Revoke environmental clearance, says KSU

Shillong, June 20: The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) Narpuh Circle has demanded that the Centre revokes the Environmental Clearance (EC) accorded to the Star Cement Meghalaya Ltd for expansion of its limestone mining project at Brishyrnot village in East Jaintia Hills district.
In a memorandum submitted to the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar, KSU-NC president Kwilnis Suchiang said, “We vehemently oppose and strongly condemn the recently granted EC and we urge your esteemed office to intervene and revoke the EC given to M/s Star Cement Meghalaya Limited in the interest of the livelihood and betterment of our people and the environment.”
He said the EC was issued by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change to M/s Star Cement for the mining lease of limestone & shale in 42.051 Ha of land at Brishyrnot without any public consultation or public hearing.
Suchiang also informed that the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) had already attempted to hold a public hearing/public consultation for the project three times but was called off due to stiff opposition from the local population, village authorities, and local NGOs due to the fact that large-scale mining would severely impact the climate and environment and the local area has been substantially hampered by the widespread mining and industrialization in the said area.
The residents of Elaka Narpuh, along with various NGOs, have firmly rejected the Star Cement Public Hearing not once, but three times consecutively, on the grounds that it will harm the environment, animals, and the human race, in reality polluting the already polluted environment of Elaka Narpuh.
“We strongly object the district administration for providing a leeway to the company through Para 7 (i) Stage (3) – Public Consultation, Clause (v) of the Notification, 2006, as there is a clear refusal from the majority of stakeholders to not allow the aforementioned industry to contaminate the Elaka Narpuh ecosystem, the Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary, and its surroundings,” he said.
Further, Suchiang said if the company begins its mining project, it will drastically impact on at least 15 villages in the surrounding areas, either directly or indirectly and the collateral damage of rehabilitation and people’s livelihood will occur at a massive scale.
He said that the mining site is only 0.25 km from Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary’s Eco-sensitive Zone (ESZ) and only 1.46 km from Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary and this will directly have a threat to the ecosystem, to the lives and habitat of its famous flora and fauna, to the homes of our State Animal, the Clouded Leopard (which is an Endangered Species having only 10,000 left in the world) including the Great Pied Hornbill (Nearly Threatened), the Indian Rock Python (Nearly Threatened), the Himalayan Serow (Vulnerable), the Leopard Cat, Pangolin, Sloth Bear (Vulnerable), Slow Loris, Western Hoolock Gibbon (Endangered), Assam Bamboo Patridge etc.
He said the Elaka Narpuh and Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary are home to a diverse range of vegetation, birds, reptiles, and other animals, water bodies that collect rainwater and recharge the water table for many adjacent portions of the village. Thus, providing clearance to such large-scale mining activities will be detrimental and can further pollute the groundwater and drinking water that is available in the said area.
The KSU leader further informed that the Um-Lunar river (adjacent to the Eastern boundary), Umso Nallah (adjacent to the Northern River), and Lukha river (located only 1.3 km in SE direction from the mine lease area) are the three rivers most likely to be polluted if mining begins, particularly the Lukha river, which is already polluted due to high acidity in the river (which has resulted in turning blue colour because of the chemical effluent and the death of thousands of fish in the river).
The waste that will be generated during the mining operation will surely have a significant impact on contaminating the environment and all local rivers. It will increase air pollution in the area, and if the waste is exposed to the three rivers mentioned above, it will harm the rivers which is the main source of livelihood of the people, he stated.