The Telegraph Calcutta, India - March 19, 2005    Conservation Section Home




Experts to look into Meghalaya cave row


Shillong, March 18: Experts from the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), Nagpur arrived in the city today to investigate the controversy over the destruction of India’s longest cave, Krem Kotsati in Lumshnong, by cement factories.

In answer to a starred question by ruling coalition MLA P.T. Sawkmie, Meghalaya chief minister D.D. Lapang told the Assembly today that representatives of the IBM were in Shillong for an inquiry. He added that last month his government had requested the IMB to depute some experts to conduct the inquiry.

The chief minister assured that the inquiry would provide “the most authentic report.”

However, even as Lapang said the IBM would start the inquiry soon, he said his government would prefer the state’s development to saving the caves in Meghalaya. Lapang’s volte face on the caves has come as a surprise to many and invited sharp criticism from the Opposition. A couple of months back Lapang had gone on record saying he would ensure that development was not at the cost of the environment.

Ruling MDA members like Pynshai Manik Syiem said if the caves in Lumshnong were of national importance, then under Article 49 of the Constitution it would be obligatory on the part of the state to protect every such monument.

Earlier, Lapang placed on the floor of the House an inquiry report by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board. Interestingly, the board’s report mentions that the Cement Manufacturing Company Limited, one of the offending factories, had been categorically asked to use scientific and latest mining technologies and to operate pollution control devices regularly.

In a separate development, the villagers of Lumshnong have written to local MLA Nehlang Lyngdoh and complained about pollution and blockage of water sources by debris from limestone quarries, besides excessive air and noise pollution from blasting operations.