Amid strong opposition by the tribal population against Star Cement’s expansion plan in East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya, Topcem Cement too has embarked on a plan to expand its production capacity by a whopping 110.75%.
Sources in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change said Meghalaya Cements Ltd, the producer of Topcem Cement has proposed to expand production capacity from 2,600 tons per day (TPD) to 2 million tons per annum (MTPA).
The manufacturer of Topcem Cement has also proposed upgrading its Captive Power Plant at its factory at Thangskai in East Jaintia hills of Meghalaya from 10 MW to 40 MW, the sources said.
Topcem Cement plans to invest Rs 1,276.8 crore for the expansion plan in East Jaintia hills district. Vikash Saraf, vice-president (Commercial) of Topcem Cement is heading the expansion plan, the source said.
Topcem Cement has reportedly claimed to own 59.29 hectares of land at Thangskai in East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya, and there is no additional land requirement for its expansion plan.
On the other hand, Meghalaya Cements Ltd had initiated an application (No. SIA/ML/IND/154994/2020) for amendment in the Environmental Clearance (No. SEIAA/PROJECT-2/2007/18, dated March 25, 2009).
The management of the producer of Topcem cement claimed in the application to the State Expert Appraisal Committee of Meghalaya that it proposes to reduce the existing plot area at Thangskai in East Jaintia hills from 59.269 hectares to 52.949 hectares.
Through the amendment application of Environmental Clearance, Meghalaya Cements Ltd proposed to transfer 15.60 hectares of land to a different entity, the Canis Mines & Minerals LLP.
Canis Mines & Minerals LLP was registered on June 6, 2019 with the Registrar of Companies in Kolkata, and has five partners – Nishant Garodia, Kalilash Chandra Lohia, Mahendra Agarwal, Amit Agarwal and Phone Syih.
Interestingly, all the five partners of Canis Mines & Minerals LLP are directors with Meghalaya Cements Ltd, the manufacturer of the Topcem Cement brand.
And, both Canis Mines & Minerals LLP and Meghalaya Cements Ltd share a common registered address — BE-77, Salt Lake, Sector-1, Kolkata – 700 064.
While 15.60 hectares of land has been proposed to be transferred to Canis Mines & Minerals LLP, the Meghalaya Cements Ltd claimed to have acquired 9.28 hectares of land adjacent to the plan area.
The State Expert Appraisal Committee of Meghalaya, on July 22, 2020 granted conditional approval to the Meghalaya Cement Ltd’s application for amendment of Environmental Clearance.
The producers of Topcem Cement were told by the State Expert Appraisal Committee of Meghalaya to develop a ‘Green Belt’ in an area of 18 hectares at Thangskai in East Jaintia hills district with four indigenous species of plants.
After closely studying Meghalaya Cement Ltd’s two documents — the ‘Brief Summary’ of the Expansion Project and Amendment Application for Environmental Clearance, it is evident that there is ‘disparity’ on two important aspects.
Firstly, there is disparity in land details – the expansion summary said the project has 59.29 hectares, and there is no need for additional land. But, the application for the amendment of Environmental Clearance claimed the project has 52.949 hectares of land.
Secondly, the expansion summary said the project proposes to have 19.83 hectares of ‘Green Belt’, with an existing plantation area of 4 hectares. And the application for amendment of Environmental Clearance, the Meghalaya Cement Ltd claimed it would develop a ‘Green Belt in 18 hectares.
While there are clear instances of ‘disparity’ in Meghalaya Cement Ltd’s two documents, there is every possibility that even the local tribal population may oppose the expansion plan.
The indigenous tribal population in East Jaintia hills district are up in arms to thwart the ‘expansion’ plan of Star Cement.
Several social and youth organizations in East Jaintia hills have been campaigning against the expansion of mining projects by the cement companies.
The Khasi Jaintia National Union (KJNU) central body had vehemently opposed a public hearing on November 21 last year at the office of the Deputy Commissioner of East Jaintia Hills.
The public hearing was organized for the proposed limestone and shale mining project to be undertaken over 42.051 hectares of land in Brichyrnot village in East Jaintia Hills.
During the public hearing on November 22, seven police personnel, including a woman constable, were injured in a clash with the members of NGOs.
Several other organizations, including the Khasi Students Union (KSU) and the Jaintia Students Union (JSU) are also opposed to Star Cement’s expansion plan.