Despite coal mining activities taking place, Nagaland has no mechanism in place to check the coal mines, stated a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) 2020-21. Due to the lack of a mechanism to check the coal mines, the PAC suggested that the Department of Forest, the Department of Geology and Mining and the Nagaland Pollution Control Board (NPCB) should come together and sort out an effective mechanism to address the issue. The coal mining method practiced in the state is mostly rat-hole mining, but some districts practice open-cast mining.
According to the Ministry of Coal, Nagaland has an estimated coal resource of 478.31 million tonnes of which 8.76 are measured, 21.83 are indicated and 447.72 are inferred. Nagaland, along with Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are the NE States with coal resources. According to the official portal of the Directorate of Geology and Mining, Government of Nagaland, there are 5 blocks in Mokokchung district where coal exploration are being carried out. The five blocks are Northern Khar Coal Block, Changki Coal Block A, Changki Coal Block B, Mongchen-Dibuia Coal Block, and Yimchenkimong-Molungyimsen Coal Block. It is believed that the department concerned has not updated the information on its website because it is learnt that Changki village stopped coal exploration within its jurisdiction a few years ago. As per the information on the website, the coal exploration in the district is being carried out in a total geographical area of about 70 sq kms of which 30.56 sq kms falls under the Yimchenkimong-Molungyimsen Coal Block.
Interestingly, the Ministry of Coal’s state-wise raw coal production in the country during 2020-21 and 2021-22 (till December) data does not mention Nagaland. This needs to be further investigated but it seems to point out that the coal exploration done in Nagaland is not only unscientific but also illegitimate. Keeping aside the aspects of the legalities and legitimacy of coal exploration in Nagaland, it is pertinent to note here that the unscientific method of coal exploration in itself is a matter of grievous concern.
Sights of piles of extracted coal for sale along the Mokokchung-Mariani road, especially in the Tzürang area are a regular feature particularly during the dry season. Little do we bother about the environmental degradation and health hazards posed by the unscientific exploration of coal in the district. Much less is done to mitigate and reclaim the soil once the coal exploration is done.
We have been treating the land as if it were a use-and-throw disposable item. The traditional village system is perhaps a bottleneck when it comes to addressing the environmental issues posed by coal exploration in general because it is difficult for someone else to raise the issue when the coal exploration is not done within his native village territory. The only panacea is for the villagers themselves to realize the peril of unscientific coal exploration and ban it. To extract the coal deposits or not is one thing, how it is extracted is quite another. Further, what is being done to reclaim and rejuvenate the land after the coal is being extracted is also another thing. We seem to be missing the target on a lot of things when it comes to coal exploration.