Jharkhand High Court directs removal of coal dumps from Damodar river bank

Coal waste dumps of Purnadih mines polluting the river

By Alok Gupta
Published: Wednesday 04 September 2013

The Jharkhand High Court has directed the removal of coal waste dumps of Purnadih mines from the banks of the Damodar river in Chatra district in six weeks. The directions were given last week to the state-run Central Coalfields Limited (CCL), the  Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), Punjab State Electricity Corporation (PSEC) and private firm Monnet Daniel Ispat Limited, which have leases for operating different mines in the area.

The division bench of justices N N Tiwari and S Chandrashekhar also warned that if the dump is not removed within the specified time then Monnet Daniel Ispat will have to a pay a fine of Rs 50,000 per day. The court has also asked the companies facing charges of polluting the river to file an affidavit by September 17.

The court order was given on a public interest petition filed against the companies in January, 2012. The petitioner, Suresh Oraon, appealed for the court's intervention, saying coal mining by the companies along the banks of the Damodar flouts various environment laws.

The petition also alleged that CCL mining area has become a public hazard with coal fires and unregulated blasting causing havoc in the neighbouring school and locality. CCL has reportedly doused the coal fires and regulated the blasting. The charge of polluting the river is being presently heard by the court.

A senior CCL official told Down To Earth that it’s the private mining companies that are flouting the dumping norms. The same charges are being levelled by the private companies against CCL.
The court had earlier ordered the district commissioner, Hans Raj Singh, to conduct a thorough inquiry into the matter and submit a report along with photographs and videographs of the coal waste dump. Singh said the report along with the photos and videos have been submitted to the court.

“A thorough probe was conducted by the sub divisional officer. We submitted the report within the stipulated time,” Singh said.
Companies had earlier sought a few months' time from the court to remove the coal dumps.

Social activists claim that companies are deliberately playing the blame game of ownership of coal dumps. Umesh Nazir, a social activist said that tonnes of coal waste has flowed into the river this monsoon.

Apart from the coal dump, coal washeries are also endangering the river. “The waste water from washeries flows into the river. There is a provision that specifies that waste water from collieries should be treated before being let out,” Nazir said.

The court has fixed the next hearing for September 17.


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