Local Organisations Oppose Limestone Mining Expansion in Meghalaya, Demand Revocation of Environmental Clearance

Reported by

Sarup Sinha

Legal Data by

Anmol Gupta, Mukta Joshi

Edited by

Moushumi Sharma

Updated by

Published on

March 13, 2022

March 13, 2022

Updated on

March 13, 2022

Location of Conflict

Brishyrnot

East Jaintia Hills

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Limestone Mining

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

Households Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

42

ha

Starting Year

2020

State

Meghalaya

Sector

Mining

The clearance issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to Star Cement Limited for the expansion of limestone mining on 42.051 hectares of land in Brishyrnot village in East Jaintia Hills has sparked controversy. Star Cement Limited is one of the largest cement manufacturing firms in the Northeast, and it will use the Brishyrnot mine to produce limestone using a fully mechanised open-cast method. 

Local organisations, such as the Khasi Students Union (KSU), Jaintia Students' Union (JSU) and Hynniewtrep Integrated Territorial Organisation, contend that the expansion of limestone mining poses a grave environmental threat to nearby areas, such as the Lukha river and Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary. Stating that the proposed project boundary is only about 0.25 kilometres from the eco-sensitive zone of the wildlife sanctuary, the organisations have also pointed out the negative impact of mining on about 17 villages near the mining site.

The KSU and JSU consider the clearance unlawful, alleging that it bypasses several prescribed environmental protocols. As per the approval letter, the project falls under Category A of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2006, which mandates public consultation with the affected people. However, all three previously attempted public hearings have failed due to strong opposition by local organisations. In November 2020, the third public hearing had to be cancelled midway because of agitation, resulting in injuries to seven police personnel. 

The controversy has also pitted the local organisations against the state government. While Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma dismissed any involvement of his government in the clearance issued by the Union ministry, the JSU alleges that the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board had recommended the approval to Star Cement, which led to the final nod from the ministry.

Criticising Sangma for distancing his government from the issue, JSU General Secretary Treiborlang R. Suchen was quoted as saying that “the JSU will not allow this forceful act of the government that goes against the land tenure system in Jaintia Hills as provisioned under the Sixth Schedule”.

Interestingly, residents of Brishyrnot village have reportedly given a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the proposed mining expansion plan, claiming that manufacturing operations would open up development opportunities for the village and its nearby areas. The JSU, however, has questioned the NOC, claiming that it was acquired arbitrarily in the absence of a successful public hearing and without the involvement of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council.

The JSU has submitted two complaints to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, demanding the revocation of the environmental clearance given to Star Cement. An online petition at Change.org against the clearance has received over 1,500 signatures. 

Wallam Nongsiej, vice president of the KSU - Delhi Branch, told LCW that the organisations are waiting for a response from the environment ministry before taking up the issue further. Questioning the decision to conduct a public hearing at the East Jaintia District Commissioner’s office far from the mining site, he expressed doubts at the authenticity of the NOC obtained from the village. “About 280 residents have supposedly given the NOC. But who are these 280 people? When we go and talk to them, many deny giving any such clearance,” he said.

Amidst the stiff opposition, James Sangma, state forest and environment minister, told the media that it is the prerogative of the Union ministry to grant the environmental clearance for a mining project as the matter falls beyond the purview of the state government. “We understand our responsibility in terms of trying to preserve the delicate ecological balance in our state but at the same time, we have to follow necessary rules and laws and that is what we have done in terms of the environmental clearance granted to Star Cement,” he was quoted as saying in news reports.

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Opposition against environmental degradation

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand to revoke the environmental clearance

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common

Type of Common Land

Non-Forest (Other than Grazing Land)

Total investment involved (in Crores):

16

Type of investment:

Cost of Project

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

5

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006
Section 7(i)(III) [Lays down the procedures for Stage 3 of the screening process dealing with public consultation] Section 7(ii) [Lays down the prior Environmental Clearance process for expansion or modernisation or change of product mix in existing projects]
Electricity Act, 2003
Section 5 [Lists the criteria for prohibition and restriction of new projects or on the expansion or modernisation of existing projects based on their potential environmental impact]
Constitution of India, 1950
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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

Yes

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

Objections were filed under Section 7(i)(III) of the EIA Notification, 2006, and Sixth Schedule [Articles 244(2) and 275(1)]

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Violation of environmental laws

Non-consultation with stakeholders

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

No

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

National Green Tribunal

Case Number

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Physical attack

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

Seven police personal were injured in protests during the third public hearing of the project.

Date of Violation

November 20, 2020

Location of Violation

East Jaintia Hills

Nature of Protest

Campaigns (grassroots organisations/press releases/media)

Protests/marches

Complaints/petitions/letters/memorandums to officials

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Office of the Deputy Commissioner - East Jaintia Hills; Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board; Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

LCW called up the office of Star Cement but did not get a response.

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Star Cement Meghalaya Limited

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

LCW called up the office of Star Cement but did not get a response.

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

Khasi Students' Union, Jaintia Students' Union, Hynniewtrep Integrated Territorial Organisation

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

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Documented By

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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