Anti-Umngot dam voice grows louder

Locals disrupt public hearing called by MSPCB

SHILLONG, April 8: Pressure is growing on Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) and the state government to scrap the proposed construction of a mega dam on the Umngot river, with locals on Thursday preventing the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) from conducting a public hearing on the project at Siangkhnai village in East Khasi Hills.
Hundreds of residents of Umsawwar, Mawsir, Mawdulop, Ksangrngi, Jatah Nonglyer, Jatah Lakadong, Mawlong, Mawjatap and adjoining villages — under the banner of Ka Kynhun Ki Nongrep Harud Wah Umngot — prevented officers of MeECL, MSPCB and the district administration from going to Siangkhnai village for the proposed public hearing.
The Elaka Darrang has decided to shut down tourist spots around Darrang, Shnongpdeng and Dawki on April 9 and urged the residents to attend the public hearing at Moosakhia to show their protest.
The State Pollution Control Board has scheduled another public hearing for the 210 MW Umngot mega dam project at Moosakhia in West Jaintia Hills district on April 9.
The locals fear that if the project is allowed to proceed, it would cause irreparable losses by wiping out Shnongpdeng and Dawki from the tourism map, besides uprooting numerous villages on the lower slopes of the Umngot.
13 villages located in West Jaintia Hills and East Khasi Hills, are likely to lose some 296 hectares of land due to submergence according to the project documents.
Incidentally, residents of Nohron, Syntung, Jatah Nonglyer, Siangkhnai Nonghulew and some other villages have spoken up in support of the mega dam project.
Meanwhile, joining the anti-dam camp, the Mahila Congress and Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) have asked the state government to scrap the proposal with immediate effect.
TUR member, Angela Rangad today said that they have decided to support the farmers and residents of villages under Raid Lyngshing and those located near the Umngot river in opposing the public hearing proposed by MSPCB.
The Meghalaya Pradesh Mahila Congress also voiced its opposition to the mega dam on Umngot.
“The gradual landlessness of our farmers is an important aspect that the state and society should look at from the socio-economic viewpoint and not just from a commercial point” Mahila Congress president, Joplyn Scott Shylla said  said while adding that the proposed project will lead to destruction of the eco-system and greatly impact the environment that thrives from it.
She feared that it will not only lead to environmental degradation but will also impact a number of villages downstream who depend on this mighty river for their livelihood.
According to her, villages like Umsawwar, Darrang, Amkoi, Shnongpdeng and Dawki which depend on tourism activities for their livelihood would be immensely impacted by this proposed project.
“The Meghalaya Pradesh Mahila Congress opposes the adamant attitude of the government and its authorities who want to go against the will of the communities and the population who understand their needs and livelihood better,” she added.

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