Bhubaneswar: To put an end to the long-drawn border dispute between Odisha and West Bengal, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked both the states to demarcate the boundaries.
The neighbouring states have also been asked to constitute an Oversight Authority to regulate grant of sand mining lease within three months to prevent illegal and rampant sand mining.
The four-member of the principal bench of the NGT in New Delhi, comprising Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, judicial members Justice Jawad Rahim, Justice SP Wangdi and expert member Nagin Nanda maintained that no mining lease of minor minerals will be given till the demarcation is complete.
The Bench, while disposing a petition filed by civil society activist Sudarsan Das, directed the chief secretaries of both the states to constitute a team of three officers each within two weeks and they would hold their first meeting within one month to decide on demarcation and asked them to suspend all existing mining operations till the work is completed.
According to directive of the Bench, both the states will also get a detailed restoration plan prepared for Subarnarekha river and its bed by a committee of experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad and State Pollution Control Boards within a month. The committee will carry out a detailed study and submit restoration plan within three months and get the assessment done through Dehradun-based Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education on the damage to ecology and inhabitants.
Apart from initiating criminal proceedings against the illegal miners, the district magistrates concerned will impose hefty penalty within three months to cover the cost of restoration of environment and compensate the victims, the Bench directed.
Besides, it also directed the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to finalise mining surveillance system in consultation with ISRO, issue standard operating procedure for assessment of loss to ecology, recover the cost of restoration from legal or illegal miners and set up a dedicated institutional mechanism for effective monitoring of sand and gravel mining within two months.
To maintain transparency, the Bench said that an independent environmental audit to be made by a three-member committee nominated by the district magistrate, at least once in a year and the report of the committee will be uploaded on the public domain, the Bench said, adding that the former judge of Jharkhand High Court Justice RK Merathia will act as Oversight Authority to execute the directions in next two weeks.
Notably, the petitioner had moved the NGT alleging that large-scale illegal and irrational mining has adversely affected the ecology of Subarnarekha.