The sorry plight of river Myntdu: a call for immediate action

Local organizations such as Seiñraij Jowai, Dorbar Chnong Panaliar Jowai, and Synjuk ki Waheh Chnong, Jowai, have organized numerous cleaning drives to safeguard the health of River Myntdu.

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By O R Shallam

X: @the_news_21

Jowai/Meghalaya: River Myntdu, the lifeline of Jowai town in the North-Eastern hilly state of Meghalaya, is in grave danger. Once a pristine source of drinking water and a vital resource for daily consumption, the river has turned itself into muddy and polluted, posing severe health risks to the residents whose livelihoods depend on it. Despite efforts by local organizations to maintain the river’s cleanliness, the ongoing construction and illegal activities have led to its degradation, highlighting the urgent need for government intervention and sustainable practices.

The transformation of Myntdu from a clear, life-sustaining river to a polluted waterway has been alarming. The core issue lies in the ongoing earthwork for the construction of the Jowai Bypass, stretching from Khliehtyrshi village to Treiongriang. This construction has resulted in the direct dumping of sand, mud, and stones into the river, significantly polluting its waters. Additionally, illegal sand and stone mining continues unabated despite a ban by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), exacerbating the river’s plight. 

Local organizations such as Seiñraij Jowai, Dorbar Chnong Panaliar Jowai, and Synjuk ki Waheh Chnong, Jowai, have organized numerous cleaning drives to safeguard the health of River Myntdu. These community-led initiatives have been vital in raising awareness and attempting to mitigate the pollution. However, these efforts are undermined by the larger, systemic issues stemming from the construction activities and lack of regulatory enforcement.

The district administration’s failure to address these illegal activities is of a significant concern. Despite the installation of sausage dams by the municipal body and the Urban Affairs Department to control household sewage and waste, these measures do not address the core problem. The primary culprit is the Public Works Department (PWD) and the Ministry of Environment, which have given clearance for the bypass construction without implementing proper measures to control the flow and deposition of construction debris into the river.

The Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department faces an insurmountable challenge in filtering and cleaning water that is heavily laden with mud and sand. Consequently, households in Jowai receive water that is unfit for consumption, posing severe health risks to the community. 

The degradation of Myntdu is not just an environmental concern but also a cultural tragedy. The river, revered as ‘Syiem Myntdu’ and ‘Beipun Myntdu,’ holds a sacred place in the hearts of Jowai residents. Its pollution represents a profound impact on the cultural heritage and spiritual significance. The community’s deep respect for the river is overshadowed by the urgent need for clean, safe water.

It is high time for the government to prioritize the health and well-being of Jowai residents and the environmental integrity of River Myntdu. Immediate and robust actions are required to mitigate the pollution and prevent further degradation.  The district administration must rigorously enforce the NGT ban on illegal mining activities along the river. The PWD and contractors must implement comprehensive waste management plans to prevent construction debris from entering the river.

Continued and enhanced community engagement in river conservation efforts is essential, supported by governmental resources and initiatives while Future infrastructure projects must undergo rigorous environmental impact assessments to ensure sustainable practices are in place from the outset.

The current state of River Myntdu is a stark reminder of the consequences of unchecked development and inadequate environmental regulation. The health of Jowai residents and the sanctity of the revered river are at stake. It is imperative for the government to take decisive action to restore Myntdu to its glory and ensure that its waters remain safe for the future generations. This is not just an environmental necessity but a moral obligation to the people of Jowai and their cultural heritage.

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