State

Ri Bhoi village ‘losing’ community forest to stone quarrying

Shillong, June 20: Illegal coal mining is not the only evil threatening the ecosystem of Meghalaya. Stone mining too has contributed to the fast degradation of the forests and hills in the state.

Nongthymmai-Garo, a border village in Ri Bhoi, is losing its community forest to rampant illegal stone quarrying, according to sources.

“The forest is over 100 bighas and the western part has been taken over by quarry miners,” said the sources.

Quarrying has been going on inside the forest for quite some time. During a visit to Nongthymmai-Garo under Jirang constituency in April 2019, this reporter had seen that a part of the green hills was turned into rubble by JCBs.

The sources told Meghalaya Monitor that quarrying had stopped for “some time following an order issued by the deputy commissioner”.

“But it resumed in May despite the order,” they said and added that the police had also come to inspect and asked villagers not to engage in stone mining.

They also informed that the quarry operator, Chroden Sangma, is from Maikhuli village. When asked about the illegal quarrying, headman of Nongthymmai-Garo Rongjam Momin said he was not aware of any activity inside the forest.

However, the sources contradicted this claim and said the headman knew about the quarry. “This forest is a community property and has been protected for decades by our forefathers. The wild produce has helped many villagers survive during the lockdown. No one is allowed to fell trees. That is our land. Now, if the quarry owners take over, that means our land will also go,” they informed.

When informed about the quarry, Pilangkata SI Kamrul Islam said he was neither aware of the illegal mining nor has he received any complaint from the village. “But we will look into it and inspect the area,” he added.

Many community forests, like the Sacred Grove at Mawphlang, in Meghalaya have been preserved and protected with the help of community and government but “why is our forest becoming the victim of greed”, the sources said.

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