Friday, May 31, 2024

From verdant to barren: Meghalaya’s environmental horror


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In Meghalaya, where the verdant hills once whispered country tales, the narrative is unfortunately changing into a terrifying environmental horror story. It’s a tale of how people, in their relentless pursuit of making quick money, hack away at the very bosom of the earth’s crust. Senior journalist Patricia Mukhim in her article last Friday, “Environment: No one’s baby – Meghalaya stares at a bleak future,” aptly portrays not just neglect but also a deliberate “destruction” of Mother Nature. It is a grim reality that should deeply concern every citizen when climate change is rearing its ugly head. Well, if we listen carefully, we might hear the hills around quietly weeping under the assault of chainsaws, bulldozers, and fearsome detonators.
Look at how those tall and lush green (pine) trees that once covered Meghalaya’s landscapes are nearly gone. Places where trees stood just a year ago are being chopped down to make way for new quarries. Stone and sand mining has become a godsend opportunity. Countless trucks of stone and sand have been extracted, with the buyers not from the home state but from Bangladesh. It’s like the “transplantation” of a vital organ, where the recipient is a foreign land! Thus, whether we agree or not, we are making our state weaker and paler.
As if tearing the earth open wasn’t enough, the state’s rivers, streams, and drains are treated like dumpsters—nauseating eyesores. The water bodies, once clear and pristine, are now choked with everything from plastic bottles and sacks to old, unwanted furniture and broken appliances and all nasty things. It’s as if the urban residents have adopted a new mantra: “If it floats, it ships.” But where to? Does it not result in the accumulation of debris in the ailing Umiam Lake? Are we not aware that the lake that illuminates Shillong City can also push us into the darkness of despondency?
With the environment being treated as if it were nobody’s child, as highlighted by Patricia Mukhim, the state is likely facing an extremely dark future. Hardly any leaders spoke about protecting the environment in their election campaigns, a serious concern in itself. Nor did the electorate bother at all. How insensitive it is that we simply undermine the sustained efforts made by the members of OCU to clean up mountains of garbage on the riverbanks? To their sheer disappointment, just days later, the same mountains of garbage reaccumulated to greet them. Frankly speaking, it seems not only the public but even the government administration is betraying these dedicated members by offering only lip service.
Incidentally, when we step out of our homes these days, almost every person we meet says, “Shillong has become Guwahati,” meaning it’s scorchingly hot in Shillong as in Guwahati. However, the sad part is that hardly anyone acknowledges or tries to find out the reasons that Ms. Patricia has detailed in the article. I believe it’s time for every individual to pause and reflect on whether our day-to-day activities are contributing to the environmental mess with the searing escalation in temperatures. If we are not serious and act now, the state’s reputation for having a pleasant climate will become a tale of the past.
Yours etc.,
Salil Gewali,

Weather update inaccurate

This is to bring to your kind attention that the weather update report in The Shillong Times E-paper on 29.04.2024 (Source- IMD, Shillong) shows the minimum temperature of Shillong, Sohra and Umiam as 2.6, 3.5 and 4.1 respectively (though not mentioned, it is assumed to be in ˚C, i.e. degrees Celsius). Given the current weather conditions, these figures appear to be quite different from actual figures. The weather Apps show the minimum temperatures in Shillong at around 20˚C. This is for your kind information and clarification please.
Yours etc.,
Dr. Neelanjan Roy,
Camp- Shillong

Editor replies: The daily weather updates are given to us by the India Meteorological Department, Meteorological Centre, Shillong, Meghalaya. Since this newspaper has no weather expert/climatologist we have to rely on reports given to us by the IMD.

Heat wave?

The news items in your paper dated April 27, 2024 on the above topic surprised us as the temperature was 21°C in the morning when we read it. The met office gave the temperature for Shillong as 26.1°C for April 27 as we read today. Is this heat wave temperature one would like to ask? Heat wave temperatures for plain areas should be over 40°C and over 30°C for hilly areas according to the Met Offices.
Today the news item stated “Schools bypass Govt. Order with consent of parents,” the school in question was “KC School” Were heat wave conditions prevalent in Shillong and at St Anthony’s Ground, where the school organized sporting events on April 27 when the sports were held? Your reporter has rightly stated that the order was an advisory. It was not a diktat to be carried out.. Besides, the parents’ consent was secured.
The facts are: The sports were conducted between 9.30 AM and 1 pm. A cool breeze was blowing across the ground which the spectators experienced. The school in question was conducting sports, drills and march past practices for the past four weeks. Their school children and the children of the other participating schools were doing the same. Wouldn’t the cancellation of the event, due to a Government order issued, without being in touch with reality, not cause disappointment and upset to children so involved? Heat wave effects are normally experienced after 12 noon and reach their peak around 3 PM due to insolation.
Keeping the students’ welfare in mind, KC school had a room ready with ORS and lemon water plus nurses to administer first aid and rush the affected, if any, to any of the nearby hospitals should an emergency occur. What more could one ask for? To read the stated headline about “Schools bypass Govt. Order” is unfair and unjust to the school and its young Principal, along with his teachers, who spares no effort or pain to give his best. The same headline implies scant disregard for Government guidelines and students’ welfare.
It would be good if the Government and concerned Department carry out a reality check and consult school authorities before issuing such advisories or orders. Your reporters should try and verify facts about how the sports are conducted and also ask the other Principals who sent their pupils to participate. Would the concerned school Principals expose their pupils to possible heat strokes if they felt the weather was unsuitable?
Why target only KC school when an institute nearby organized a football tournament from 9 AM till 6 PM without any provision for medical aid or side effects of a supposed heat wave? We also learnt that there was a football match at Polo grounds in which school students participated.
Yours etc.,
Br. Tom Pinto,
Via email


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