The Supreme Court will commence hearing tomorrow on the crucial issue of allowing French cement giant Lafarge to carry out mining activities in the hills of Meghalaya for its plant in Bangladesh.
The hearing assumes importance as two villages of east Khasi districts have locked horns with each other on the issue with residents of Nongtrai supporting the mining of limestone, while villagers of Shella opposing the revised environmental clearance given by the Centre.
The Nongtrai Dorbar (Panchayat) has opposed the contention of Shella Village Action Committee, which has sought cancellation of the environmental clearance given by the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoEF) to Lafarge.
The Nongtrai Panchayat has alleged the Shella Village Action Committee, which claims to represent the Shella villagers, has no rights over the 100 acre mines as it falls under the jurisdiction of Nongtrai Dorbar.
They further contended that the livelyhood of the 238 households of the village is mostly on basic cultivation and Lafarge has reversed the situation by granting employment opportunity and brought prosperity.
In its 39-page-long affidavit, the panchayat claimed that till December 2009 the village had received about Rs 3.15 crore and this amount was distributed equally among all the families with each household receiving about Rs 1.4 lakh each.
The villagers also claimed that there was not any adverse impact on their health due to constant mining of the limestone in their surroundings.
However, residents of Shella village challenged the revised environmental clearance to Lafarge's mining project contending that MoEF has flouted norms in favour of the French firm.
The villagers alleged that MoEF violated Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) rules, as there was no scope for revised clearance for the project when the company had concealed information earlier.
"There is no scope of granting a revised environmental clearance under the scheme of EIA notification once the project is found to have obtained environmental clearance by concealing information or submitting false information," the Shella Action Committee said in the application.
The committee has sought a direction from the apex court rejecting the revised environmental clearance given to Lafarge on April 19, 2010, and April 22, 2010. The committee said the revised clearance given by the MoEF was against the EIA rules.