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Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Stone quarrying ravaging Earth

Sir,

Meghalaya – a land blessed by Mother Nature, has been suffering in the hands of people who wish to utilise its natural resources for their own benefits and gains.

Over the years, the citizens of the state have witnessed illegal coal mining taking place in Meghalaya even after the NGT called for its ban in the year 2014. However, illegal coal mining is not the only unlawful activity that is threatening and endangering Meghalaya’s ecosystems. Rampant stone mining and quarries are now also on the list, contributing to the rapid decline of our forests and hills.

Illegal quarrying often occurs in areas where regulations are lax, and law enforcement is weak. In Meghalaya, just like illegal coal mining, illegal quarries too are operated or controlled by individuals or groups of people who seek to make quick profits without regard for long-term consequences. Quite noticeable are the hillocks that have disappeared and the threats to the community forests in the areas where stone quarrying is prevalent.

A tragic incident that took place recently, on April 14, 2023, on the Shillong-Dawki Road where two people lost their lives leaving nine others gravely injured when boulders came crashing down on them, is a telltale sign that rampant quarrying exists still in the highways of Meghalaya. Frequent sand mining and quarrying activities, including the blasting of rocks along the highways, have been an ongoing phenomenon for the past few years. It would not be a surprise that the government including the Deputy CM himself pins the blame on the road construction company rather than nabbing the actual culprits, knowing fully well that illegal stone mining is prevalent without proper regulation and without following the norms that are in existence. There are also reports of the Politician-NGO nexus in the quarrying activities along the Shillong-Dawki highway. It goes without saying that such blatant destruction of the environment could not have taken place without the blessing of the people in power.

Unfortunately, the environment too is suffering under the wrath of stone mining as was concluded in a report by the CAG. Serious air, water, and environmental pollution are increasing rapidly due to the unregulated and indiscriminate mining that is being carried out. The unscientific method of mining is affecting groundwater that is being consumed by people, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity. At a time when more trees should be planted to curb the growing menace of global warming that is increasing the heat of summers in Meghalaya, we are witnessing the loss of forests loosening the soil and destroying our hills, adding to the degradation of our ecosystems.

The people of Meghalaya have borne witness to the many illegal activities that exist in our state. We have witnessed countless numbers of deaths due to illegal coal mining activity and are also bearing witness to deaths caused by illegal stone quarrying. We are witnessing the dangers our environment is undergoing because of such activities, wondering when we will get respite. Ironically, the governments then and the government now speak of curbing this menace, but as with illegal coal mining, the people of Meghalaya can only look to the intervention of the Honourable High Court to book the real culprits and save our beautiful state.

Pynshngain Lyndem

Shillong

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