Sunday, February 22, 2009

Water crisis in the villages on the Nongkhlieh ridges

Caves photo are copyrighted property
Elaka Nongkhlieh which lies to the east of Jowai under the Saipung Block is one of the most neglected areas on the District but recently the area receives tremendous attention due to two reasons. The area under the Nongkhlieh ridge is unique because it has the highest density of caves and the area also boast to have in its procession the longest and the deepest cave in the country. The second reason is also because the Elaka has huge mineral reserves which consist of lime stones and coal deposits.

Children in Nongkhlieh particularly girls in the age 7 to 19 spend most of their waking time in collecting water. Wells near the village has dried out and only those on the lower slopes of the hills still have some water. Even from these wells, children have to wait for hours to fill one pot and after the tiresome business of collecting water; they have to climb steep hill with a vessel full with water on their head to reach home. Papun O. Sukhlein one of the oldest villager, said “during our childhood we never have any water problem whatsoever, because our hills were still covered with forest and huge trees but now the hills are barren he lamented.” The trees were cut to provide firewood for the migrant labourers who work in the mines in the lower slopes of the ridge. Ma K. Pajuh who also spoke to the scribe said “there were times when we do not take bath for weeks together because the water is so scarce.” Ioo Sukhlain a Shaktiman driver, whom we met while trying to fill the plastic water tanks (syntex) from a lake far from the village, said “we have to consume whatever water we can get even if we know that it is not fit for consumption.” Rich people were not affected by the water scarcity because they have vehicles to collect water for them from any distance, but it is the poor who have to bear the brunt.

Nongkhlieh ridge as the name itself implies is located on the top of the area surrounded by valleys on every sides. Even though the people of Nongkhlieh Elaka prohibit mining in the Elaka in any form, people living in the vicinity of the Elaka has started mining at the foot hills of the ridge. Ma Dot Phyrngap an elder in the Elaka said “ Till now the Elaka does not encourage people to register their land in the district council, because we still believe that the land belong to all the people and one owned the land only while one uses it. Once a person abandoned the land, it goes back to the Elaka and that same can be given to others.” He also said that “If we allow people to apply for Land Holding Certificate from the Council, only rich people will benefited from it while poor farmers will be deprived of their rights to land.”

It is tragic that even if there is no mining activity in Nongkhlieh till now, yet it was affected by the mining done on the lower slopes of its hills.

Brian Kharpran Daly, leader of the Meghalaya Adventure Association, who is currently camping in the area; when asked about the water crisis face by the Nongkhlieh Elaka, he said, the reason for scarcity of water is due rampant mining on the surrounding foot hills of the ridge. Simple hydrological knowledge tells us the once mining is started on the foot hills, water level will fall down. He also said that the coal mining process in the area also involved pumping out of water from the mines to facilitate mining, this not only draw the scarce commodity from underground, but it also polluted the surface water.”

1 comment:

anirban said...

On the issue, we should immediately write to the following persons:

1. Jairam Ramesh
Union Minister of Enviornment and Forest
Paryavaran Bhavan
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi - 110 003

2. The Secretary,
Ministry of Environment & Forests
Paryavaran Bhavan
CGO Complex, Lodhi Road
New Delhi - 110 003
Telephone:011- 24360605, 24360570, 24360519

NEW DELHI-110001
TEL: 011-23363221 & 23367943
FAX: 011- 23367946

4. Dr. Jayant Biswas,
National Cave Research and
Protection Organization, India
3/40 Civil Lines,
Raipur, 492001 C.G., INDIA
Mobile: 09301036370