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Minister withdraws from company promoting coke factory

Shillong, Sept 14:  Cabinet Minister Renikton Lyngdoh Tongkhar has withdrawn from the company operating coke factory in East Jaintia Hills.

Tongkhar, who was one of the partners of the company, said on Tuesday that though the company had all valid documents and the factory was set up legally, he does not want to continue with the company.

“There is nothing illegal, but since the people do not want it, I have withdrawn from the company and moreover, I am a public servant” he added.

The move comes after the reply to an RTI query revealed that Tongkhar is one of the owners of the coke factory.

The reply was provided by Directorate of Commerce & Industries after an application under RTI Act 2005 was filed by Rieweh Kupar Sutnga, a resident of Sutnga village, East Jaintia Hills on July 20.

According to the reply, Tongkhar is one of the four owners of the M/s North East Carbon Industries.

The other partners include Manoj Kumar Jajodia, Bunsingh Sohphoh and Kishan Jajodia.

The RTI activist is a member of the Environment Coordination Committee (ECC) Sutnga Elaka, which is protesting against coke factories operating in the district.

CM assures action

The ECC of Elaka Sutnga met Chief Minister Conrad Sangma in the evening and apprised him of the need to shut down coke plants.

All the headmen within Elaka Sutnga also assured to withdraw the NOCs issued to coke factories.

The chief minister assured the delegation that the government will conduct inquiry on those coke factories which have Consent to Operate ( CTO) whereas all the illegal coke factories will  shut down immediately.

Conrad said this will be done within five days.

Earlier, the ECC had warned that if the government fails to take action, the public will take action.

Technical panel formed

Earlier, the minister in-charge Forest and Environment James K Sangma said a technical committee comprising experts will study  various aspects related to the coke plants in the state.

James was replying to a zero hour notice regarding the protests against pollution from coke factories in East Jaintia Hills, moved by Congress legislator PT Sawkmie in the Assembly.

James said a decision was taken in a meeting held on August 10, with officials of the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) and State Expert Appraisal Committee to discuss on issues concerning setting up and functioning of coke plants.

The technical committee has also been asked to suggest specific recommendations, including environment safeguard measures, public health issues, forest clearances, cluster situation and commissioning of pollution load study.

The MSPCB had granted Consent to Establish (CTE) for 13 coke plants and Consent to Operate (CTO) for 9 units in East Jaintia Hills.

James said that the district administration and MSPCB had taken swift action to close down all coke plants without valid documents.

The MSPCB has identified 30 coke plants without Consent to Establish (CTE). Closure notices have been served to all 30 units in East Jaintia Hills for violation of section 25 of Water Act, 1974 and Section 21 of Air Act, 1981.

The district administration has issued the order to all coke factories on July 15, that only those coke factories with CTO are allowed to operate and those coke factories with CTE are allowed only to establish but not to operate and those coke factories having only Single Window Agency are not to operate nor established.

A physical joint inspection by the district administration along with the MPSCB was carried out on July 22 and the district administration had issued a letter on July 28 to all coke plants who have not been given CTO within the district to stop operation.

On the protest held by the ECC, Elaka Sutnga, the minister said that the district administration assured to close down all the coke plants having no valid documents and issued the order on  August 3.

After the ECC Elaka Sutnga again brought the issue, the deputy commissioner had filed a written FIR against the coke plants for violating the order of the district administration.

The SP has registered 7 cases against the coke plants which are operating without a CTO.

As per inspection by the extra assistant commissioner of the district, it was observed and recorded that the coal supplied to all the coke plants in the district are being transported from outside the state.

The minister said after closure notices were issued, inspection was carried out by MSPCB on August 27, August 31 and September 2.

During the inspection, it was found that 24 coke plants were found to be closed down and one unit was operating in violation of closure notice.

The minister assured that the MSPCB will initiate action against coke plants for violating closure notice and cases will be registered.

Mukul slams MDA

The CLP leader Mukul Sangma has criticised the NPP-led MDA government for giving permission to operate coke factories.

Mukul pointed out that when the Congress-led government was in power, not a single coke factory was allowed to operate.

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