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Water raises concern

Shillong, March 12: Cutting across party lines, Meghalaya legislators today expressed concern over water contamination because of unscientific coal mining in Jaintia Hills.

Paul Lyngdoh of UDP, a key ally in the Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government, said the Meghalaya Pollution Control Board’s report, which pointed out that the water in and around the coal mining areas was not fit for consumption at any point of time, was disturbing.

He asked the government what measures it was taking to contain the pollution of water bodies. He said there was an urgent need to contain acid mine drainage (outflow of acid water from coal mines) to the rivers which has resulted in the death of fishes.

He pointed out that the report had suggested active or passive treatment of such drainage. The active treatment will involve installing a water treatment plant, where the acid mine drainage is first dosed with lime to neutralise the acid and then passed through a settling tank to remove the sediments. Passive treatment aims at developing a self-operating system that can treat the effluents without constant human intervention, he said, quoting the report.

Leader of the Opposition Conrad Sangma (NCP) said several cases of cancer were reported from a locality at Jowai in Jaintia Hills and added that environment pollution could be the reason for this.

He asked the government to install water treatment plants to contain water contamination in Jaintia Hills.

James Sangma of the NCP also wanted to know how the government planned to resurrect the dead rivers of Jaintia Hills.

Forest and environment minister Prestone Tynsong replied that the government would conduct awareness programmes to educate mine owners, miners and mine-dependent population on the ill-effects of unscientific treatment and storage of coal.

“All large, medium and small industries are regulated by the government under relevant laws and rules,” he said.

The minister said all industries needed to obtain certificates from the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board before being set up or starting operations as a measure towards pollution control. “Regular checks are conducted on sources of potable water. If any contamination is found, the source of drinking water supply is shifted,” he added.

Tynsong said the government had entered into agreements with traditional institutions like dorbars to protect the sources of drinking water to ensure their longevity.