxic emissions from the factories are hazardous to the health of the general population and raised concerns on the deleterious effects the coke factory is having on the environment in the district.
Legal adviser of the committee, Reading War while speaking at the rally slammed the government for not acting on the NGT directive to frame an action plan regarding the offending coke oven units established prior to December 23, 2020. He said even after four months the government has not moved an inch on the matter.
He said the court has recently pulled up the State government for the delay to prepare and implement the action plan as per the NGT order and was directed to take action by December 22.
“Therefore out demand is imposition of Section 144 CrPC on December 22 by the district magistrate to shut down all the coke plants,” he added.
War said as per the directive of the NGT, the State government has to recover environmental compensation from the coke plants. “We want the compensation to regenerate those affected areas in East Jaiñtia Hills and the government should not carry it to the Garo Hills,” he demanded.
Stating that even the police don’t check existing coke plants in Umtrya and Nongsning, War said that these are owned by rich businessmen. He further urged the waheh shnongs not to issue no objection certificates for establishment of coke oven plants.
War said the district was blessed with clean air, water and soil but all these have been robbed by owners of coke plants in collusion with rich businessmen. “If we don’t fight and protect them now, the future generation will spit on our graves. We have 48 coke plants in the Elaka and in 20 years we will no longer be able to breathe air,” he lamented.
East Jaiñtia Hills Deputy Commissioner, Abhilash Banarwal came out of his office and addressed the protesting crowd. He urged the people to have patience and since the matter is already before the court.
Banarwal said the district administration understands the concerns of the people and he will hold a discussion the pollution board and other departments with regards to concerns raised on health and environment issues.
Others who spoke at the protest rally were waheh shnongs and residents of the district.