GUWAHATI, Feb 15 - The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court to look into environment-related matters has directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Head of the Forest Force (HOFF), Assam to clarify as to who and how the Divisional Forest Officer of East Karbi Anglong was authorised to grant permission for stone mining activities.
The sites where the stone mining activities in East Karbi Anglong Forest Division are going on are close to Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and Tiger Reserve.
The CEC also suggested that stone mining activities should be relocated to sites where such activities can be carried out without destroying the forests, and are located outside the wildlife habitats.
Because of the East Karbi Anglong Division stone mining sites’ proximity to KNP, stone mining and crushing activities in this forest division have become a hotly debated subject and environment activist Rohit Choudhury has already moved the CEC challenging these activities.
The forest division has been authorised by the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) to grant permission for stone mining activities. But, as per the provisions of the Assam Minerals Concession Rules, 2013, the Director of Geology and Mining, Assam is the competent authority to issue permits/licences for mining in respect of minor minerals (building stone, including granite, marble, fuller’s earth, limestone of any grade, etc.,) listed in Schedule ‘X’ and the PCCF and HOFF, Assam, in respect of minor minerals (gravel, ordinary clay, ordinary sand, etc.,) listed in schedule ‘Y’ and/or any other authority specified by any government notification for exercise of such powers and carrying out such functions as prescribed by the rules.
However, State officials present in the April 24, 2018 discussion held by the CEC on the issue maintained that the permission of the State PCCF (HOFF) is not being obtained for issue of mining permits in Karbi Anglong, instead the DFO of East Karbi Anglong has been authorised to grant permits for such activities.
In 1966, the State government transferred some subjects, including forest, to the KAAC. But mines and minerals still continue to remain as a subject under the State government. Considering this, the CEC has asked the State government to submit a copy of the authority by which the KAAC has been issuing permits for carrying out stone mining operations and executing agreements for the purpose.
The CEC has asked the PCCF, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council to supply copies of the permits issued for stone quarrying in Karbi Anglong East Forest Division. The Karbi Anglong PCCF has also been asked to supply a note on the procedure being followed while issuing mining permits, and copies of the authority by which the autonomous council has become competent to approve and grant mining lease within their jurisdiction when the minor minerals subject is with the State government.