Lafarge provides compensation to Meghalaya farmers

Lafarge provides compensation to Meghalaya farmers

Lafarge provides compensation to Meghalaya farmers

Farmers and entrepreneurs from at least 50 villages in and around the mining site of French cement major, Lafarge, in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district have benefited from nearly Rs 100 crore disbursed as compensation by the multinational company, according to an official.

Those include entrepreneurs who have undertaken rubber plantations, bee keeping, black pepper plantation and betel plantations.

Some farmers have given up traditional farming of betel nut and betel leaves, black pepper and jackfruit on the plea that it is yielding lesser returns due to climate change.

There are still others who have gone for large-scale production of age-old farming of fruits. Farmers at Nongtrai village, for instance, have invested into planting 20,000 saplings of indigenous Khasi Mandarin variety of orange.

The orange crop will be ready for harvest in the next five to eight years, Nongtrai headman B Lyngdoh said.

A large chunk of the village land was acquired by the company for mining two million tonnes of limestone for its cement plant in Bangladesh’s Chattak.

"We have released Rs 14.63 crore to the beneficiaries till April, 2014 of the approved budget of Rs 48.7 crore in the two years that we have started implementing various projects under the scheme," K C Momin, secretary of the Special Purpose Vehicle Society, told PTI.

The Special Purpose Vehicle Society is an executive body appointed for carrying out development in the mining areas of Lafarge Umiam Pvt Ltd for about 50 villages on the Indo-Bangladesh border in East Khasi Hills district.

Momin said the projects included infrastructure development, education, livelihood projects and irrigation as specified by an order of the Supreme Court.

The USD 255 million Lafarge Surma Cement project at Chhatak in Bangladesh is wholly dependent on limestone extracted from Nongtrai village in East Khasi Hills district where two million tonnes of limestone is allowed to be transported across the border annually.

In compensation, the Supreme Court had directed the multinational company to pay Rs 20 crore per annum towards integrated development and afforestation for the diversion of 116.589 Ha of land in the area.

Till date Lafarge has released compensatory payment to the tune of Rs 100 crore for carrying out livelihood and development projects and irrigation besides supporting education within a 50 km-long periphery area from Nongtrai, Momin said.

The rest of the amount is yet to be deposited by the state government with the SPVS and the budget of the society is yet to be able to accommodate the huge amount it receives, he said.

The latest report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India tabled in June this year has noted that Lafarge is the only company mining limestone in Meghalaya that has acquired all necessary license for mining.

"Out of the 16 mining leases granted for carrying out mining of limestone in the state, only one mining company (owned by French Cement major, Lafarge) has obtained clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)," the CAG report said.