Khurda: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Odisha government to form a high-level committee and also to probe with the help of a Special Task Force (STF) team the allegations of illegal mining on over 500 acres of land belonging to Lord Jagannath. The land where the illegal mining activities are being done is located in Nijigarh-Tapang panchayat of Khurda, an official said Monday.
Sources said, a six-member Bench of the Tribunal headed by Justice Adarsh Goel, directed the Odisha Home Secretary, DGP and Chairman of State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) to hold a joint meeting within two weeks, in an order released recently. The NGT said in the order that the STF probe is required to identify the violators and bring them to book.
The bench has directed the Odisha government to recover compensation and implement restoration measures of the mined areas.
“A joint committee comprising officials from Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Bhubaneswar Regional Office, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Odisha State PCB, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), including Khurda Collector and District Magistrate may meet within two weeks to plan for remedial action in this regard,” the tribunal order said.
SPCB will act as nodal agency for coordination and compliance in this matter. A full committee will undertake a visit to the site, interact with all stakeholders and plan further course of action, the NGT stated.
The to-be-formed joint committee would ascertain identities of the law violators, in coordination with investigators or otherwise and proceed against them for enforcement of the environmental norms, take action to stop the illegal mining. The high-level committee will also submit a detailed report through e-mail about the action taken (ATR) within four months of its formation, the NGT order further emphasised.
“At a time when Odisha Government has become a mute spectator in the illegal mining on Lord Jagannath’s land, the NGT has expressed its deep concern and ordered to form a high-level committee and a STF within two weeks,” the petitioner Sankar Prasad Pani said.
It is pertinent to mention that the petition filed before the NGT mentions that rampant mining of laterite stone at around 40 different sites in over 500 acres in Tapanga, Anda, Jhinki and Jhari villages under Nijigarh-Tapang panchayat of Khurda has caused severe environmental damages and huge loss of revenue to the state government.