Being the unique Planet that it is, the Earth -where
life exists has been subjected to a lot of modern commercial activities that are
over exploiting the natural environment by over consumption causing wide ranges
of degradation. The State of Meghalaya is
very rich in Tertiary Coal deposits, which are confined to the upper part of the
tertiary rocks. The estimated cola deposits in this State are estimated at about
600 million tons, and the district of Jaintia Hills has large deposits and at
present large scale extraction is being carried out.
There are 9 important coal deposits places, out
of which Bapung and Lakadong are the most important. The rest are : Lumshnong,
Malwar Musiang Lamare, Mutang, Sutnga, Jarain Tkentalang, Ioksi and Khliehriat.
ost of the coal bearing areas are accessible by roads from Jowai the Headquarter
of Jaintia Hills District, 64kms from Shillong. The NH-44 connecting Shillong,
Jowai, Badarpur and Silchar leads access to Bapung, Malwar, Mutang, Lumshnong
and Lakadong coalfields. The coal bearing areas of the district present a
panorama of flat topped low hills, devoid of vegetation and plateau of rolling
grasslands inter sparsed by river valleys. Go Top
and large coal mining is privately controlled by small-scale ventures. Being
a tribal dominated State the land belongs to individuals/ community/village.
Locally the extraction of cola is known as the RAT HOLE MINING, as
literally the hole has a 1m opening along which the miners crawl and
excavate coal. The miners go as deep as 50-100m in length from the opening.
The coal is brought out in small wooden barrows, and head shifted to the
roadside to be loaded onto trucks. The present coal exploitation is about 2
million tons per annum in this district.
Coal mining is the most profitable business in this area, but various
environmental problems have cropped up in the area such as acute scarcity of
potable water, deforestation, water pollution, land subsidence, dust
pollution and increase in wasteland, acid mine discharge, changes in the
land use patterns of the area. This is mainly because of unscientific
primitive techniques and small scale coal mining.
The author of the Article "Implications of Coal
Mining" Mr.R.K.Rai, has put forth some ways to reduce the above mentioned
problems of coal mining::
The land ownership system in the State needs to be reviewed and implementation
of mine regulations is also to be followed strictly to reclaim the mined lands
to an ecologically improved and more socially approved conditions. In abandoned
mine areas Afforestation programs should be taken up by mine owners. The rat
hole mining should be stopped and alternative scientific methods should be used
to extract coal. The reclamation of mining areas should be done. The 'acid mine
discharge' is to be diverted away from potable water sources. Proper health care
facilities need to be provided to laborers working in the mines.
It is to be noted that Meghalaya falls under the 6th
Schedule of the Indian Constitution, so the land is solely owned by the people
and the State and Center have little or no control whatsoever. Insurance cover
for mine workers should be provided.
Studies by various researchers show that the
process of eco-restoration can be hastened by suitable intervention by way of
planting leguminous species on the spoils. As reported by Kong. Lyngdoh ( 1995)
a leguminous plant Eriosaema chinense is found to grow frequently in the
coal mines area of Jarain in Jaintia Hills and according to her, this plant by
virtue of nodulating profusely and by showing its ability to grow on the soils
collected from the mine spoils , is likely to play a significant role in
nitrogen economy of the soil. Similar plants can be identified for
eco-restoration of the mine spoils.
Refilling of the mined areas with mine spoils/top
soils followed by a re-vegetating scheme with acid-tolerant species including
leguminous plants can be carried out. The Meghalaya State Pollution Control
Board should also be given the tasks of periodic analysis of water, soil, and
air from the mining areas. Local leaders too should be educated on the task of
restoration of the mined areas.
In short: the participation of NGO's, ecologists
and governmental agencies in the eco-restoration of mined areas is necessary.
Infact there is a suggestion that a part of the revenue earned from coal mining
should be set aside for such programs.