The Jaintia Students Union on Friday registered two separate complaints with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change against the Environment Clearance accorded to Star Cement for a major expansion project in Meghalaya.

The two complaints were sent to the Chairperson of NGT and the Director of Impact Assessment Division of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in New Delhi.

The MoEF&CC recently had accorded Environment Clearance to Star Cement, the largest producer of cement in Northeast India, for mining limestone and shale on a 42.05 Ha area at Brishyrnot village in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya.

The Jaintia Students Union (JSU) on October 10, 2019 had submitted its objection to the proposed mining project before the Chairman, Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board.

Also read: Star Cement ‘Tayyar Nahi’ to face ‘controversy’ in Meghalaya expansion project

The JSU had registered strong opposition against Star Cement’s expansion project citing various socio-economical, ecological and environmental reasons.

Despite strong opposition by the local population, the JSU expressed surprise as the MoEF&CC on June 8 (vide letter No J – 11015/17/2019-IA.II(M) dated 08-06-2021), accorded Environment Clearance to Star Cement for its Mining Lease Area of 42.05 Ha at Brishyrnot village in East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya with a production capacity of 2.507 million TPA of limestone and 0.217 million TPA of shale.

The JSU described the Environment Clearance to Star Cement as “highly illegal” and said it violated the prescribed rules and norms.

“It is evident that the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board has usurped the rights of the local residents and groups and has forcefully suppressed the voices of the concerned affected people,” the complaints filed by Jersom Shylla (President) and Treiborlang R. Suchen (General Secretary) of JSU, said.

Also read: Jaintia Students’ Union all set to register complaint with MoEF&CC against Star Cement’s Environment Clearance

The students’ leaders claimed that the public hearing was held in absence of the affected groups and the no-objection obtained from the local villagers is highly arbitrary, coerced and without the knowledge of the affected groups and the JSU, which represents a large population of the affected persons.

The JSU leaders claimed the proposed project site is located 1.38 kms from the Lukha river, the eastern boundary of the project site is shared with the Um Lunar River and the northern boundary of the mining site is adjacent to the Umso Nallah river.

These rivers, especially river Lukha and river Lunar are major sources of livelihood for the people of the neighboring villages, and most of them consume water from these rivers.

The two rivers are already polluted because of destructive mining activities by several large cement factories in the area. During the winter months, it is a matter of serious concern as the water of river Lukha turns ‘deep blue’.

Moreover, the proposed mining site is located only 1.4 kms from the Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary while the mining lease boundary is only around 0.25 kms from the eco-sensitive zone of the wildlife sanctuary, thereby posing a grave threat to the rich flora and fauna.

Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 92 species of birds, including Oriental Pied Hornbill, Giant or Great Pied Hornbill, Spangled Drongo and Rufous-throated Partridge.

The wild habitat also has about 120 species of mammals, 16 species of reptiles, 74 species of fishes and 15 species of amphibians and about 200 species of butterflies.

The JSU leaders criticized the Meghalaya government for “blatantly denying” recently its involvement in recommending and granting clearance to the mining project of Star Cement.

Also read: Indian Bureau of Mines ‘disapproves’ Topcem Cement’s Mining Plan in East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya

The students’ organization demanded that the Environment Clearance issued to Star Cement be cancelled as per para 8 (vi) of the EIA, 2006 as the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board had submitted “false and misleading information” to the MoEF&CC.

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Anirban Roy

Anirban Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: editor@nenow.in