SHILLONG, Feb 26 � The mineral-rich Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya faces an acute drinking water crisis as major rivers there have been declared �unfit� for human use due to high level of acidity caused by unscientific mining.
The rivers close to coal mining areas and cement plants have acquired a blue colour over the last five years � a phenomenon baffling even environmental scientists of the State.
The Delhi-based Central Laboratory of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which conducted an analysis of water samples collected from these rivers, said the water was highly �acidic�, rendering it unsuitable to support life forms.
The latest report, submitted by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board to the State Government and CPCB, Delhi, said, �Mine run-off from coal mines are the major probable causes of water pollution in the area.�
�The undesirable change in water quality affects a variety of flora and fauna of the rivers. Fish, as such, are susceptible to acidity and low pH values are unsuitable for most aquatic organisms,� the report said.
Five years back, river Lukha in the Khliehriat sub-division turned blue and all aquatic life, including fish, died and were found floating in the river.
�Acidification of natural water is mainly due to acid effluents discharged from coal mines,� said the board.
The State Pollution Control Board in 2007 conducted a thorough investigation into the sudden blue pigmentation of the Lukha river.
The report of the investigation said, �The blue colour of the Lukha is possible because the river receives untreated waste discharge from coal mine areas of Sutnga, Ladrymbai and Sakhain, compounded by heavy rain.�
Incidentally, water samples collected downstream of a cement plant (Umtyrngai river) is alkaline in nature and did not �contribute� to the acidity of the Lukha river, a confluence of Lunar river and Umtyrngai.
The MSPCB said, �The prevailing condition of water quality in the area requires urgent need for initiating preventive and control measures to minimise impact of mining activities on water quality.�
It also suggested filling up of abandoned mines to prevent generation of acid mine drainage or initiate proper management of it by treating it actively or passively. � PTI