If what transpired in the Assembly is to be believed, the MSPCB has issued a closure notice to 21 “illegal coke factories” in the Shallang belt on 15.10.2020 and to ensure compliance with the order a joint inspection team consisting of the MSPCB and DC Nongstoin went to Shallang on 15.1.2021. This joint inspection came about as a result of the report of the Assembly Committee on Environment which went to Shallang to assess the impact on the environment of the coal cum coke belt.
Now, the fact of the matter is that in February this year, this writer went to Shallang and its satellite villages and found that all coke factories were brimming with activity. Some were burning coal, choking the whole area, while others were scooping burnt coal (coke) from the ovens, while the new ones were still under construction. Not only that, it was told in the Assembly that only four coke factories were legally set up there while twenty-one were found to be illegal which were ordered by MSPCB to close down but the fact is that to date none of the illegal factories has complied with the order because all coke factories are operating without interruption. And now because of this, the pollution in the whole of Shallang belt has reached beyond permissible limits causing life threat to humans, animals, plants and all aquatic species. Now, it has become crystal clear that the MSPCB, the Single Window Agency and other statutory authorities have cared little about the environment Act, the air Act and the water Act. If unscientific mining of coal and indiscriminate and rampant setting up of coke factories are allowed in this part of West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and perhaps in the Garo Hills, Meghalaya will quickly turn into a desert and our present and future generation will be doomed.
Again, if truth is to be told on the source of coal for burning in the ovens of coke factories, the coal was brought from extraction from the local coal mines be it in the Shallang belt or in Jaintia Hills from local mines there. Why the repeated lies about it whether about coal mining, coal transportation and about the source of coal for burning in coke factories?
The scale of environmental destruction in the name of coal mining and coke production alone is alarming; the impact is so great and immediate that we can witness with our own eyes here and now as we plod slowly towards our damnation.
By Philip Marwein