India’s north east under attack

India’s north east under attack
Published: 15 February 2005

India’s North Eastern Council (NEC), in its magazine called, New Hopes, New Opportunities, has a section on industry. This chapter, with the name Limestone and Coal: Untapped Resources So Far, says that eight industries have been subjected to an Analytical Hierarchy Process in order to select those industries for which regional development would be suitable. Analytical Hierarchy Process is a multi-criteria decision-making technique by which hierarchy of various alternatives is determined. Three industries, namely cement, thermal power plant and bricks, which have the highest ratings, have been taken up. Apparently, the pre-feasibility study includes information such as market attractiveness, raw materials, technology, plant location, implementation schedule and financial indicators. What is surprising is that the Analytical Hierarchy Process study completely ignores environmental concerns.

NEC’s suggestions for improving cement production in the region seem like a direct attack on the environment. The recommendation says, “Although there is ample scope for setting up large cement plants in the region, investors from within and outside the region have hesitated to do so due to law and order problem in the region.” Hence, it says, it would be easier for the region to attract medium-level investment (say in the range of Rs50-100 crore) with a production capacity of 600tpd capacity. NEC suggests that cement plants can be set up at various feasible locations in close proximity to the limestone reserves. Its own lack of sensitivity to the environmental degradation that could come about through blasting limestone caves is truly appalling. Limestone caves are a heritage site in themselves and support large cave systems in states like Meghalaya. How come the feasibility study did not look at possible environmental destruction?

 Today, landowners in Lumshonong, Jaintia Hills, where the limestone mines are located and employees of Cement Manufacturing Company Limited are up in arms against environmentalists protesting the destruction of caves. Such a situation would not have arisen if the Northeast was not projected as a destination for large scale cement industries or if the Northeast Industrial Policy had a strong environmental component. This clearly shows that economists and industrialists have been planning things in isolation without consulting the department of environment and forests. Existing plans for marketing the Northeast seem like a one-way ticket to hell for the entire region. (Indian news report).