The cement factories at Lumshnong in the Jaintia Hills were sanctioned after the Meghalaya Industrial Policy of 1997 introduced a single-window clearance scheme.
Environmentalists say the 21.56-km-long Kotsati cave, which combines with smaller caves to form a network that stretches for over 35 km, will cease to exist if the cement factories are allowed to go full steam ahead with production.
Lapang admitted the fragile ecology of the area could be imperilled by the cement plants, each of which occupy about 12 hectares of land. ?Yes, we must get to the truth and see that our environment and caves are not destroyed,? he said.
The chief minister said his government would scrutinise all relevant documents pertaining to the cement plants.
The entrances of nearly 24 caves of the Kotsati-Umlawan system have already been blocked by deposits from limestone quarries and the two new plants ? Meghalaya Cements Ltd and Cements Manufacturing Company Ltd ? could pose a bigger threat.
Some adventure associations and environmentalists have threatened to file a public interest litigation against the government. Constituents of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance, too, have raised their voices against the cement plants.
Planning Board co-chairman and legislator Process T. Sawkmie demanded a white paper on the subject. ?We must know under what conditions firms from outside the state have been allowed to set up cement plants.?
Another legislator of the ruling coalition, Pynshai Manik Syiem, said industrialistion must not be at the cost of destruction of natural wonders such as caves and forests.
Meghalaya Adventure Association general secretary Brian Dermot Kharpran Daly, who played a major role in mapping the cave systems of Meghalaya, said his organisation would move court if the authorities allowed the cement plants to function.
?Our intervention prompted the government to stop the Associated Cement Companies Ltd from setting up a plant near the Siju caves of the Garo hills some years ago and I am sure the authorities will realise the danger of destroying the caves in the Jaintia Hills.?
Source: Telegraph India