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Mushrooming of illegal stone quarry in Garo Hills

Updated:2009-11-09 13:47:23

In some places, the road has almost vanished altogether and nobody will be able to recognize it as a National Highway. The huge potholes are a testimony of the lack of initiative to improve the road condition in this remote region of North East India.
The normal flow of streams and rivulets interfered by extensive stone cutting activity have resulted in gullies channeling flash floods wiping out portions of the National Highway during the monsoon.
The Rongdong waterfall, a source of water for Baghmara in South Garo Hills broke leading to the disruption in the area. The main reason for this can be attributed to as many as six stone quarries dotting along the stream.
The stone cutting in the area as well as in many other places in Garo Hills is playing a pivotal role in diverting rivulets and streams thereby hastening the process of soil degradation at an alarming rate. This is also causing extensive soil erosion resulting in landslides during monsoon disrupting highway movement.
The stone quarries are also prevalent in urban area like Tura, a major hub of business, government establishments, education and cultural centre of Garo Hills in Meghalaya. Just 3 kms away from the main town towards the south along Dalu road a stone quarry is found along the highway.
Here you will find that the towering hills have been decimated into barren mounds of earth. Every year this area is the first to be affected by heavy downpours during the monsoon. Landslides occurs at large scales in this area blocking roads and affecting traffic to and from Dalu and Baghmara.
Talking to North East Sun people from Chengkurigre and Bolpu Chiring informed that around sixty plus households from the two villages were cutting stones from the area.
“We cut stones from this area with the permission from its Nokma (village head), Dibonsing. As we don’t have any other means of livelihood the Nokma leased out his land to us on the agreement that we pay him royalty from our annual earnings we pay him and he is happy”, said Kennedy M Marak, a resident of Bolpu Chiring.
While these people may not know the impact of their trade on the environment it came as a shock when villagers from the other village, Chengkurigre, informed that even government servants of that area were engaged in this trade during their spare time.
“Give or take, around 420 villagers cut stones from these hills, why even salaried persons from our villages who work in government offices in Tura cut stones in their spare time. We used to cut stones downstream but as boulders became hard to find we shifted to the sides of these hills,” said Jose D Sangma, another villager.
Unregulated stone quarrying like these pock marking the hillsides, streams and rivulets of Garo Hills can and have changed the entire topography areas once abundant in lush green vegetation. No one can deny the fact that stone quarrying is an essential industry necessary for producing construction material.
Garo Hills falls under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which means that all queries and reservations concerning mining undoubtedly falls on the Nokma or the village Headman. However, given the fact that extensive stone quarrying in Garo Hills is changing the topography of Garo Hills for the worse isn’t it high time the Government to initiate measures to minimise the impact of  stone cutting on the environment by organising workshops, awareness programmes etc or other means to educate the masses regarding the subject?




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