24,000+ Coal Mines Turning Meghalaya Rivers Acidic, Water Unfit for Human Consumption, Says NGT Panel
The NGT panel says it is considering a Rs 17 lakh pilot project proposal to treat the acidic water using the micro algae method.
The NGT committee was formed to supervise mining activities and look at an environmental restoration plan. (Getty Images)
Shillong: Six months after 15 miners were trapped in a watery grave in Meghalaya, the National Green Tribunal has been informed that there are a total of 24,392 coal mines in the Jaintia Hills.
The finding was part of a presentation made by the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) before a three-member NGT committee, which was constituted in August last year to map mining activities in the area and come up with an environmental restoration plan.
Highlighting the broad findings, Justice (Retd) BP Kakoti, who heads the committee, said NESAC has also expressed concerns over how discharge from mines is turning the water in streams and rivers acidic. Speaking to reporters, Kakoti said NESAC would submit the final report soon.
Kakoti maintained that there are no reports of fresh mining in the state but has nevertheless sought a report from the state government on the illegal transportation of coal which continues despite a ban imposed by the Supreme Court.
Stating that he has received several reports on violation of the ban, Kakoti said, “We have taken strong cognizance of these reports, especially the one wherein a coal-laden truck overturned in Ri-Bhoi.”
Elaborating on the water pollution because of mining, Kakoti said, “Rivers and streams are mainly being polluted by water flowing from the existing mines. Some of these may be abandoned mines, but they are still releasing acidic water because of open pits.”
“The pH level in water in rivers and streams was found to be around 3 which is not fit for human consumption,” he said, adding that first item on the list of priorities is to supply non-acidic water to the people of East Jaintia Hills, especially those in remote areas.
Kakoti also revealed that a firm named Trinity Impact has made a presentation for a pilot project to treat the acidic water and that the NGT committee will study the submission and chart a roadmap.
He revealed that the pilot project will cost around Rs 17 lakh. “We may allow them to treat the water in one of the existing water supply schemes in West Jaintia hills. In Jowai area, there are more 30 water supply schemes and majority of them are supplying acidic water.”
As per the presentation, Kakoti said, the water will be treated using the micro algae method. “In consultation with PHE department, we may allow them to treat water using the micro algae method. Depending on the result, we will decide whether to extend the treatment to other streams,” he said.
The three-member NGT panel is scheduled to meet next in Shillong on July 22 and 23.
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