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Perturbed by illegal and unscientific asbestos mining across the country, the National Green Tribunal today pulled up the Environment Ministry (MoEF) for providing a "vague and uncertain" response.
A bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, made the observation after going through an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests(MoEF) and fixed the matter for further consideration on December 23.
"None of the affidavits is specific as to what steps have been taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests or any other authority of the State to answer a question as to whether any asbestos mining was being carried on in any part of the State or not. Affidavit filed by the MoEF is vague and uncertain.
"It is undisputable that asbestos mining activity is considered hazardous and causes serious environmental and health hazard including dangerous diseases like cancer etc. We are constrained to observe that concerned Ministry and appropriate authorities of the state are expected to exercise their power to prevent and control degradation of environment and harm to public health," the bench said.
The Tribunal also directed C S Thakur, MoEF Under Secretary, to be present and produce complete records in relation to asbestos mining.
"He is also directed to obtain complete data on physical inspection from all the states i.E. Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha, Telengana, Jharkhand and Karnataka. This data should be collected from the concerned state governments, mining departments and respective Pollution Control Boards and Pollution Control Committees," the bench added.
The Tribunal was hearing pleas by NGO Environics Trust and Amar Singh seeeking directions to appropriate authorities to immediately stop all asbestos mining operations in the country and ensure their scientific closure.
It has also sought a direction to Indian Bureau of Mines, Department of Mines and Geology and State Pollution Control Boards of different states to restore and reclaim abandoned mining in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.