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Limestone caves in Meghalaya shot to global fame with a Swiss caver, Thomas Arbenz, winning the maiden France Habe award for his book written after ten years of caving in Jaintia Hills.

Arbenz was chosen by the International Union of Speleology (UIS) for the award introduced with an objective of protecting caves, karstic zone, or underground environment in general across the world.

The writer, who makes it a point to visit Meghalaya every year to spend weeks inside the caves in February-March, surpassed four other nominees to bag the award.

The award announced at the 16th International Congress of Speleology meant a lot for Meghalaya as it highlighted the significance of the caves, many of them threatened by rampant limestone mining, in a global context.

In an online chat with The Meghalaya Guardian, the writer expressed his gratitude to the “hospitable” people of Meghalaya especially the Jaintias.

“This (writing the book) feat would not have been possible without their cooperation,” he said.

The Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA), the pioneer of cave tourism in the State, also bagged its share of appreciation from the writer.

MAA led by its president Brian D Kharpran Daly, an earnest caver and writer, has been the sole organiser of annual packaged tours into the caves of Jaintia Hills, which are famous for their length and density.

Arbenz’s book narrates cave expeditions conducted in 2010, 2011 and 2012 in Pala range and Kopili valley, besides having chapters on geology, subterranean ecology, bats and spiders.

“The book is a great addition to the wealth of information of the caves and karsts of that part of Meghalaya and would be a useful reference to researchers in the universities and colleges,” Brian Kharpran said.

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