Thursday, January 8, 2009

Elaka Nongkhlieh: The land of hundred caves

All Caves Photographs in this BLOG are copyrighted.
The Meghalaya Adventure Association on its objection to the proposed Cosmos cement Ltd at Nongkhlieh, described the caves in the area as ‘virtual capsules providing a uniquely preserved record of India’s past climates which could serve to give an indication of future world climatic condition.’ The Association also stated that ‘some of the caves in the area are so ancient and are therefore very important scientifically, as they were developed long before the valleys were cut. The pattern of cave development and location of the caves on Nongkhlieh ridge would provide an insight to the geological and geomorphological history of Meghalaya and Assam. But if the Cosmos cement Ltd, the government and the Meghalaya Pollution Control Board would have their way, on one fell swoop all this will be gone and lost forever.

The Nongkhlieh ridge with an area of approximately 30 square kilometer comprises of 10 villages which include Shnongrim, Khaidong, Bangla, Nongthymme, Moolesngi, Lumthari, Tongseng, Lelad, Tangnub and Nongkhlieh village. The Elaka already has a network of caves which is about 148 km long. Krem Liat-prah Um-im Labit system at 31 km is the longest in India and the deepest shaft cave in India is Krem Chrieh (Tangnub) at 97 metres. The Nongkhlieh Elaka literarily stands on network of hundreds of cave crisscrossing each other under the belly of the mother earth. MAA has simultaneously conducted Biospeleogy (study of cave dwelling fauna) and found that there is a great diversity of cave life and species in some of the caves. MAA categorically stated that any damage to the cave system would certainly destroy the fragile cave eco-system even if a large part of it is yet to be mapped and documented by the Association.

It is also ironic that while M.S. Swaminathan’s speech at the conclave at NEHU suggesting the need of ‘evergreen revolution in the north east’ was widely reported in the press, the policy makers in the state seems to forget Swaminathan’s power point presentation the moment the speaker resumed his sit. Even the young lady who shared the dais with him seems to be least bothered about his suggestion because before the speech by the eminent speaker even draw to a close, the MPA government co-led by her father has already dispatched puppet MSPCB members and officers from the district administration to conduct a public hearing for the propose setting up of Cosmos cement plant at Nongkhlieh.

The Kotsati, Umlawan and other cave system at Lumchnong, are lost forever, so, should the cave system on the Nongkhlieh ridge too be lost? Nongkhlieh is also famous becase of the Kut Sutiang where the Pnar Freedom fighter fought the last battle of independence against the British.

One hope that the concept of evergreen revolution; as suggested by the eminent scientist would not fell on deaf ears and government take up the matter of protecting the bio diversity hotspot like Nongkhlieh ridge, but sadly that was not to happen. The Nongkhlieh area is also unique because it is the source of the three main river system of Jaintia hills namely the Kupli, the Letein and the Lynju or Lukha.

It is expected that Agatha Sangma will walk the talk and make climate change an important issue in the MPA government and like the saying goes, ‘think globally act locally’ Agatha.