Unscientific mining affecting Meghalaya environment

October 23rd, 2008 - 9:31 am ICT by IANS  

Shillong, Oct 23 (IANS) Random mining carried out in an unscientific manner in Meghalaya has led to severe degradation of the environment there, according to a new study.”Considerable portions of the state’s Jaintia Hills, which have over 46 percent forest cover, have been turned into degraded land due to extensive mining,” said the report of the study carried out by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

The report, released by Meghalaya Governor R.S. Mooshahary in Shillong this week, said: “Besides the forests, the region’s water bodies are bearing the brunt of the unscientific and highly unsafe method of mining.”

According to the report, the northeast accounts for about five percent of the minerals produced in India. The region also holds a sizeable share of the total area under mining leases - in Meghalaya, about 4,177 hectares (0.67 percent of India’s total) is under mining leases while Assam has 1,294 hectares (0.21 percent).

“A variety of reasons makes mineral exploration in the region a complex process, with very high environmental and social impacts, besides forest resources,” said Sunita Narain, director, CSE.

Quoting the report she said,: “In all the places, the water was found to be highly acidic, with a pH below 4. Acidic water is directly injurious to aquatic flora and fauna. The CSE team found that most of the water bodies in the region had no aquatic life.

“The coal mining in Meghalaya is not only unscientific, there is no post-mining treatment and poor management of the mined areas and the mines are not registered while mine deaths - which go almost totally unreported - are common.”

Meghalaya has lately been in the limelight for its proposed uranium mining project. The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) had proposed a Rs.10.46 billion open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Domiasiat in the West Khasi Hills district of the state having an estimated deposit of 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore.

However, the UCIL had failed to make any progress to convince the state government, political parties and anti-mining groups.

After releasing the report Mooshahary expressed surprise at the government’s silence over the rat hole, unhealthy environment and land degrading coal mining practices carried out in the coal belt areas.

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