Burning Issue November 2010

November 3, 2010 at 7:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Hell of a development

The Shillong Times 26-11-2010

By Patricia Mukhim

It is ironic that one should be attending an interactive workshop on climate change organised by the Centre for Science and Environment for media persons, a day after my return from what seems like a God-forsaken village in the back of beyond and after traversing miles and miles of uneven roads eaten up by heavily loaded coal trucks. Saipung is both a village and a Development Block that is roughly about 76 Kms away from Jowai but it takes nearly four hours from Jowai to reach this distant outpost because the roads have turned into slushy and sometimes dusty patches of mud and sludge. Wherever it gets too difficult for coal trucks to negotiate the stretches, boulders are randomly thrown about to fill in the huge craters (not potholes). The roads are particularly bad from Lad Rymbai to Khliehriat and Sutnga. In fact wherever coal is mined the roads are in a pathetic situation.

You cannot but ponder at the coal economy and how it has devastated the environment beyond repair. Is this economy sustainable for the long run? In many of the coal belts potable water is on the decline. If you go to a restaurant in Sutnga and ask for water you are not likely to get it unless you also have a meal there because drinking water is scarce and expensive. The mine owning, rich elite of Jaintia Hills can afford to buy water in tankers but the poor are struggling for survival. The tendency to generalize and also believe that all Jaintias are natural beneficiaries of the coal economy can be highly misleading. There are so many in Jaintia Hills who still survive on subsistence cultivation and whose lives are getting bleaker by the day because settled cultivation is not possible without irrigation facilities.

The story of Saipung is very revealing. It tells us how people in many parts of the unreached villages of Meghalaya actually live. Saipung is unique in that of the 14,000 odd population in that Block, the majority are Biates whose dialect and lifestyle is very much like that of the Hmars, one of the many Zo tribes. People are poor; illiteracy is high and the average family size is seven. From my conversation with the local headmen of a few villages I learnt that the drop out rate is high. In the whole of Saipung there is no high school so parents who wish to educate their children have to send them to Jowai or Shillong. The MLA who represents that constituency is also not educated so one can see why he has no concern about addressing the illiteracy in his area.

Young girls of 14-15 years are already in a cohabited relationship. There are hardly any livelihood opportunities. Surprisingly the NREGA seems to have created some livelihood opportunities. The Chairman of the Village Employment Council (VEC) seems to be relatively honest in deploying funds. On Monday morning parent sent their children to his house with the job cards to collect their week’s labour charges. The fish pond he says belongs to the community so when the fish are ready to be sold the community would share the profits. That is what I was told. How that arrangement would finally work out, and the variables that he would have to take into account in the profit-sharing formula is something he has not yet thought of.

In Saipung people still subsist on shifting cultivation. They walk two to three hours to reach a forest. This forest is cleared by men; after that women start to dig the field and prepare it for cultivation. The whole preparation takes about three months and happens between January to mid March. After that begins the sowing season. Interestingly, the villagers of Saipung cultivate only once in a particular place. The next year they find another forest land. They come back to the abandoned patch only after ten years when the forest has regenerated. Women complained that they find the work very tough but said they had to do it because they did not have enough money to buy rice from the market. Besides the jhum fields provided them adequate nutrition.

Livestock farming was not a viable option they said because there is no veterinary doctor nearby. He comes once in a while to give some training and disappears. The last time a horticulture/agriculture officer came to Saipung was some 12 or 15 years ago the headman informed. The officer came and demonstrated something he wished the villagers to take up and never came back. There is no health sub centre and the National Rural Health Mission is not visible in Saipung. The nearest government health care centre is at Khliehriat. There is a Community Health Centre (CHC) at Sutnga but the doctor was not available. When this writer visited the Centre there was a hand written notice posted outside that the doctor would not be available for a month beginning November 9. Above that there was another notice saying that the doctor would not be available every Saturday except on market days as he has to attend to other sub-centres falling under this CHC.

I asked the pharmacist what happens if a pregnant woman comes for delivery. He said the nurses attend on them; I asked what happens if the delivery is complicated. He says they are sent to Jowai civil hospital. One patient in the CHC said she was suffering from malaria and was given saline drip and other medicines. I asked her who diagnosed her illness. She said the nurses and pharmacist. The main hospital was under lock and key as most patients were sent away since there was no doctor. A Homeopathic doctor was however present at her post in the CHC. She was using the room that should have been used by the dentist who it appears has gone for further studies. Dr I Hing, the homeopath said the most common health problem of the people in the area were respiratory ailments. That is not surprising considering the pollution caused by the soot that is belched out by thousands of diesel vehicles passing that way 24×7. According to an eminent scientist Dr J Srinivasan, soot or black carbon is one of the most dangerous pollutants in the atmosphere today. People working in the mines and living along the coal belts are vulnerable to this pollution; so also those who live by the side of the roads through which trucks criss-cross and grunt their way up.

It is ironic that the country’s Minister of State for Water Resources, Vincent Pala is one of the prime beneficiaries of the coal economy. One wonders what contingency plans he has in mind to restore the depleted water bodies of Jaintia Hills. Or, whether he has even used his influence to invite scientists to take a look at those rivers which are today so polluted, they are no longer fit for human consumption? I am saying this because Pala comes from the coal belts of Jaintia Hills and if at all he has to show some responsibility as a Minister for Water Resources then it must be to clean up his backyard first. Unless somebody does something drastic for Jaintia Hills it is going to turn into a desolate wasteland. Not all Jaintias can afford to leave their hearths and homes and buy prime land in Shillong. Not even ten per cent of the population can do so. Who will think and plan for the large majority whose health is today being irrevocably jeopardized on account of reckless mining practices? There is a price to pay for every sinful act on the environment. And coal mining has become the single most accursed activity in the state. Today the country has imposed a cess of Rs 50 per tonne of coal for ploughing back into the environment. Some Rs 3000 crores is in the kitty for this purpose. Is the Meghalaya Government doing anything to get a share of this money for restoring the environment that is destructed by coal mining?

