National Green Tribunal ban fails to stop sand mining in Meghalaya

SHILLONG, Aug 12 : Sand mining in Meghalaya, which has no mining policy yet, is rampant despite the recent ban imposed by National Green Tribunal across the country on mining or removal of sand from river beds.

Hills are being mercilessly razed to the ground in Meghalaya, especially along the rivers, for quarrying of stones and sand, destroying the unique flora and fauna and sources of water in the process. The NGT’s recent directive was prompted by the suspension of Durga Shakti Nagpal, an IAS officer, who had taken on the sand mafia in Uttar Pradesh. Nevertheless, the Meghalaya government seems to be least bothered in implementing the NGT order with sand banking unabated along the hill streams and rivers.

“River quarrying might lead to a catastrophy in Meghalaya like Uttarakhand if immediate measures are not taken to check the menace,” says eminent environmentalist and president of Meghalaya People’s Environment Rights Forum (MPERF) Naba Bhattacharjee.

Pointing out large-scale mining of limestone and coal in the Jaintia and Garo Hills of the state in gross violation of the Forest Regulation Act, Bhattacharjee said government officials who have connived in the plunder of natural resources should also be taken to task.

Saying that the state government has taken no initiative to regulate rampant mining in Meghalaya, he added that MPERF would be compelled to file a leave petition in Supreme Court if the state fails to comply within 90 days from the date of the order.

Observing that the state government has always cited that it has control over only 5 per cent of the land, while the remaining 95 per cent is in private occupation, Bhattacharjee said this was a “lame excuse” as there was enough provision in the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills Autonomous District Council (Management and Control of Forests) Act, 1958 for the district councils to act in case of environmental