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India’s longest caves face mining threat

Explorers concerned over destruction of caves in State

JOWAI: Meghalaya, famed across the globe for its famous, rich and long cave system, is on the verge of losing the naturally occurring geomorphological wonders of nature, thanks to rampant and unscientific coal-mining activities in Jaintia Hills.

In what has become an annual feature, a team of cave explorers from different parts of the world recently got together recently to explore the caves system in East Jaintia Hills district of the State and conducted research and scientific studies, based on which the explorers reasoned that the cave system in Meghalaya is facing imminent threat from the relentless mining activities in the mineral-rich district.

The team of 30 cave explorers from England, the Netherlands, Finland, Scotland, New Zealand and Romania, jointly with a team from India led by Bryan Kharpran Daly explored several caves in Bataw-Lakadong area in the district.

The team, consisting of Biologists, Geologists, Chiropterologists (experts on bats), experts on climate change and various forms of life existing in the cave, began their series of expeditions on February 3 which culminated on February 27.

Speaking to media persons at the end of their expedition, Bryan Kharpran Daly, president of Meghalaya Adventure Association, informed that before exploring the caves at Bataw-Lakadong area, the team of explorer has visited the Krem Liatprah cave situated in Nongkhlieh Elaka. The Krem Liatprah cave is believed to be the longest cave system in India and one of the longest in Asia.

“We are deeply concerned over the condition of the famous cave which is on the verge of destruction due to coal mining activities,” Kharpran said, adding that many caves in mineral-rich East Jaintia Hills

District have been either damaged or are facing threat due to coal and limestone mining activities.

Daly listed the Krem Rabon in Nongkhlieh, Krem Umlawan and Krem Kotsati in Lumshnong areas as the caves which are facing threat.

“Caves are a unique and special part of our natural environment. Because of their slow and gradual formation over thousands of years, fantastic passage shapes develop, breakdown occurs, sediments are deposited, beautiful calcite formations build up, and various creatures find home; therefore people should have the privileged to have such natural formation,” Kharpran said.

“Destruction to any natural geological formations is a crime against nature and there is a moral responsibility on the part of everyone using this environment, whatever their motivation and purpose, to ensure their preservation,” he added.

The MAA chief also lamented that the Association had sent a representation to Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma seeking protection of the caves in the State, but the government had chosen to ignore the plea.

The MAA chief also demanded immediate and proper implementation of the Meghalaya Mines and Mineral Policy in the State to prevent further destruction to the cave systems.

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