It is awful to see the gaping earth from which everything has been gouged out but which is left to fend for itself after it has enriched those who own it. The point here is whether any human being can claim ownership over this earth and destroy it so mercilessly. What is even more appalling is the silence of those who are at the receiving end of this absolutely non-sustainable coal economy. What are we all doing? Is it not time to raise a stink and hold people responsible for their misdeeds? How can we allow this free for all coal mining policy carry on? I feel it is a sick joke whenever the Mining Minister says that the Mining Policy will be a New Year’s gift. How patronizing is that? In any other state where citizens are conscious of their rights he would have been pilloried for making such a statement. But in Meghalaya anything goes! Not only are ministers not accountable but they also are getting away with cheap rhetoric.

Meghalaya is in serious danger of dipping into a serious man-made environmental trauma. If we the people do not get our act together, this only piece of earth will be raped until it can bleed no more.

Govt says no to clearance for Lafarge
Meghalaya Times
Friday, 26 November 2010 11:54

Staff Reporter
Shillong, Nov. 25: With almost 90 percent of the inhabitants of Elaka Nongkhlieh opposing the establishment of a Lafarge mining plant in the elaka, Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Mining, Bindo M. Lanong on Thursday said: “The government has assured that clearance will not pass to Lafarge India Pvt Ltd which plans to set up a cement plant at Elaka Nongkhlieh, Jaintia Hills. The government has decided not to pass no objection certificates to any foreign company.”
On the statement of JHADC CEM Hambertus Nongtdu that the council has not passed an NOC to the company, Lanong told Meghalaya Times that the JHADC has already passed the NOC. It was also cleared from the office of the deputy commissioner, Forest Department and dalloi of the area, he said.
Meanwhile, Lanong said that the company also failed to receive the NOC by the government as the file was kept pending. “I found that the NOC should not be given to the company especially with the villagers coming ahead to oppose its establishment,” he said.
The setting up of a large company like Lafarge in a small area like Elaka Nongkhlieh was not a good idea, he said, adding: “What would happen to the future of the state and its people? A place like Elaka Nongkhlieh will fade away.”
It is learnt that Lafarge needs a clearance from the state government as a last resort. If the government puts the decision on hold, the company cannot set up its plants even if its receives NOCs from other institutions.
The minister also sought the support of the public on the government’s decision, adding that many in society may oppose it as NOC was given to the company by the deputy commissioner, Forest Department, dalloi and headman’s office.
The people of Elaka Nongkhlieh oppose mining plans saying that it leads to the ‘death’ of their lands and poses health risks.
The women of Nongkhlieh had earlier had filed a petition with the chief minister of Meghalaya urging him not to permit Lafarge to carry on with its plans to set up a cement manufacturing unit and conduct mining activities in the area.
A letter requesting Union Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, not to issue environmental clearance to Lafarge was also sent by environmental activist and columnist, HH Mohrmen.
A similar letter was also sent to opposition party leader in parliament (Lok Sabha) Sushma Swaraj seeking support.

JACSO against setting up of more cement plants
Written by the Editor
Thursday, 18 November 2010 05:16
Meghalaya Times

Staff Reporter
Shillong, Nov. 17: The Joint Action Committee of Social Organisations (JACSO) of Jaintia Hills met on Wednesday at Nongkhlieh to discuss the fall out of the NOC issued by the dolloi for setting up of a cement plant by Lafarge in the area.

The JACSO has decided that that they will meet Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma to pressure him not to allow anymore establishments of cement plants in Jaintia Hills.
The committee will also meet the JHADC Chief Executive Member, Hambertus Nongtdu, to urge him to scrap the NOC issued to the cement plant.
The meeting was attended by various NGOs of the district including the KSU, FKJGP, JSU and HNYF.

Meghalaya Times
Anti-Lafarge lobby gathers strength
Written by the Editor
Thursday, 18 November 2010 05:12

Staff Reporter

Jowai, Nov. 17:
In view of the proposals of Lafarge India Pvt Ltd’s plans to set up a cement plant at Elaka Nonghlieh, Jaintia Hills, protests by a majority of villagers, and numerous complaints sent to the chief minister and the chief executive member of the JHADC, a public meeting was organised on Wednesday at Chnongrim.

The people of the elaka aired their voices against the company’s said plans along with various NGOs including the Jaintia Students’ Union, the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People, Khasi Students’ Union and Hynniewtrep National Youth Front-eastern region.

The villagers in the meeting carried black flags and placards with statements condemning the JHADC and the Dalloi of the elaka, Na-oo Kyrmen Sukhlain, who issued the NOC from the dorbar without the majority’s consent.

The meeting was chaired by the president of the FKJGP-Jaintia Hills, T. Lytep

“Our protest is against the JHADC because it has misused its powers by conducting surveys and planning to change pattas to LHCs (land holding certificates) so that they can be sold after certificates are issued in the individual’s name,” said Chedwit Bareh, chairman, Synjuk ki Chnong Elaka Nongkhlieh.

Columnist and environmental activist HH Mohrmen, while speaking at the meeting, said: “Elaka Nongkhlieh is the land of caves, it is here that the longest cave in India and in the Indian subcontinent – Pynthor Le-tein – the rice bowl of the people of the area, lies. We even have one of the thickest forests here. If this company is allowed to mine and set up its plant here, it will damage the environment and the significance of this place.”

