MLA pleads for govt intervention to save rivers from certain death

SHILLONG, March 15: The critical condition of rivers of the state brought about by an onslaught of garbage dumping, indiscriminate mining and other factors, was taken up for discussion in the House on Tuesday through a call attention motion moved by Mawryngkneng MLA Pyniaid Sing Syiem who drew the attention of the state government on the sorry state of affairs of as much as 43% of the rivers and pleaded for stringent interventions to save them from dying.
“We are living in a state of paradox. On one hand, we have the rest of the country showering praises on our state for the crystal clear Umngot river while on the other hand, we have the Umkhen river, which is no longer a river and is slowly changing into a drain,” he said while raising the call attention motion on a report captioned “River Umkhen on its death throes: Does anyone care?” published by The Shillong Times and a similar report in another daily.
Stating that it is also the site where residents of the area dump their garbage, which then flows into the surrounding areas during the rainy season, he said that the residents of Thembasuk, Madanrting Block D and E and Jyntah have already raised concern about the pollution of the river and stated that it is no longer suitable to be used for any purpose.
“It is sad and ironic that this same river was recognized as a Fish Conservation Area in 2012 and was said to have the potential of generating income and employment to the youth,” the NPP MLA said further reminding that in the same year, a warning  was also issued wherein any individual who was found destroying aquatic lives of the river for their own personal benefits would be fined Rs 50,000 which seemed like more of a proclamation as it was not enforced in letter and spirit.
Syiem pointed out that the condition of other rivers across Meghalaya is also dire and needs to be highlighted.
He said that according to a study conducted by the Meghalaya Basin Management Agency (MBMA) in 2021, it was found that 43% of the rivers in Meghalaya are polluted further adding that the study found the highest percentage of pollution in Jaintia Hills due to rampant mining.
He highlighted that numerous complaints have been received by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department and even the Assembly discusses this topic during every session.
A PIL was filed in 2019 and a suo motu cognizance by the Meghalaya High Court pointed to the urgency of the matter of pollution of rivers across Meghalaya, he said, adding that the Meghalaya State Assembly Committee on Environment in 2020 stated that the Umshyrpi and Wahumkhrah rivers are on the list of most polluted rivers in the country.
In his reply, Forest and Environment Minister, James PK Sangma said the state government is enforcing the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 for scientific waste management and disposal.
He informed that under the North Eastern Region Capital Cities Development Investment Programme (NERCCDIP) awareness campaign for waste management was conducted by the Urban Affairs department. “4,094 household bins were provided to residents of Madanrting locality for storage and segregation of waste. 30 twin litter bins have been also given to locality for storage and disposal of street litter. Two vehicles have also been handed over to locality for collection and transportation of waste. The locality trucks transport the waste to sanitary landfill at Marten,” James said.
He informed that the matter has also been brought to the notice of the KHADC for necessary interventions and the Council informed that a joint meeting will be convened with local headman of Mawshbuit, Madanrting and the Commandants of both the Gorkha Training Centre (GTC) and Assam Regiment Centre to address the issue of garbage dumping in Umkhen river.
He added that the KHADC will come out with a plan for rejuvenation of Umkhen river.
James also said that the East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner has imposed orders on March 9, 2022 under Section 144 CrPC prohibiting dumping of solid waste along the stretch of Wah Umkhen, the MSPCB has written letters to the Urban Affairs department, the District Council Affairs department and the KHADC to pass necessary instructions to all headmen to ensure collection, segregation and disposal of solid waste and penalize violators.
He further informed that Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board has issued numerous public notices both in English and local language prohibiting burning, throwing and burying of waste on streets/open spaces/ water bodies. The MSPCB has also issued a public notice on March 10, prohibiting dumping of waste into Umkhen river and directed the local authorities to ensure compliance to the provisions of Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016.

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