Panelists at ‘Dialogue Derivatives’ organised at St Anthony’s College in Shillong Credit: EastMojo image

Shillong: In a bid to engage and enhance awareness among the youths on current issues, ‘Difficult Dialogues’ held a talk session at St Anthony’s College on Monday. The event, ‘Dialogue Derivatives’ was held to discuss: “How real are the water woes in Meghalaya?”

The session had panelist from different walks of life such as Patricia Mukhim, activist and editor of Shillong Times; Professor BK Tiwari of the department of environmental studies at North Eastern Hill University, also a founding member of the Meghalaya Water Foundation; and Rosabele Marngar, an activist as well as a law student.

The dialogue, which aimed at interacting with youths and make them come to the forefront and not only voice their opinions on social media, saw a hall packed with students. The current issue on “water woes in Meghalaya” is slowly gaining momentum.

Senior journalist Mukhim expressed her concern and said how she discovered, in her recent cleanliness drive, that not only was the river clogged with plastic bags but also clothes. She even feared that the next time a dead body might even be found floating while cleaning the river.

“At the moment, my heart is with all the rivers in the state. I’m saddened with the fact that people release the sewage into the river. Forget about the acid mine drainage in the coal fields of Jaintia Hills, over here we haven’t even learnt to respect the river. How can one be so cruel to nature, this is the very river that provides us drinking water,” said Mukhim.

The senior journalist was against the idea of privatisation of water bodies as it’s a common property and that these are the kind of issues that need to be brought up.

“Meghalaya does have a lot of water problems — access to water, access to clean drinking water making people opt for aqua guard or RO water. Another issue is scarcity of water; there are still several people who have to fetch water from a far off distance. So these are the problems that we need to discuss. Not everyone has access to water; there is an inequality to the access of water. Another problem is privatisation of water sources which I strongly feel is a crime. Water, forest, land are supposed to be community owned by this society. People should speak about this issue. Hence, this dialogue it’s been called ‘Difficult Dialogues’ as this is indeed a difficult dialogue for the Khasi society which we haven’t started to bring up,” said Mukhim.

Also Read: Assam NRC: Meghalaya pushes back 223 ‘outsiders’ since Aug 31

Mukhim, while being asked about the difference of the past and the present scenario, said, “Back then we did not have much visitors or a huge population, so with time things increased likewise our problem started increasing. But our capacity to address these problems has not been met. Our governments have not been able to make proper arrangements. For instance, a second landfill or a waste processing area, now we have to think quickly living in the 21st century. I think waste management has to be democratised.”

Meanwhile BK Tiwari, who has seen much of how the rivers in Meghalaya have gone from good to bad, said: “The state is now lacking in clean water, most houses have a water filter or an RO installed in their houses. Even though the water policy has been released, yet it is equally everyone’s responsibility to work on this issue. The government can take the initiative and implement the policy but we also have to do our job.”

Dennis Lallienzuol, moderator and coordinator of Difficult Dialogues, said, “It is important to every citizen to know and understand about the developmental issues in their country. Because in the northeast we have realised that the common mans voice is not heard. And that is why we come forward to listen to the people and understand the needs of the people in northeast. Having a dialogue like this is very important, it practically interacts with common people, and the younger generation are never seen as part of discussion on governmental platform.”

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