India’s longest network of underground caves is in danger from a chain of cement factories the Meghalaya government has allowed to come up right above them. Chief minister D.D. Lapang got sucked into the controversy today with the Indian Bureau of Mines alleging that his announcement of an investigation was an eyewash. The jewel of the Lumshnong cave system in the Jaintia Hills is the Krem Kotsati, which measures 21.5km and forms a 35km-long underground formation.
Environmentalists say the Kotsati will cease to exist if the cement factories, all of them quite new, are allowed to go ahead with production. The entrances of some 24 caves have already been blocked by deposits from the limestone quarries. The two newest plants — Meghalaya Cements Ltd and Cements Manufacturing Company Ltd — could pose the biggest threat.