He added: “There are eight cement companies at Elaka Narpuh but how many locals are employed in them and what are the developmental works they have been promising?”

Emlang Lytan, president, FKJGP central body, urged the people not to cave in to the company, saying that they should carry on with their peaceful lives and agriculture.

“How adamant can the government be? Even after the people have issued numerous complaints to it, it is yet to speak a word regarding the issue,” said a villager.

The meeting between the Synjuk ki Chnong Elaka Nongkhlieh (the Elaka Nongkhlieh headmen), Longkmie Elaka Nongkhlieh (mothers organisation), and the other NGOs have decided that they will demand the JHADC to cancel the permits and the NOCs it is planning to issue.

Regarding those that have already been issued to the company, a memorandum would be submitted to the chief minister, urging it not to allow any company to be set up at Elaka Nongkhlieh.

Show negatives of uranium mining: Lanong to Centre

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: Mining and Geology Minister Bindo M Lanong has indirectly declared the State Government’s skepticism about the proposed uranium mining project asking the Centre to come clear on the possible hazards by the project.

“Rather than highlight the positive prospects of uranium mining on their presentation, they should try to stress more on the negative aspects of this project,” Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Mining and Geology, Bindo M Lanong, told reporters on Monday.

He added people would be more eager to know how to address the various problems, environmental and health, which would emerge from the mining of uranium.

The Deputy CM was referring to the recent meeting with Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) officials on the project.

The Government had said the Central team could not continue with its “same old presentation” to convince the people about the mining of uranium.

“The anti-uranium campaign in the State is growing in strength. At present, majority of the people oppose the project,” Lanong confirmed.

The Central Government should go slow with the proposed uranium mining project; it should respect the sentiments of the people, he said.

The present State Government has a totally different, holistic approach to the whole issue, in comparison to the previous Government led by DD Lapang, he added.

Welcoming the pre-project activities he said, “We would happily accept the Rs 209 crore earlier proposed by the Centre for pre-project activities. But this should be not connected with the proposed uranium mining project.”

During the previous Lapang-led Government, NGOs had strongly opposed its decision to implement the first-phase Rs 209-crore pre-project development programmes in 2009.

The NGOs alleged that in the name of development, the State Government was trying to befool people and cover up the ill effects of uranium mining. They claimed UCIL would start the project within the 422-sq-hectare area, which had nothing to do with the actual mining.

In their recent meeting with DAE and UCIL officials, the NGOs had told the Central team to tell the Centre to abandon its idea of mining uranium.

Cavers join Meghalaya villagers against Lafarge cement plant
Hindustan Times
Guwahati, November 16, 2010

An organization of cavers has joined villagers in opposing French cement giant Lafarge’s plan to set up a Rs 1,000 crore plant in limestone-rich Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. In a letter to environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday, the National Cave Research and Protection Organization has sought outright rejection of
Lafarge’s proposal. This, it argued, is not only because the proposed plant site is perilously close to two reserve forests – Narpuh and Saipung – set to become wildlife sanctuaries.

Some 500 hectares of land in Nongkhlieh village has been transferred to Lafarge India for the plant. Villagers are protesting this transfer, which they say was done “undemocratically and forcefully” by the Dolloi or local chieftain.

“The area already has eight cement plants within a 5 km radius. Obviously, the norms must have been flouted in setting up of these plants,” said the save-cave organization’s Raipur-based president Jayant Biswas. One more would add to air pollution and contamination of the groundwater system in the area, he feared.

But more importantly for the organization, Lafarge’s proposed site comes under one of the world’s most sensitive cave systems. “The Jaintia Hills system is considered the Mecca of cavers the world over. Some are listed among the longest and deepest caves on earth. We have already seen how over-extraction of limestone for a cement plant has led to the caving-in of the Mawmluh cave system (also in Meghalaya, near Cherrapunjee),” Biswas said in an email to HT.

Prior to the caving body’s plea to Ramesh, Nongkhlieh villagers had petitioned to Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma to cancel Lafarge’s application. “The land on which the plant is to come up is community land that includes besides forest paddy fields. Our land is as important as the air we breathe, and we will cease to exist without it,” the villagers’ petition read.

They also sniffed an underhand deal between Lafarge and the village chieftain and Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council to “evict us from our ancestral land”.

Lafarge has refuted the charges, stating some locals were “killing the child (proposed plant) before it was born”.

Cave protection org moves Jairam Ramesh on Lafarge plans
Written by the Editor
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 04:39

Meghalaya Times

Staff Reporter
Jowai, Nov. 15:
The opposition against the plans of Lafarge India Pvt Ltd to set up a cement plant at Elaka Nongkhlieh, Jaintia Hills, appears to be gaining momentum with the National Cave Research and Protection Organisation (NCRPO) requesting Union Minister of Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh, not to issue environmental clearance to the company.

On Monday, Dr Jayant Biswas, president of the organisation, in a letter to Ramesh said: “The proposed site of the plant is very close to the Narpuh Reserve Forest and the Saipung Reserve Forest. The area has already been proposed for a sanctuary by the Meghalaya Department of Forest. However, while setting the proposed plant, noise pollution due to blasting and other phenomena as well as air and dust pollution will become a regular routine and in such conditions, even the existing wildlife will definitely become extinct from the same zone.”

“The proposed site comes under Karst area and is located on the upstream of the Letein valley. The Karst system has low self purification capabilities and in such conditions, contaminated water which will anyhow get discharged from the factory will not only pollute the surroundings but also spoil the groundwater system of that particular area.

