| Residents of Mawlai stop a garbage-laden truck of the Shillong Municipal Board on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, March 19: Shillong started to stink as a number of garbage-laden vehicles were stranded today following a protest by residents of Mawlai — where a trenching ground is located — against urban and municipal affairs minister M. Ampareen Lyngdoh’s controversial statement that Mawlai is a “slum”.
Later, Ampareen expressed “regret” for having hurt the sentiments of some members of the House. Enraged residents of Mawlai stopped a number of garbage-laden trucks of the Shillong Municipal Board from proceeding towards the Marten dumping yard at Mawlai Mawïong here on National Highway 40.
Mawlai is one of the five census towns of Shillong Urban Agglomeration apart from Nongthymmai, Madanrting, Pynthorumkhrah and Nongmensong. Each town is divided into a number of dorbar shnongs (areas) and each dorbar has a headman. A dorbar shnong looks after collection and transportation of solid waste generated in their localities.
However Nongmali, under Mawdatbaki dorbar shnong, is the only locality of Mawlai that falls under the jurisdiction of the municipal board. According to Meghalaya Municipal Act, the functions of the board include managing water supply, lighting, drainage, sanitation and other amenities required for collection, transportation and disposal of waste.
Angry residents along with members of some organisations from Mawlai — which comprised the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), Mawlai People’s Development Forum (MPDF), Hynñiewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF), Seng Samla Mawlai Pyllun (SSMP) and the Seng Samla Mawlai Mawdatbaki (SSMM) — stood on the highway at Mawlai and did not allow vehicles to carry garbage to the Marten dumping ground.
Municipal board officials were not available for comment. So it was not immediately known how many vehicles — both trucks and auto trucks — loaded with garbage were stranded.
The residents and members of the organisations even asked the drivers of the garbage-laden trucks to dump the waste at the residence of Ampareen at Laitumkhrah.
Some vehicles which collected waste from various localities of Mawlai were, however, allowed to proceed to the dumping ground.
Khasi Hills autonomous district council member from Mawlai and former legislator, Process T. Sawkmie, came to spot where residents and members of the organisations were protesting.
Sawkmie said the minister should apologise to the people of Mawlai and correct her statement if she had mistakenly uttered in the House that Mawlai is a slum.
He also felt that it is high time the government shifted the dumping ground from Mawlai to places identified as dumping sites and the government cannot brand entire Mawlai a “slum” just because Nongmali is under the Shillong Municipal Board.
He said he would work hard to bring back Nongmali to Mawlai constituency.
The president of Seng Samla Mawlai Mawdatbaki, W. Kharpran, said as a resident of Nongmali, he cannot accept that the locality is a slum and that the whole of Mawlai is a “slum” as claimed by the minister.
Demanding that Nongmali should no longer be under the municipal board, Kharpran said members of the autonomous district council should thoroughly discuss the issue on areas of jurisdiction by the district council and maintained that Nongmali is still part and parcel of the district council.
The residents of Mawlai and the members of the organisations said they would continue to disallow municipal vehicles and other waste-laden cars from outside Mawlai to dump the waste at Marten until the minister apologises.
KSU Mawlai president Donboklang Kharlyngdoh wanted to know from Ampareen on what basis the entire Mawlai area has been categorised as a “slum” and when such a survey was carried out.
“The government should have respected Mawlai and its people for allowing the government to have the dumping ground,” he said.
Contesting that Mawlai is not a slum, FKJGP president Marbud Dkhar sought to know from the minister the kind of measures taken to improve the situation at Mawlai after it was categorised as a “slum”.