Shillong: A conglomeration of pressure groups and traditional heads in Meghalaya on Monday decided that it will no longer entertain talks on the proposed Umngot Hydro Electric Project and reiterated its demand to scrap the project.

Following a meeting of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) against Umngot Hydro Electric Project, Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU) general secretary Treibor Raul Suchen informed media persons that the stakeholders have made a resolution to meet chief minister Conrad K Sangma and submit a memorandum over the issue.

The JAC comprises several stakeholders including Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Jaintia Students’ Union (JSU), Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) and Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), among others.

“The main objective is not to have talks or discussions on the project. It should be scrapped,” said Suchen.

The Meghalaya government’s proposed 210-MW Umngot Hydro Electric Project faced backlash after several stakeholders opposed it fearing the impact on environment and the famous Umngot river.

Umngot river, also popularly known as Wah Umngot, is one of Meghalaya’s popular tourist spots due to its crystal-clear waters. Many people in the area near the river are dependent on the tourism that the river Umngot generates.

According to Suchen, nearly 20-25 villages, both in East Khasi Hills and West Jaintia Hills districts, are likely to be affected due to the proposed project.

“If we look at the rules of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), this government has bypassed the steps to arrange or organise a public hearing,” said Suchen.

So far, the stakeholders have only seen notifications and letters inviting protesters or supporters for the project in the public hearing, which are totally against the rules and norms of the EIA, added Suchen.

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Last month, the JAC had submitted a memorandum to CM Sangma but so far there has been no response, said Suchen. “The govt is trying to act dumb on this issue just like what they have done with Star Cement to consult their own environmental consultancy and then invoke some paragraphs from the EIA,” alleged Suchen.

Suchen further emphasised the need to scrap the Umngot Hydro Electric Project since there were many aspects that will be affected like “livelihood, environment and losing our land as tribals”, he said, adding: “400 hectares is not a joke for a small jurisdiction.”

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