“The proposed site is also known for good rice productivity for Meghalaya. The set up of a cement factory in such conditions will raise the question on the livelihood of the people of that area. The local agitations by the villagers in this aspect have already been started,” said the letter.

“Jaintia Hills has already more than enough of its share of cement plants and currently, as many as eight plants are functioning within a five km radius in that particular area. Obviously the norms must have been flouted while setting up these plants,” it said.

It said that Jaintia Hills was a “Macca” for cave lovers around the world. “Several cave systems existing in this particular location have listed their names in the world map of the longest and deepest caves. Krem (cave in local term) Liat Prah, Um Im and Labbit, are some of them. Till date, several documentary films, periodicals and journals have been prepared and published on the mysteries of these caves from all over the world. Unfortunately, we have always extorted our subterranean assets in expenses of upholding our industrial development. It will not be irrelevant to mention that till date, we are not even aware of our two percent subterranean biodiversity abiding in these caves, but we are leaving them to get extinct before their discovery. Due to over lime-stone extraction, the “cave-in” of Mawmluh cave (Cherapunjee, Meghalaya) represents the biggest example of the same,” said the letter.

“Today, the Government of India is trying to strengthen adventure sports in the country; unfortunately, caving, which represents a strong example of the same, is only alive in Meghalaya. Every year, several cavers from all over the world visit Meghalaya in the interest of caving only. Under such conditions, the proper protection of these subterranean caves must be one of our national regards,” it said.

BJP comes out in support of Elaka Nongkhlieh
Written by the Editor
Tuesday, 16 November 2010 04:41
Meghalaya Times
Our Bureau

SHILLONG, Nov. 15:
The Meghalaya unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has expressed concern over allotment of land under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution to Lafarge India Pvt. Ltd. for setting up a cement company at Elaka Nongkhlieh, Jaintia Hills, saying that it would pose a threat to natural caves in the proposed area.

“If the state government has any love for the state and the people, it should hold back Lafarge from setting up its plant in the area,” it said in a statement here.

The party also expressed surprise over the granting of the no objection certificate to Lafarge by the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council.

“The BJP strongly supports the people’s movements against setting up of a cement plant at Elaka Nongkhlieh, and if the situation demands it, the party may also announce an agitation programme,” it said.

It has also listed certain demands related to the issue including that a central team comprising environmental experts should visit Elaka Nongkhlieh to study the matter before permission is granted to Lafarge.

It has also said that the state government should come out with a white paper answering the following details on cement plants in the state: Under what terms and conditions has the Meghalaya Government entered into an agreement with these companies before issuing the required permission to set up these industries, what are the facilities that the government has given to the companies mainly in terms of taxes and subsidies, names of the cement plants registered in Meghalaya and the employment benefits for locals.

Letter to the Editor,

Shillong Times 15-11-10


The JHADC’s lack of vision, initiative and creativity in generating revenue is appalling and disgusting. To save itself from death it sacrifices our land and the poor to hungry cement plants.

This is the case with the Lafarge’s incursion into Nongkhlieh Eleka. The JHADC has agreed to hand over 500 Hectare of forest, cultivable and agricultural lands to Lafarge putting the last nail in the coffins of many of the farmers and the poor.

In the surrounding areas of Lumchnong the JHADC in an area of 5 Km2 has cleared 8 cement plants and in the process handed over lands and minerals to profit motivated and exploitative companies that have not given anything back to society.   

In matters concerning the interest of the indigenous people, the JHADC has failed in implementing and reinforcing the compulsory need for a trading license by non-tribal, collecting professional tax by non-tribal etc. It has also forgotten to collect fines from errant traders leading to a huge loss in revenue.

There is also rampant illegal felling of trees from the forest of Jaintia Hills. This has gone uncheck leaving the JHADC empty handed in terms of fines collected.

The JHADC is also losing out on royalties from many of the sand and stone quarries as it has not bothered to registered any of the illegal quarries along highways and rivers of Jaintia Hills.

To add to its woes the MDCs have passed a bill to double their salary at the same time crying financial crunch.

The relevance of having an autonomous district council that is more of a threat to our existence than guardian questions the very need for the JHADC. The JHADC is the sorrow and shame of Jaintia Hills District. The JHADC should have been dissolved and made obsolete 10 years ago.

Yours etc

C. Lyngdoh


Sushma moved against Lafarge
Shillong Times 15-11-10
From Our Correspondent

JOWAI: A complaint has been lodged with the leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, against the proposal to set up a cement plant at Elaka Nongkhlieh in Jaintia Hills District by Lafarge India Private Limited.

The company plans to set up a 1.1-mn-tonne cement plant and undertake mining activities at Synrang Nohkso, Khim Pynam, Umrap, Langchrieh to Korhati (Lumsarman), within Elaka Nongkhlieh.

Besides Swaraj, copies of the memorandum were also submitted to Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Central Committee, A.K. Gopalan, the Chief Minister of Meghalaya and the President, National Cave Research and Protection Organization, India Dr. Jayant Biswas.

The complaint by Sajeki Passah stated, “The proposed cement plant and limestone mining activities in Elaka Nongkhlieh will badly affect the life of the indigenous people residing in the area,” adding the people of Elaka Nongkhlieh are fully dependent on agriculture and forests.

“Elaka Nongkhlieh is surrounded by and is partly under two Reserved Forests, Narpuh and Saipung. The proposed mining site lies adjacent to Pynthor Le-Tein and is surrounded by forests. The area is extremely rich in limestone and coal. Till date, the people of the Elaka have always been against any kind of mining activity by any individual or company, since they believe that this will result in no development – except destruction of the environment, the complaint added.

