National Green Tribunal constitutes 7-member committee to study effects of blasting for mining in Kerala for humans, wildlife

The National Green Tribunal Principal Bench has constituted a seven-member Committee comprising officials of the CPCB, the Indian Institute of Mines/ IIT, Dhanbad, CSIR – Central Institute of Mining & Fuel Research (CIMFR), Dhanbad, CSIR-Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee, IIT Roorkee, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun and Directorate General of Mines Safety, GoI in the matter filed by mining lessees undertaking quarry mining at various locations in Kerala which involves blasting to study the impact of blasting with NonelDetonation technology at distances of 50m, 75m,100m, 125m, 150m, 200m and 250m.

According to the order, the Committee may undertake visit to the relevant sites and except for such visits, conduct proceedings online, if necessary. The Committee will be at liberty to take assistance from any other expert/institution.

The study will include the impact caused by vibrations on different soil strata /earth profile in the area and on noise and air levels, on buildings, humans and wildlife. The study may be completed within three months and report furnished within four months.

The grievance of the original applicant has opposed the applications of the public prosecutor and submitted that minimum distance of 200m must be maintained in the interest of safety of the inhabitants as well as flora and fauna in the area.

Mining is beyond 50 meters while according to the original applicant longer distance has to be maintained, following precautionary principle having regard to the right of inhabitants, who are affected by air and noise pollution generated in the course of mining operations.

According to the earlier orders, the Tribunal passed an order laying down longer distance in the light of report of the CPCB.

The learned public prosecutor draws attention to the order of the Supreme Court dated 25.10.2021 in a batch of matters permitting filing of applications before this Tribunal by the parties affected by the order of this Tribunal.

The issue whether this Tribunal has jurisdiction to initiate suo motu action against violation of environmental norms which stands concluded by the judgment reported in Municipal Corporation of Gr. Mumbai Vs. Ankita Sinha & Ors., 2021 (12) SCALE 184. Therein, it was held that the affected parties are entitled to be heard and they had not been heard in the present matter.

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According to the application, the grievance of the original applicant is that 50m distance is not enough and reliance on observations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (1996) 8 SCC 462 and Mohammaed Haroon Ansari v. District Collector, Ranga Reddy District, (2004) 1 SCC 491.

The original applicant has opposed the applications of the Public prosecutor and submitted that minimum distance of 200m must be maintained in the interest of safety of the inhabitants as well as flora and fauna in the area. The Tribunal must follow the ‘Precautionary’ principle and, if any, further studyis undertaken, mining may not be allowed within 200m pending such study.

The learned counsel for public prosecutor submits that distance of 50m is laid down under the Mines and Mineral Rules as well as under the orders of the State PCB. Any longer distance is beyond the jurisdiction of this Tribunal. Further CPCB also has no jurisdiction as powers under the EP Act are only with MoEF&CC.

Due to topography of the State of Kerala, longer distance will obstruct the legitimate mining activities in violation of sustainable development principles. With the use of NonelDetonation technology, 50m distance is adequate and does not cause any adverse impact.

The learned counsel for public prosecutor puts reliance on a CSIR-Central Institute of Mining & Fuel Research study conducted in June 2021 on “SCIENTIFIC STUDIES FOR DESIGN OF SAFE BLAST PARAMETERS AT PEROORKADA STONE MINE, KUTHIRAKALAM P.O. VELLANADU, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA.

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After the consideration of submissions the three-judge bench comprising of Adarsh Kumar Goel, Sudhir Agarwal and Dr. Nagin Nanda does not find any merit in the objection of the public prosecutor that this Tribunal has no jurisdiction in view of distance laid down under the Mines and Mineral Rules.

In view of law laid down inter-alia in Mantri Techzone Pvt. Ltd. v. Forward Foundation and Ors., and the Director General (Road Development) NHAI v. Aam Aadmi LokManch. There is also no merit in the contention that CPCB has no jurisdiction under the EP Act. CPCB has jurisdiction under EP Act, as per delegation under section 23 of the said Act as well statutory powers under the Air and Water Acts and also under directions of this Tribunal.

Further there is also no merit in the contention that even at the cost of environment mining must be allowed having regard to peculiar topography of Kerala. The detailed study report may be furnished to this Tribunal Within four months by e-mail. The case has been listed for May 11, 2022.