Last evening, a group of local coal traders led by S. Khyriem and Vinson Pala asked the cavers to “go back to their countries.” The contention of the coal traders was that the presence of the cavers had caused “concern” among residents of the area.
The incident is said to be a fallout of the public interest litigation (PIL) which has been filed by the Meghalaya Adventures Association in the Supreme Court to prevent unscrupulous mining activities in Shnongrim. The apex court has asked the Union and state governments, and the departments of environment and forest and mining to file their replies.
The situation in Shnongrim is said to be tense and the Meghalaya police have advised the cavers to call off their exploration “for the time being.” “We don’t want the international caving experts to be held responsible for anything and create any misunderstanding,” said director-general of police, W.R. Marbaniang. A police team as well as the additional district magistrate of Jaintia Hills has been rushed to Shnongrim ridge to prevent any untoward incident.
The cavers’ association, however, has refused to be cowed down by threats from a section of the coal lobby in the Jaintia Hills. It said the cave exploration mission to extend the longest cave system in the Indian subcontinent — Krem (cave) Um Im-Liat Prah (cave system) to Krem Labbit (Khaidong) — would continue. “We will not stop the expedition come what may and we will also not allow the caves to be destroyed,” said Brian Kharpran Daly, general secretary of the association. “Excessive mining, besides threatening the famous cave system of the state, pollute land and water to a great extent, making the farmers’ lives miserable,” Daly said.
The cavers, representing various caving organisations from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Scotland, United States of America and Germany along with some local experts are on a monthlong expedition.
Daly said a meeting between the cavers and coal traders would be held tomorrow morning at the Jaintia Hills deputy commissioner’s office to resolve the crisis. “I am confident the residents of the area and coal traders will understand the importance of the expedition,” he added.
Source: Telegraph India