Elaka Nongkhlieh is famous for its natural caves too, including 145-km cave passages. Krem Liatprah is one of the longest in the Indian sub-continent, stretching 31 kilometres. Unique creatures live inside these caves.

Nongkhlieh is also famous for Pynthor Le-Tein (Le-tein valley), the most fertile valley in Jaintia Hills and the “rice bowl” of the people. It has played an important role in history, too; in its midst lies ‘Kut Sutiang’ or Sutiang Ford where the Jaintias fought one of the last battles against the British before full Colonisation.

Lands at Elaka Nongkhlieh belong to the people. Anybody from there can use any part of land for cultivation, a customary right of every native there. There are also ‘Khloo Chnong’ or community forests managed by the community or the people.

Nongkhlieh is also the source of four main rivers. Wah Umpyoi, Wah Lukha, Wah Kulpli and Wah Letein start near the proposed mining site.

Earlier complaints to the JHADC CEM had been of no avail.

Interestingly, despite these misgivings, the Executive Committee issued NOC to Lafarge India.

Several violent incidents related to protests against the proposed cement plant were also reported. A group of Lafarge India “sympathizers” were badly assaulted at Shnongrim.

Earlier on November 4, hundreds of villagers had organised a protest rally against JHADC and the company’s plans.

Mukul moved on Lafarge
The Telegraph
Shillong, Nov. 11: Nearly 500 women from Nongkhlieh elaka today petitioned Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma against the proposal of Lafarge India Eastern Ltd to set up a 1.1-million tonne cement plant in the Jaintia Hills.

The women, who are engaged in farming, said, “The people of Nongkhlieh are among the few who understand that mining can only lead to the death of our land and our people, and till date we have opposed mining proposals by any individual or company.

“Our lives are not without hardship, but the strength and unity of our community has seen us through many challenges. In recent times, this unity and peace has been corrupted by the stench of greed fed by Lafarge India Eastern Ltd,” the women stated in their petition.

They added that the proposal of Lafarge to set up the cement plant would lead to the loss of 500 hectares of community land, including forests, grazing ground and agricultural land. “Our land is as important as the air we breathe. We will cease to exist without it,” the petition stated.

Moreover, the women said that several petitions were sent to the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) where they have voiced their protests against Lafarge.

“But the executive committee led by Hambertus Nongtdu had made its intentions very clear to give the no-objection certificate to Lafarge to set up the cement plant, carry out mining activities and transfer of land,” the petition alleged.

“The transferring of our land to Lafarge India Pvt. Ltd by the doloi of the Nongkhlieh elaka and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council was undemocratically and forcefully done without the consent of the people of the elaka. This has led to some violent incidents in our villages, as minor pro-Lafarge groups are carrying out intimidation against the majority who is against the company,” the women alleged.

“As women and mothers of Nongkhlieh elaka, we do not wish to see our sons lose their lives over this transgression by the doloi, the district council and Lafarge.”

The women, therefore, requested the chief minister to put an end to this transgression by outright rejection and cancellation of any application by Lafarge to set up its cement plant, mining proposals and the transfer of their land.

Yesterday, a Church leader had petitioned the Union environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh not to issue environmental clearance to Lafarge.

Meghalaya petition to check denudation of land Save forest plea to Jairam
– Meghalaya petition to check denudation of land

The Telegraph

Shillong, Nov. 11: The Mait Shaphrang Movement recently sent a petition to Union minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, and sought his intervention to save Meghalaya “from an impending catastrophe”.

Mait Shaphrang Movement convenor, Michael Syiem, in his letter to Ramesh, also submitted the right to information (RTI) findings on charcoal-based ferro-alloy industries in the state.

“We appreciate the Centre’s commitment to bring about faster development to the Northeast through industrialisation by giving incentives such as tax holidays and subsidies. However, after nearly eight years of their commencement of production, the industries have not produced the desired result as is evident from the RTI findings,” the letter said.

Syiem also said the revenue generated to the state had so far been negative after deducting the state’s subsidies given to these industries.

“While employment for locals in the industries is negligible, the most negative impact on the environment caused by these industries is the rampant felling of trees for producing charcoal to the tune of more than half a million metric tonnes in less than eight years,” he said.

“If no action is taken at the earliest, Meghalaya will soon be without any forest cover, spelling doom for the whole state in many aspects,” Syiem said.

“Therefore, on behalf of all citizens of Meghalaya, we strongly seek your immediate intervention to save our state from an impending catastrophe,” he said in the letter.

In September, the Mait Shaphrang Movement unearthed huge irregularities in the functioning of charcoal-based industries in the state that use charcoal after cutting down trees, violating the Supreme Court order.

The government also incurred loss of revenue by granting permission to these industries to set up ferro-alloy units with huge financial subsidies.

According to the RTI findings, the Movement had revealed that the state government was giving subsidy to as many as 11 charcoal-based industries set up in Ri Bhoi district without any profit.

The findings also indicated that the forest cover in West Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi and Jaintia Hills were denuded because of rampant felling of trees to provide charcoal to the industries.

Women of Nongkhlieh file petition with CM
Written by the Editor
Friday, 12 November 2010 04:36
Meghalaya Times
Saajeki Passah

Jowai, Nov. 11:
The people of Nongkhlieh Elaka have sent numerous petitions to the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council, Jowai, voicing their protest against Lafarge India Pvt Ltd. On March 25 this year, a petition was filed with the chief executive member, JHADC, demanding the council not to issue a no objection certificate to the company. The council, however, went ahead and issued it on November 8 last.

The dalloi of Elaka Nongkhlieh, Na-u-I Kyrmen Sukhlain, issued an NOC to the company in March this year without the consent of the people.

