A Bench of the National Green Tribunal Eastern Zone Bench comprising JM B Amit Sthalekar and JM Saibal Dasgupta has directed 31 illegal coke plans in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district to pay a fine of over Rs. 4.75 as environmental compensation and directed State Government to frame an action plan against such plants established prior to 2021 within four months.

In this case, the 31 coke oven plants were functioning without the necessary and express consent from the respective State Pollution Control Board. This was brought to the attention of the NGT through an Original Application.

The MSPCB informed the NGT Bench that it is in the process of finalization and imposition of environmental compensation on erring and non-compliant coke plants which were found to have initiated establishment works/operation without obtaining the required consent from the board and also on those plants that have violated the closure notices

A coke plant should be set up at least 1 km away from any habitation, hospital, school, or tourist spots and 100 meters away from water bodies for standalone plants while for clusters the distance should be at least 3 km, the MSPCB stated.

Counsel Mr. Vivek Singh appeared for the Applicant. Counsel Mr. Avijit Mani Tripathi, Counsel Dr. Ankit Todi, and Counsel Mr. Soumitra Mukherjee appeared for the Respondents.

While directing the State Government to take appropriate measures, the Bench ordered the State of Meghalaya to "take appropriate action to frame an action plan regarding the offending coke oven units established prior to 23.12.2020 to make them compliant with the norms laid down in the notification dated 23.12.2020. Such action plan and its implementation shall be carried out within a period of four months" and further opined that "So far as recovery of environmental compensation is concerned, no further order is required by the tribunal except to direct the State Pollution Control Board to recover environmental compensation according to procedure established by law.

The State Pollution Board was also directed to continuously monitor coke plants to check whether environmental norms are violated and act in accordance with the law.

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