The Meghalaya Cabinet on Tuesday approved the guidelines of the Meghalaya Environment Protection & Restoration Fund (MEPRF) for the implementation and utilization of funds in coal mining-affected areas.
Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that the fund has been collected after the ban on coal mining, and this fund has accrued up to Rs 445 crore.
“Out of this, Rs 100 crore has been given to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in pursuance of the Supreme Court order on July 3 this year,” said Conrad Sangma.
The state government had opened an account in the nationalized bank in the name of the MEPRF and 10 percent of the market value of coal per metric ton was collected from the transportation of already extracted coal as allowed by the Supreme Court,” he said.
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The fund transferred to the CPCB will again be implemented in Meghalaya.
In this regard, different committees have been set up with different guidelines being put in place and different areas, where money can be used, have also been identified.
“Some of the areas where funds will be utilized include pilot projects on reclamation of abandoned coal mines by involving reputed institutes, insulation of pollution control devices development and transfer of treatment technology,” the CM said.
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The other areas include the restoration of ecology damaged by coal mining, tree plantation, closure of abandoned mines by controlled blasting and reclamation of the area, drinking water supplies, public awareness, restoration of water quality, closure and sealing of old mines shaves having opened into rivers and stream beds.
“There are about 14 areas and all are related to land reclamation,” the chief minister said.
Coal auction policy
The Meghalaya chief minister said the state government has finished the coal auction policy almost 60 days back, based on the Supreme Court ruling.
“After the rules were made for transportation, we had put it up before the BP Katakey committee of the NGT. The Katakey committee was postponed three times even after finalizing it, and the last meeting held also was inconclusive.”
“Now after the government has done all its work, we are waiting for the Katakey committee to give its final approval so that we will be able to go ahead.”
“The government is ready for it, and the guidelines have been set. It is only a matter of approval by the Katakey committee,” he said.
The chief minister also said he was not aware that justice Katakey had resigned as the chairman of the NGT-constituted committee.
The Supreme court, in its judgment on July 3 this year directed the Meghalaya government to hand over the coal to Coal India Limited (CIL) for auctioning in all likelihood through e-auctioning.
Earlier, an affidavit filed by the Meghalaya mining and geology department in the Supreme Court, said the total quantity of coal, which has been extracted and assessed, but yet to be transported, is 32,56,715 metric tons.