On August 11 last, a letter to the secretary of the Executive Committee of the JHADC was sent reminding the council of the people’s opposition against the plans of Lafarge to set up a mining plant in the elaka.

In August 29, 2010, a complaint was filed with the JHADC executive member in-charge Land and Revenue, demanding him to stop the council’s land measurements meant for patta.

On Thursday, the womenfolk of the elaka went a step further, submitting a petition to Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Sangma, requesting him to take immediate action against the plans of Lafarge. “The Executive Committee led by Hambertus Nongtdu has made its intention very clear to give the NOC to Lafarge India Pvt Ltd to set up its cement plant, carry out mining activities and land transfer,” said the petition.

The petition said that the people of Elaka Nongkhlieh are a peaceful farming community who depend on the forest and agricultural lands for livelihood and everyday needs.

“The people of Nongkhlieh Elaka are among the few who understand that mining can only lead to the death of our land and our people and till date, we have opposed any mining proposals by any individual or companies. Our lives are not without hardships but the strength and unity of our community has seen us through many challenges.

“Recently this unity and peace is being corrupted with the greed fed by Lafarge,” said the petition.

It may be mentioned that the proposed plant will take up about 500 hectares of community land including forest, grazing lands and agricultural lands. “Our land is as important as the air we breathe. We will cease to exist without it,” said the petition.

“The transferring of our lands to Lafarge India Pvt. Ltd. by the dalloi of Nongkhlieh Elaka and the JHADC has been undemocratically and forcefully done without the consent of the people of Nongkhlieh Elaka.

“This has led to some violent incidents in some of our villages as the minor pro-Lafarge group is carrying out intimidation tactics against the majority who are against Lafarge,” the statement said.

“As women and mothers of Nongkhlieh Elaka, we do not wish to see our sons, brothers and husbands lose their lives over this transgression by the dolloi, the JHADC and Lafarge,” it added.

The petition filed on Thursday contained about 500 signatures from women inhabiting different villages in the elaka.

It may be mentioned here that out of the 10 villages, nine are against Lafarge. They are Daistong, Loomthari, Khaidong, Chnong Thymme, Chnong Rim, Moolasngi, LoomTongseng, Loom Bangla and Bomkhoosngi.

The dolloi’s secretary, Planning Bareh, along with some others, had on Wedensday last said that the NOC given to Lafarge was done after taking a collective decision at the dorbar and that the elaka has signed a 30-point memorandum of understanding taking into consideration environmental factors, employment opportunities and development of infrastructure.

The group accompanied the dalloi also said that locals would enjoy the benefit of supply of stone chips and limestone at 40 percent of the company’s total requirements. They would also receive preference in contract works and added that the elaka would receive Rs five crore per year from the company, the amount of which would be equally distributed to the households. The amount would accordingly be revised after every three years or so.

At the time of issue of the MoU, an advance of Rs four lakh was paid. Prior to that, five high officials of the company arrived at the elaka on March 12, they informed.

Copies of the petition by the womenfolk were also sent to Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Envirnment and Forest, secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, minister in-charge Mining and Mineral Resource, Government of Meghalaya, and minister in-charge Forest, Government of Meghalaya.

The letter was also forwarded to various environmental organisations including the Center for Science and Environment, Green Peace India, MC Mehta Environmental Foundation, Dr. Jayant Biswas, president, National Cave Research and Protection Organization, India.

Jairam urged not to give clearance
to cement plant in Jaintia Hills
Meghalaya Guardian
GUARDIAN NEWS BUREAU SHILLONG, NOV 10: A well known citizen of Jaintia hills district and a freelancer, Hamkhein Helpme Mohrmen has urged the Union Minister of Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh not to entertain the Lafarge cement company by not issuing the environmental clearance for its proposed cement plant at Nongkhlieh Elaka in Jaintia Hills district.

Submitting a memoran- dum on Wednesday, Mohrmen stated that the reason not to issue the clearance on ground that the proposed site for the setting up of the plant is very close to the two Reserve Forests – Narpuh and Saipung reserve forest which the state department of forest has proposed to convert the forest to a sanctuary while adding the site is also a forest covered area.

Pointing out that the proposed site of the plant is located on the upstream of the Letein valley which is the rice bowl of the people of the area, Mohrmen said, ‘ if the company is allowed to go ahead with the project, it is going to affect the livelihood of the people’. Recently the villagers from the Elaka have protested against the plan to set up the cement plant but the Jaintia Hills District Council along with the local tribal head turned their deaf ear to the cry of the local people, he informed.

Nongkhlieh ridge is blessed with network of caves which are not found elsewhere in the world, Mohrmen said that the Nongkhlieh elaka area which is only about 30 sq kilometers has 145 km cave passages that has been surveyed and mapped as a place with a high density of cave where in 1 sq km, there are 5 km of cave passages.

The caves are ancient and the area is also in procession of Krem Liatprah the length of which is 31 kilometer and is the long longest cave in the Indian Sub continent. The cave in Nongkhlieh is also unique because it is one of the few places in the whole world where cavers found new species of rare fish which has been documented by the Meghalaya Adventure Association. The species are unique not found anywhere else in the world. In addition to this, he said, ‘ Jaintia Hills District already had more than its due share of cement plants which came to setup shop in the district, already 9 plants are in production of these 8 are in the area within the radius of 5 kilometers and constructed in the forested area in contravention of the Environmental Act. These plants are also less than 5 kilometers by radius from the Narpuh Reserve Forest’, he added. Historically Nongkhlieh is also important because of the ‘ Kut Sutiang’ ( Sutiang Ford) where the Jaintia freedom fighter fought the last battle against the British soldiers. Keeping in mind the importance of preserving the caves and environment, Mohrmen requested the Union Minister to take up the matter and not to issue the environmental clearance to the Lafarge Company in its propose setting up of the cement plant in Nongkhlieh Elaka.

