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T he once- pristine Lukha river is being sacrificed for livelihood and votes as well. Although human beings think Nature is for them ( to exploit) only, it is not so. Nature has its own rights. If violated, Nature can react, in the long run. It’s been the seventh year that fish have died en masse in the river, during the same time of the year.

The government machinery has been shamelessly letting this happen, even after reports Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board ( MSPCB) indicating rampant coal mining as the culprit. But sceptics say it can also be the cement plants, most of which are located inside “ forest areas”. The voice in favour of coal mining is obvious as the livelihood of a major section of the people of coal- rich Jaintia Hills region depends on the sector. However, this sector failed to contribute to the overall growth of the society and made just a few coal mine owners millionaires. All this at the cost environment, health and hygiene. On the other hand, the more- organised cement plants have less numbers under their belt. But they have a strong lobby both in the government and district council and also in the local village councils ( dorbar shnongs). In both the sectors, involvement of local indigenous people is not much at the ground level. The employers prefer migrant labourers who are cheap and most of the locals shy away from such strenuous work involving long hours.

Given that the pollution in Lukha river must have been caused by industrial pollutants and nothing else, the government needs to study the ground reality. Sending a team of scientists to the river once again is a good move. But there is strong doubt that any kind of report by the scientists will help save the river from a certain death. In the worst of circumstances, the report might go in favour of the industries concerned. It is high time the people of Jaintia Hills considered shifting their dependence on the mineral resources gradually to something else which is viable and sustainable as well. Since majority voice counts in a democracy whether it is right or wrong, the government will have no hesitation to act once there is no fear of losing votes.

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