Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Mining versus environment

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Editor,

We were somewhat surprised to read the article “Protests against illegal coal mining should be pragmatic” (ST 05 May 11) authored by one Jentilla R Marak. The unconnectedness of the narrative apart from the massacre of the English language that the author undertakes is far from the editorial quality that we have come to expect from your publication. We are however, not surprised at the allegations that Jentilla has made and are happy to share the following facts with the readers. In addition we welcome further debate on this subject that is important to the future of the indigenous people of our state. I welcome interaction with readers as would like to share additional information about Samrakshan’s conservation work through email on [email protected]. The following facts are pertinent:

  1. The activities opposing mining have been undertaken by the Garo Hills Anti mining and conservation forum – a consortium of 13 civil society groups from across the Garo Hills that has stood up against the illegal and harmful impacts of mining in our society. Samrakshan is a supporter and a part of this forum.
  2. In order to provide alternatives to destructive mining and to demonstrate that income can be derived from conservation of forests rather than their destruction, Samrakshan has initiated nature based tourism enterprises in Gongrot and Siju. Presumably it is the Gongrot enterprise that the author is referring to when she mentions about the “construction of three to four houses for their project”. The nature based tourism initiative has been undertaken with full knowledge and participation of the local authorities as well as the Nokma. An MoU to this effect exists between the concerned parties. The tourism initiative has been a resounding success and has put Garo Hills on the butterfly tourism map of India. It now attracts niche tourists who specialize in observing the rich diversity of butterflies found in our region. This way, Samrakshan has converted the vast tourism potential of the region into reality – something that has only been talked about so far. The Eco-tourism initiative is run by local villagers and is still operating out of the above mentioned structures with support of the village as a whole. Samrakshan also established an NTFP (Non Timber Forest Produce) value addition centre at Wagekona Gittim in Panda Aking to provide an additional income source to villages in the vicinity that are carrying out effective community based conservation of their forests. Plans are on to establish a sub-center at Chimitap Aking to serve Akings in that region.
  3. The author makes another faux pas with the following line “The Supreme Court panel Padmaparna Ghosh clarified on April 03, 2010 that ‘due to the provisions of the Sixth Schedule, the state’s land laws vary from the rest of the country”. The author is clearly ignorant about the law, as well as the English language. Padmaparna Ghosh is a reporter with a national newspaper called the Mint. The Supreme court panel is a body of experts that has been set up by the SC of India in order to deal with matters concerning forests and wildlife. The two are not connected. She is presumably referring to an article that Ms. Ghosh published on 3 April 2010 (available here http://www.livemint.com/2010/04/03001729/Illegal-coal-mining-in-Meghala.html).

Quite contrary to the misinformation that the author conveys to the readers of the Shillong Times, the article in fact states – to quote from the article – “A Supreme Court committee on forests has asked for an end to unauthorized coal mining near protected areas in Meghalaya.”

This is in fact the opening line of the article, which goes on to describe the petition filed by the Garo Students’ Union in the SC on the subject of proposed mining in Gongrot. Jentilla seems to deliberately want to take your readers on a fishing expedition and that too based on myths that exist only in her creative imagination. We of course welcome a serious discussion on tackling illegal private mining that is fast destroying the fabric of our state. In fact Samrkashan has taken a lead in advocating this at the state level as well as supporting people’s resistance against such mining in the South Garo Hills.

It’s high time that  along the lines of Samrakshan’s humble sustainable livelihood initiatives government agencies, NGOs, civil society organistions and concerned citizens like Jentilla Marak work towards the increased provision of and support for sustainable livelihood avenues to the local communities in Garo Hills in general and Meghalaya as a whole.

Samrakshan is committed to this and has in fact been practicing this in the South Garo Hills over the last seven years. We invite others to join our initiatives.

Yours etc,
Kamal Medhi
Team Leader, Samrakshan Trust, Baghmara, Dist South Garo Hills
Email:[email protected]

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