Shillong: Meghalaya minister in charge of soil and water conservation Hamletson Dohling on Monday wrote to Union minister of environment, forests and climate change Prakash Javedkar to reconsider the environmental clearance given to Star Cement Meghalaya Limited for mining of limestone in East Khasi Hills district.
In his letter, Dohling said, “Despite stiff opposition from villagers and NGOs in the public hearing held on October 19, 2019, January 31, 2009 and November 21, 2020 conducted by the deputy commissioner of East Jaintia Hills district, it seems that environmental clearance has been issued based only on the East Jaintia Hills deputy commissioner’s recommendation…”
He added that villagers and various influential NGOs of the state have opposed the clearance for expansion of the project since they say it will affect the environment and pollute Lukha River, besides impacting the No-pith Wildlife Sanctuary adjacent to the proposed mining area.
“I request you to kindly reconsider withdrawing the environmental clearance for the welfare of the people of the area and East Jaintia Hills district as a whole,” said Dohling.
For the past few days, pressure groups like Hynniewtrep Integrated Territorial Organisation (HITO) and the Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU) have been speaking out against the green nod.
JSU wrote to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) demanding the revocation of the environmental clearance issued by the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change to Star Cement Meghalaya Limited.
On Monday, HITO also wrote an open letter to chief minister Conrad K Sangma while also addressing all the Cabinet ministers of the MDA government that they must in no manner allow the inherent traditional rights and way of life embedded with nature to ever be trampled or forgotten.
In its open letter, HITO said, “We must also turn towards other evils ailing our society such as the unchecked illegal mining and transportation of coal daily under our nose again from the same district which is so blessed with all kinds of natural minerals.”
HITO also called upon the “vigilant people” of Meghalaya to come forward and share information that is essential for the wellbeing, safekeeping and development of the state.
Meanwhile, CM Sangma on June 15 had said that the state government had no involvement in the environmental clearance granted by the Union ministry.
Sangma had said that the state government had written to the Centre a number of times. A public hearing was to be held and but it couldn’t be done due to public opposition.
Sangma said that reports of how many people supported the project and how many were against it were sent in detail to the Centre. The state government had left the matter with the Central government to decide because it is something that is beyond the state government.
In 2019, EastMojo had visited Brichyrnot when one of the public hearings was supposed to be held, but it could not take place due to protests and opposition by locals. The locals who had come out in large numbers said that the move will cause destruction to the environment and affect the area’s tourism potential near Lukha river.
Star Cement, one of the largest cement manufacturers in Northeast India, has been trying for the extension of limestone mining activities in Brichyrnot village in East Jaintia Hills district.
In 2019, STIEH president Deiwi Tongper spoke with EastMojo and raised concerns about the lack of clean drinking water.
“So far, what I’ve seen here in Lumshnong, people don’t get enough water to drink. One has to purchase drinking water. The reason why drinking water is not available is because cement particles are found in water,” Tongper.
“Global warming is another main issue that we are opposing this mining. We are concerned about nature and animals. Many of these cement factories set up their companies and all they do is drain the wealth of the people and people here become slaves being paid just a mere Rs 5,000 to 6,000,” Tongper added.