Subcontinent's longest cave found in Meghalaya

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  • Published 3.03.06

Shillong, March 3: An international team of experts has discovered the longest cave system of the subcontinent in Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills, surpassing the record of the previously known one by almost a km in the same district.

“The linking of the Krem Um Im-Liat Prah limestone cave system to Krem Labbit (Khaidong) to create a single cave system of 22 km in length is the longest cave known to date in the subcontinent,” the team members said at a news conference today.

This finding surpasses the previous record of the longest cave system in the subcontinent ? the Kotsati-Umlawam in Lumshnong measuring 21.56 km, said B.D. Kharpran Dally, a reputed speleologist in Meghalaya.

The 28-member team, comprising 17 members from the UK, two each from Switzerland and Denmark, one each from Austria and Ireland and five from India, spent three-and-a-half weeks in the district focussing on the cave areas of Shnongrim ridge near the Nongkhlieh area.

The experts explored 39 caves between February 7 and March 1, mapped and photographed them to discover 15,498 metres of new cave passages.

Of the 39 caves mapped, 36 were entirely new. Only three were partially explored in previous years, Dally said. Terence M. Whitaker, a research biologist from the UK and a team member, said Jaintia Hills district has the highest concentration of caves in the subcontinent. Exploration of these would reveal new species of aqua animals, he added.

The speleologists said till date the whereabouts of over 1,060 caves were known, of which 629 were explored to yield over 295 km of surveyed cave passages.

Most of the caves found in the Jaintia Hills district have impressive river pathways mixed with huge fossil passage that created these systems, comparable in size and beauty to any other found elsewhere in the world.

However, the largescale limestone mining in the vicinity of the caves to set up cement plants was a matter of grave concern, they said.

“We have sent a representation to the Union forest and environment ministry and the state government, drawing their attention to the destruction of the precious caves in the area due to limestone mining. But there is no result as yet,” said Daly, winner of the Centre’s Tenzing Norgay Memorial Adventure award.

Whitaker said the team was shocked to see the devastation of the caves by limestone mining.