NGOs demand to stop Lafarge's mining operations in Meghalaya

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Shillong, Aug 21 (UNI) Several NGOs in Meghalaya today urged Chief Minister Dr Donkupar Roy to put a stop to mining operations of cement giant Lafarge and stop single window clearances and illegal permissions from the Revenue Department for sale of indigenous land in the state.

''We demand that the Chief Minister puts a stop to all Lafarge operations in the state and redress the past and present injustices done to the people of Shella and Tynger,'' the Joint Action Committee against Alienation of Tribal Lands said.

The quarries are operated by the Lafarge subsidiary, Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Ltd, in Meghalaya to mine and supply limestone for its USD 250 million cement plant, Surma Cement, at Chhatak in Bangladesh, located just 10 km from the quarries across the Indo-Bangla border.

The minerals are sent through a 17 km-long unique cross-border mine to plant conveyor belt.

In an email, the Committee alleged that the global cement producer had been illegally operating in a destructive way that would have long-term implications on the people of Meghalaya and the Northeast in having control over indigenous lands and use of sustainable resources.

''The Lafarge case in the Shella confederacy has resulted in massive violations of customary, state, national and international policies of the Development Banks and created conflict related to land rights,'' the statement said.

In fact, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had alleged that the global cement company was flouting environmental norms and extracting limestone from forest land at Phlangkaruh Nongtrai village in East Khasi Hills district without prior permission from the concerned ministry to extract limestone.

Granting permission to global cement producer, Lafarge, to transport limestone from its mines in Meghalaya to its plant in Bangladesh, the Supreme Court, however, had asked the company to determine whether any additional environmental studies need to be done in the forest land area.

''Lafarge has negotiated extremely low royalties for limestone with false landowners, which has the backing of vested interests at all levels in Meghalaya,'' the statement said.

Meanwhile, the joint action committee also expressed concern over setting up of cement companies in Jaintia Hills district, which were allegedly destroying forests, land, flora and fauna in the district.

The statement also alleged that the cement companies had violated agreements to provide 60 per cent job opportunities to local communities by employing people from outside the state while the locals were exploited in the form of cheap labour and low wages.

They also failed to construct hospitals and fulfil other promises for indigenous landholdings, it alleged.

''The Narpuh Reserve Forest, the largest forest in the state in which the second longest cave in Asia and other places are located, has been tremendously affected by existing cement factories,'' the statement said.

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