Odisha govt feigns ignorance about NGT order on Dankari stone quarrying

Bhubaneswar: Even though three weeks have passed since the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered Odisha government to pay Rs 25 crore as interim compensation to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for allowing illegal stone quarrying at Dankari Hills in Jajpur district, Forest and Environment Minister Bijayashree Routray and the local administration have feigned ignorance about the directive.

The State government and the Jajpur district administration stated they are yet to get a copy of the NGT order passed on January 4.

The NGT, in its order, had clearly stated that a copy of the order has been sent to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and the Chief Secretary of Odisha by email for compliance.

“The State cannot avoid its responsibility for the damage caused to the environment. We hold the State to be liable to deposit an interim compensation of Rs 25 crore which may be deposited with the CPCB in one month,” the NGT said in its order.

The special tribunal further mentioned that the State can recover the amount from erring officials and illegal miners/stone crushers.

“The NGT has felt that there was loot of natural resources by a nexus of mining mafia, politicians and officials. In its interim direction, the NGT has asked the State government to pay Rs 25 crore to the CPCB,” said Sarbeswar Beura, a petitioner.

To assess the amount of illegally mined material, cost of damage to environment, the NGT has constituted a Joint Committee of representatives of CPCB, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, Forest Research Institute, Dehradun and Chairman of SEIAA.

Meanwhile, Routray stated he won’t comment on this matter. “Everyone is now in election mode and there is hardly anything to say about it (Dankari issue),” he added.

In his reaction Finance Minister Sashi Bhusan Behera said, “We haven’t reviewed the NGT directive. After reviewing the order we would decide whether we would go to the appellate or not.”

Meanwhile, the Jajpur Collector Ranjan Kumar Das said the district administration is not aware of the NGT decision yet. “After receiving the order we will decide on further steps,” Das said.