By the Editor
On September 20, Adviser to the Environment Coordination Committee (ECC) Reading War addressed press conference in Shillong and alleged that coke plants have claimed two lives in Moopala, East Jaintia Hills district. Poisonous smoke emanating from these plants operating non-stop day and night are great health hazards creating unhealthy environment. Coke is obtained from bituminous coal in the same way that charcoal is made from wood and it is the most important fuel used in iron making. Coke, like charcoal, is composed mostly of carbon and it is grayish-black in colour that gives off intense heat when burned. It is harder than charcoal and does not crush easily. Coke is obtained by heating bituminous coal in closed containers called ovens and no air is allowed inside so that coal does not burn but decomposes chemically instead. Coal gives off gases and tars that are collected and taken off. Chemicals present in the gases and tars are valuable products from which fertilisers, dyes, plastics, explosives, drugs, and medicines can be obtained.
It is noticed that coke plants that came up prior to December 23, 2020 did not fulfil norms set by government and therefore ECC had protested vehemently since last one year and ultimately National Green Tribunal (NGT) has given the judgement on July 8 this year in favour of ECC and the people. NGT has also directed government to frame rules and action plan on coke plants within four months from date of judgement and time is ticking fast with hardly two months left. In the meantime, ECC has submitted presentation to Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma stating that all offending coke oven units established prior to December 23, 2020 that did not meet requirements set up by government authorities should be closed down before expiry date of November 8, 2022. Altogether 31 different offending coke units have been identified and environmental compensation imposed on them amounting to Rs 5.5crore must be paid before November 8, 2022. According to ECC claim the amount should be given to all affected areas of villages so that they can repair damages caused by coke plants. Also on expiry of time frame, all offending coke oven units should be asked to stop functioning and dismantle them followed by rebuilding and recreating the place and surroundings. ECC has also demanded that before any action is taken in future people of Sutnga Elaka should be consulted.
Example set by ECC of Sutnga Elaka, East Jaintia Hills district is indeed to be applauded, appreciated and emulated. Any developmental scheme or project undertaken by government authorities or Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) should not take intended beneficiaries for granted but consult and interact with them before implementation. By doing so people will feel elated and confident resulting in full cooperation and successful completion of schemes and/or projects. There is no need to stress only on good points but also caution them on certain demerits so that they will be able to understand and be prepared for consequences.