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Sun, 26 Jan 2020

Northeast Today

The tale of a Dying River

The tale of a Dying River
May 09
11:41 2019

Meghalaya has always been rich with various mineral resources such as coal, limestone, sillimanite, and more. However, the ongoing exploitations of natural resources have led the state to numerous adversities in its soil and water bodies. The Lukha River, in southern part of east Jaintia Hills, has been sustaining many lives on its banks for years. For ages, the river has contributed to the well-being of local people. For some it was their source of livelihood. Unfortunately, the might and the beauty of this river started falling as it began to turn blue. Dipanti Lahon investigates.




The strange phenomenon

According to the locals, since 2007 by every November, the river water has been turning blue and the color stays till monsoons. During the monsoons, when high rainfall dilutes the pollutants, the river sheds the color. Also during monsoons, coal mining and its production is minimal which perhaps lessens the pollutants in the river. But the locals wonder, why the river started turning blue suddenly from 2007 as there have been mining and other industrial activities going on in its vicinity since colonial times. The locals expressed their despair, and how their lives have been affected since 2007. The fishermen are suffering the most as this phenomenon has destroyed the local fishery industry. They stated that almost all of the fishes and other forms of life in the river were killed overnight. Most importantly, the Lukha River was also a source of potable water for daily use and now this strange phenomenon has caused chaos in their survival.


Why Lukha turns blue?

According to the Department of Mining and Geology of Meghalaya, the state is a home for approximately 15,100 million tonnes of limestone reserves and around 576.48 million tonnes of coal reserve. It is evident that the exploitation of coal and limestone has been taking place on a large scale in the state for many decades. Earlier, the India Water Portal reported that a number of studies done on the impact of coal and limestone mining have found that mining has adversely affected the water bodies in the state, besides having an adverse impact on the plant and animal diversity, forest cover and more. It requires mentioning that another paper Seasonal Variation in Water Quality of Lukha River, Meghalaya has also informed that this exploitation of coal and limestone has been leading to severe environmental degradation in the state. According to the paper’s earlier studies, the water quality of Lukha was found to be poor and this was attributed to the activities such as mining of limestone and manufacturing of cement in the nearby area of the river. It was found that the pollution of the Lukha River was mainly due to high pollution of the Lunar River upstream that joined the Lukha near the Sonapur village. The water of the Lunar River was found to be highly acidic, with high turbidity levels, high electrical conductivity, high concentration of total hardness, calcium and sulphate in water due to pollution from limestone and cement industries. As per the studies, when these two rivers mix in, it causesprecipitation of aluminium and other compounds in the water which generates the blue color in Lukha.

The Meghalaya Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has also stated that the Lukha gets polluted due to its tributary, the Lunar River. Multiple NGOs have claimed that the reason behind the river turning blue is the cement factories. But, so far no evidence has been found to support the allegation.



Although MPCB (Meghalaya Pollution Control Borad) determined that the pollution of Lukha was due to extraction of coal so they banned the same following National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) orders during April 2014, the river still continued to turn blue. Moreover, all the studies conducted this far could not conclude the exact reason for the change in color and the physicochemical properties of the river water. It is high time that the government should take some stern measures to find causes of this phenomenon and save Lukha and the lives depending on it. Before it’s too late, the NGT needs to conduct a final research in the vicinity and find the restorative for Lukha.






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