By Oken Jeet Sandham
We have been seriously discussing on the coal mining issues – whether there are legal or illegal – taking place in Nagaland particularly in Mon district. The random coal mining sans following guidelines has destroyed the environment and eco-system in and around the coal mining areas. The mining has also caused severe damage to the land resources of the area. We must know that we have to clear the forest where the mining is going to take place. Such activities lead to massive deforestation. Areas of forest will also be cleared in order to build the mining facility and laying roads. While doing so, many organisms and animals lose their natural habitat too. In the process, many organisms and animals start perishing themselves as they sometimes are not used to immediately other neighboring forest environment.
The Government might have been issuing licenses to the contractors/companies with complete guidelines. But they have hardly checked whether they have been carrying out as per the guidelines. As per the reports coming in from the Mon district, these contractors/companies have failed to properly close the areas after mining, thereby affecting the environment of the surrounding areas. Several water ponds have been there as a result of rampant illegal mining. The water collected in these ponds is polluted due to producing chemical composition in the mining area.
Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang in his Budget Speech presented in the Assembly on July 23 also admitted the continued extraction of coal in the State in a faulty and dis-organized manner. He further said, “In order to effectively control and generate better revenue as well as to give more benefits to the land owners, the State Government has made amendments to the Nagaland Coal Policy and Rules to ensure that all lease holders get registered with Taxes department so that they are brought into the tax net.”
On the contrary, reports have been pouring in for quite some time of the rampant illegal coal mining taking place in the Mon district. There are allegations that many coal mafias from outside the State have been involved in all these illegal coal mining activities with the help of locals. These illegal coal mining activities have been allegedly continuing without being checked. Locals have been employed as cheap miners, besides it is reported that they have been working without equipment necessary during mining works.
If the Government wants the coal mining to continue, they should strictly enforce the guidelines so that no environmental pollution is there. They should also see that the health and wages of mineworkers are properly taken care of. Safety should be priority for the mineworkers and they should try to improve the safety areas for them (mineworkers). We should carefully monitor whether they are provided with all these necessary equipment.
Although mining is a very money-making business and creates employment avenues, we should not forget that such activity severely affects our environment. Zeliang in his Budget Speech made it clear that the amended Nagaland Coal Policy and Rules would ensure setting up of integrated “coal stockyards and depots” at important exit points, which, according to him would check “illegal mining, rationalize coal mining and increase revenue of the State.” He, however, stated that the Village Councils had been empowered to “check illegal mining, protect the environment and collect Naga Commission.” But illegal mining seems to be continuing unchecked. The Government should immediately investigate into illegal coal mining activities as they have been gravely harming their ecological system and also other lease holders as to whether they observe proper guidelines. We should not talk of losing revenues only.