GUWAHATI, April 27: The Supreme Court-constituted Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has said divisional forest officers (DFOs) under the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) are not the competent authorities to issue mining permits as mining is not among the subjects vested upon the council.
Yet, the CEC pointed out, environmental clearance (EC), payment of taxes and mining permits are issued by DFOs working with the council after state the government’s director of geology and mining approves a mining plan.
In its report on the complaint filed to it by environment activist Rohit Choudhury against ‘illegal’ mining of stones within the elephant corridors connecting Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and Karbi Anglong Hills, the CEC said the autonomous council is vested with 30 subjects, including forest. “However, mining is not a subject which has been included among the 30 subjects that have been transferred to the autonomous council,” the CEC report said.
The report added that DFO (Karbi Anglong Hills Division) has issued 17 permits for stone quarrying within the eco-sensitive zone of KNP in Karbi Anglong to contractors of various government agencies and also private parties.
The CEC said the competent authority for issuing permits for minor miners is the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), while the divisional forest officers of the state forest department are authorized to exercise various provisions of Assam Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 2013. “Since mining is not a subject transferred to the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, the divisional forest officers working under the council are not the competent authorities to exercise the powers related to issuing mining permits,” the report added.
Taking cognizance of the CEC report, the apex court, on April 12, had ordered a ban on all types of mining activities along the southern fringes of KNP boundary and all the catchment areas of rivers and streams originating in Karbi Anglong. The report was compiled following the CEC’s site inspection of stone-mining areas from March 28 to April1 and May 30 to June1 last year.
Forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya told TOI that the forest department had raised the issue of mining permits with the council several times in the past. “We have also written to the council about the matter of mining, highlighting that the PCCF is the competent authority in the matter of issuing mining permits,” he said.
Choudhury added that the CEC report has brought to the fore how the mining mafia are up to destroying the crucial animal corridors connecting KNP and Karbi Anglong. “There has to be connivance between the mining mafia and senior officials in allowing unabated stone quarrying in an eco-senstive zone,” added Choudhury. (TNN)