Activist requests non-issuance of environmental clearance
Written by the Editor

Meghalaya Times
Thursday, 11 November 2010 05:08

Activist requests non-issuance of environmental clearance,Ramesh’s intervention sought for Elaka Nongkhlieh

Sajeki Passah

Jowai, Nov. 10: Opposition against the plans of Lafarge India Pvt Lt to set up a limestone plant at Elaka Nongkhlieh appears to be gaining ground, ever since a no objection certificate was issued by the elaka to the company.

On Wednesday, a letter requesting Union Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, not to issue environmental clearance to Lafarge, was sent by environmental activist and columnist, HH Mohrmen, from Riat Sasim, Jowai.

The letter stated that “the proposed site of the plant is very close to the Narpuh Reserve Forest and the Saipung Reserve Forest. The same is proposed by the Department of Forest, Government of Meghalaya, to be converted into a sanctuary”, and that the proposed site for the plant is also a forest area.

Villagers of Elaka Nongkhlieh who recently took out a protest against the company, said: “We cultivate in Pynthor Letein, we collect wild vegetables and fruits from the forest, so we will oppose any company come what may.”

The proposed site of the plant is located on the upstream of Pynthor Letein valley which is the rice bowl of the people of the area. If clearance is issued to Lafarge, it is likely to affect their livelihood.

Pynthor Letein valley is the most fertile in the district and only the people of the elaka are able to use it. “We want to oppose the issuance of the NOC because we want to protect ourselves and our children who will be farming from the same lands. Once stone is mined from the area, all of this will come to an end,” said a secretary of a village, H. Patwet.

It may be mentioned that though the villagers oppose the plan to set up a limestone plant, the Jaintia Hills District Autonomous Council along with the local tribal head, the dolloi of the elaka, turned a deaf ear.

“More importantly, the Nongkhlieh ridge is blessed with a network of caves which are not found elsewhere in the world. Elaka Nongkhlieh, the area of which is only about 30 sq km, has 145 km cave passages that have been surveyed and mapped, making Nongkhlieh a high density cave area. This means that for every one sq km, there are five km of cave passages,” the letter to Ramesh read.

“The caves are ancient and the area is also in possession of Krem Liatprah, the length of which is 31 km, and is the longest cave in the Indian subcontinent. The cave in Nongkhlieh is also unique because it is one of the few places in the whole world where cavers found new species of rare fishes which has been documented by the Meghalaya Adventure Association. The species are unique and are not found anywhere else in the world,” said the letter.

It added that the Jaintia Hills district already has its fair share of mining plants. Already, nine plants are in production. Of these, eight are in the area within the radius of five km and were constructed in the forest area, contravening environmental laws. These plants are also less than five km away by radius from Narpuh Reserve Forest.

Nongkhlieh also has its place in history as the ‘Kut Sutiang’ or the Sutiang Ford is situated in the area adjacent to the proposed site of Lafarge. It is in this ford that the Jaintia freedom fighters fought the last battle against the British soldiers.

The Shillong Times 09-11-10

JHADC clean chit to Lafarge

From Our Correspondent

JOWAI: The Hambertus Nongtdu-led Executive Committee (EC) of the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) has decided to issue NOC to Lafarge India Private Limited for the proposed setting-up of its cement plant at Elaka Nongkhlieh in Jaintia Hills district. Sources informed the EC decision was taken on Monday.

Hambertus Nongtdu informed the EC has directed the office to properly examine all relevant documents submitted by the cement company before issuing the NOC.

“We have decided to grant the NOC and the EC has directed the concerned JHADC department to properly examine all relevant documents before issuing it,” one Executive Member said.

Lafarge had proposed to set up cements plants with production capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum at a project cost of approximately Rs 1000 crore.

The company also proposed to set up a 40-megawatt captive power plant.

The Hambertus-led Executive Committee decided to issue the NOC despite strong opposition from villagers of Elaka Nongkhlieh under the banner of ‘Ka Synjuk ki Shnong Nongkhlieh’ (SKSN).

On Thursday last, hundreds of villagers took to the streets to demonstrate against the proposal of setting up the cement plant in Elaka Nongkhlieh. Various Jaintia Hills-based NGOs, including KSU, FKJGP, AJYWO and others, also oppose the cement plant venture.

Shillong Times 05-11-2010

Protest against cement plant

From Our Correspondent

JOWAI: Hundreds of villagers took to the streets on Thursday to protest against the setting up of a Lafarge India Pvt Ltd cement plant at Nongkhlieh.

The villagers also condemned the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (JHADC) and the Dolloi of the Elaka for allegedly issuing a no objection certificate (NOC) to the cement company without their consent.

“People of Nongkhlieh will not allow any company to set up cement plants in the Elaka,” a resident of Nongkhlieh said, adding the Dolloi along with a few businessmen had issued the NOC to Lafarge India without the knowledge of the people.

The chairman of the Synjuk ki Shnong Nongkhlieh (SKSN), Shedwik Bareh, strongly condemned the JHADC for siding with the company.

“If we allow Lafarge India Pvt Ltd to set up their cement plant here, our land, forest and the health condition of the local people will be greatly affected and the future of our children will be dark,” Millan Paslein said, adding that the SKSN will strongly object to any proposal for setting up cement plants within Nongkhlieh and the district, in the near future.

