SHILLONG, Jan 6 – Close on the heels of Karnataka, Orissa and other mineral-rich States, a “massive mining scam” has been unearthed in Meghalaya too where the State Government gave a single window clearance to cement companies, which started mining inside forested areas.
The opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) today demanded immediate action against officials allegedly involved in the scam. The NCP has also demanded that the mining licences of the eight cement companies, which allegedly flouted the norms, must be scrapped immediately.
The revelation was made in a report of a high-level committee (HLC), comprising of senior Forest officials, which observed that: “going by the yardstick of the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills Autonomous District (Management and Control of Forests) Act, 1958, these companies are situated in the midst of forest,” the report, which has been submitted to the Chief Secretary WMS Pariat, observed. These companies, according to the report, have violated Meghalaya’s Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
The eight cement companies which allegedly flouted the environmental and other laid norms includes, Cement Manufacture Co Ltd. (Star Cement), Meghalaya Cement Ltd. (TOPCEM), Adhunik Cement Ltd., JUD Cement Private Ltd., Hill Cement Company Ltd., Goldstone Cement Ltd., Green Valley Industries Ltd., and Amrit Cement Industries Ltd.
Most of these companies are situated in mineral-rich Janitia Hills district of the State. Some of these companies are spread across an area of over 30 acres of forested area and having an annual installed production capacity of a million tonne.
0pposition leader Conrad Sangma said the eight companies must first be made to compensate for the environmental damage they caused to the State. He said the Lafarge example must be applied to the eight companies and recover a compensation of at least Rs 1,500 crore.
Lafarge, the French cement giant, was ordered by the Supreme Court on 12.4.2010 to compensate for the damage it caused to the environment through its mining plant in Shella bordering Bangladesh. The company too depicted forest area as non-forest area and thus got clearance for its plant through a Single Window Agency (SWA). Incidentally, the SWA chairman is the Chief Minster, who also holds the industry portfolio. “If the State Government does nothing about this massive mining scam then we would be compelled to take up the issue in the Parliament,” NCP leader, Conrad Sangma warned.
Apart from the environmental damage the companies caused, four companies – Star Cement, Meghalaya Minerals and Mines Ltd (MMML), Adhunik Cement and JUD Cement – have also gone beyond the mining lease boundaries.