The Telegraph
Monday , March 3 , 2014
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Cavers ring alarm bells Mining harms longest cave

- Cavers ring alarm bells

Shillong, March 2: Cavers have discovered that coal mining has adversely affected India’s longest cave Krem Liat Prah located in Nongkhlieh area of Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district.

Krem is the Khasi word for cave. Liat Prah is the longest natural cave in India. It is also one of approximately 150 known caves in the Shnongrim ridge of the Jaintia hills region of Meghalaya. Its main feature is its enormous trunk passage, the Aircraft Hangar.

Under the aegis of the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA), around 30 cavers from places like England, The Netherlands, Finland, Scotland, New Zealand, Romania and also from India undertook a caving expedition from February 3-27. The areas the cavers covered include Lakadong, Bataw, Borkhat and Kharkhana.

MAA general secretary Brian D. Kharpran Daly said coal mining in Nongkhlieh area had drastically affected Krem Liat Prah and Krem Rubon. Miners had allegedly dug the “black diamond” from an area located above Liat Prah.

Repeatedly, cavers have come down heavily upon coal miners for showing complete disregard to caves in their quest for the “black diamond”, which has not only brought wealth, but also misery because of the unscientific kind of mining that is being practised.

There are at least 1,500 caves in Meghalaya, and out of this, around 900 have been wholly or partially explored and mapped. Ironically, Jaintia hills, which is the turf of the “black diamond”, is home to the highest number of caves.

Before undertaking the 24-day expedition to Lakadong, Borkhat and Kharkhana area, the team had visited Nongkhlieh.

Daly said the government had earlier been petitioned to take concrete steps for the protection of the caves in the Nongkhlieh zone. However, the response has been inadequate even though the Nongkhlieh zone has the largest number of caves in Meghalaya.

“We have lost some of the caves located in the Narpuh area because of the cement factories. Therefore, we do not want to see the caves in the Nongkhlieh zone to meet the same fate. We have to protect them,” Daly said.

He demanded that the government should implement the Meghalaya Mines and Minerals Policy, 2012, which is still lying stagnant even after nearly two years since it was approved by the state cabinet.

According to the policy, the government has pledged that it shall make all endeavours to maintain and protect the unique caves in the state.

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