“We are blessed with the most fertile valley – Letein Valley. If we allow the cement company to set up its cement plant, all our cultivated land including paddy fields would be destroyed and the people would be severely affected,” the Nongkhlieh women’s organisation (Seng Kynthei) president, Jubilant Sukhlain, said.

However, one official of Lafarge India, Unni Khrisnan, said, “We are not acquiring or using any cultivable land or paddy field; our mining area is on a barren hill, which is about 90 feet from the paddy field. It will not affect any cultivable land.”

“We are not going to disturb any environment and we have also offered Rs 5 crore annually to the Elaka and the same will be enhanced by Rs 10 lakh after every five years,” he added.

“We have not started any thing there yet. Only after obtaining environmental clearance we will start our project,” he added further.

Dalloi’s removal demanded
Written by the Editor Friday, 05 November 2010 06:03

Meghalaya Times

Sajeki Passah

Jowai, Nov. 04:The cries of the people of Elaka Nongkhlieh voiced against the setting up of Lafarge Cement Manufacturing Co in the elaka, usually falls on the deaf ears of the government and the Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council. On Thursday, people of the elaka came out in large numbers to protest against the company and its plans to set up shop there by shouting slogans and carrying black flags and placards.

The people of the elaka have been demanding the chief executive member of the JHADC to withdraw the NOC issued by it to the company to set up a manufacturing unit for mining activities since early this year.

The NOC issued for mining limestone is applicable to Synrang Nohkso, Khim Pynam, Umrap, Langchrieh to Korhati (Lumsarman) areas.

Nine villages out of 10 in the elaka oppose the setting up of the unit citing environmental concerns as the proposed mining site and unit would be situated right at the community forest, agricultural and grazing lands.

“We have been using these lands for generations and if the company comes, we will lose all of them right from the forest, agricultural and grazing lands,” said Milan Paslein from Chnongrim.

The headmen of the nine villages had also sent a letter to the secretary, Executive Committee, JHADC, on August 11 this year, reminding the council about their opposition to the plan.

The letter also stated that during a public hearing chaired by the dalloi of the elaka, the dalloi did not allow anyone to air their grievances and instead went ahead with issuing the NOC from the elaka without consulting the people.

“We have also issued a complaint against the dalloi with the district council, demanding that he step down or be removed,” the headmen said.

Regarding reports stating that the company was willing to pay crores of rupees to the elaka, a member of the Sein Kynthai Elaka Nongkhlieh, said: “Even if they pay us money, it will not be enough because it cannot buy life. We have seen what mining has done.”

On October 5 last, four Lafarge sympathizers were seriously injured when they were attacked by unknown people while returning from Chnongrim after allegedly causing damage to a house and threatening the owner, who is said to be against Lafarge.

Regarding the coming up of various cement manufacturing companies in the district, the people in one voice said: “The area of the elaka is already very small so if they come we will have nowhere to go. No matter which company comes, we will protest for our interest.”

It is learnt that a team from the district council planned to visit the elaka and measure the area and location of land proposed for the establishment of the unit. However, the team returned back after receiving information that the people of the elaka had come out in protest.

“If they get to set up the factory here, the poor, who depend on agriculture, food and water, will lose out and all because the dalloi has already issued the NOC which is against the will of the people of the nine villages,” said a village headman.

According to the Synjuk ki Rangbah Chnong, Elaka Nongkhlieh, till date, about 95 percent of the people of the elaka is against the company.

Earlier, it was reported that farmlands and forests in the elaka belong to the elaka and the people. It was also reported that anyone from the elaka is able to utilize the lands which is not to be handed over to any private company and other individuals, as per the customary practice of the people.

Now if the JHADC is meant to protect the rights of the locals, is this how it operates?

Coal mining policy to be New Year gift

Written by the Editor Monday, 01 November 2010 05:16 Meghalaya Times

Staff Reporter

Shillong, Oct. 31: Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Mining & Geology, Bindo M. Lanong, has informed Meghalaya Times that he plans to bring out the new coal mining policy as a New Year gift.

“The new policy will prove beneficial for the people, coal mine owners, stakeholders, and also for the government,” he said.

Last week, the committee drafting the Meghalaya Mining Policy met to examine all the suggestions given to it by various stakeholders involved in mining on September 13 this year. The stakeholders had met the government to discuss their apprehensions and also put forth a few suggestions, which Lanong said was a free and frank discussion.

Lanong also said that the policy was not due to any pressure but was government’s responsibility. “The government decided to come up with the mining policy after reports of indiscriminate mining polluting nearby water bodies and aquatic life and disrupting the environment.”

“We thought this cannot go on. We need to have a policy that can streamline the mining process in the state. Even if it is not fully scientific, it will in some way, streamline the approach,” he said.

Last year, a committee of experts from various government departments including Forest, and Mining and Geology, sat down and prepared a graph for the draft policy.

The committee will meet again on November 19 next. Lanong expressed hope that this will be the final sitting, after which the policy will be finalized and presented by the new year.

On the policy, Lanong said: “We have incorporated all aspects including land, Forest Act, pollution aspect, health aspects and so on. We have also taken note of the matter concerning mining, trading and coordination among other developers.”

He further explained that the policy had taken special note of the Forest Act according to which mining is not allowed in forest areas. He has also warned miners to strictly follow the laws against pollution.

Taking note of illegal quartz mining in the state, Lanong said that the policy will cover all minerals. “Even without the policy in place, various policies of concerned departments were already in place to tackle the issues,” he added.

He, however, refrained from speaking much on child labour. He said that for this particular issue, the policy did not directly address it as there were various child and labour laws already in place.


Permalink Leave a Comment