The first time this scribe wrote about the dismal condition of river Lukha was in 2007 after the water in the river turn blue in colour and in the process killed thousands of fishes all along the river. Lukha was called the dead river because the dead fishes which floated on the river have emitted foul smell which permeated the stretch of the entire river for days together. It was called Dead River because the water laced with acid has killed all the aquatic live in the river. People till today lament about what they had happened on those few ill-fated days and recalled the days when fishing was the only livelihood activity of the people in the area.
Lukha is the confluence of two rivers, Lunar and Lukha which originated from two opposite directions. Lunar originated from the Myndihati area and the source of river Lukha is from the famous hill in the Narpuh forest known as u lum Ïakor Sing and the two rivers converged at the confluence below Khaddum village. From the confluence onward the name Lunar is conveniently negated and the river is known as Lukha till it reaches Bangladesh and there is a beautiful story which explains why did this happen.
Lunar and Lukha were sisters and in a nutshell, the story has it that one fine day because it was a market day the sisters decided to compete against each other as to who can first reach the market located at the plain. Lunar started first and flow rapidly over the hills and valley while Lukha took it easy and was combing her hair and knitted it into plaits. After sometime Lukha was shocked to see that Lunar was ahead of her and at that same moment using her power Lukha decreed a stone nearby which fell on the course of river Lunar and block the river’s flow downstream. Lukha managed to slowdown Lunar’s flow and reached the market ahead of Lunar, this is the reason why from the confluence onward the river is known as Lukha.
The stone which Lukha caused to block the Lunar’s flow is known as ‘moo-set’ meaning a stone which blocked or obstructed and one can still see the stone today a little distance upstream the confluence where Lunar met Lukha. The story is meaningful even in today’s context during lean season; the water became acidic and changes its colour to sky-blue but at the onset of summer the rain-fed Narpuh forest discharges fresh water to the Lukha giving the river its annual lease of life. The wonder of nature works in a marvellous way and the Narpuh forest and forest along the bank of the river release fresh water to Lukha to rejuvenate the water of the river.
The nature’s wonder has been doing its annual cycle around Lukha since 2007 which also helps make Lukha annual rejuvenation happen where fishes return to the river with the coming of the fresh water. There is a hope for reclaiming river Lukha once again for good if the forest which feed fresh water to the river were kept intact, but the government has other plan.
The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board before allowing the Star Cement Company to start another mining at Brichyrnot an area located on the bank of river Lukha, as per rule organised a public hearing on the 19 of October 2019.
NGOs and pressure groups led by the organisation of the six villages downstream of river Lukha opposed the hearing and had successfully stopped the hearing. It is not every day that you have prominent pressure groups like the Khasi Students Union, the Jaiñtia students Union, the Jaiñtia Students Movement and other groups joining hand in supporting the same cause. But the hope that pervaded last August was dashed to the ground when this time around the organisation of six villages decided to support the hearing proposed to be held on January 30, 2020.
The about turn as claimed by the organisation is because the government had sanction rupees two crore to rejuvenate Lukha. But the limestone mining involve clearing of forest and adjacent to the Star Cement proposed mining site is a limestone reach land which has already been sold to another cement company Topcem. If mining is allowed at Brichyrnot it will be like opening the Pandora box, because next Topcem will seek permission to mine near the Star Cement proposed mining site. Then the vicious cycle will continue Lukha run dry.The District Administration of East Jaiñtia Hills District must have possesses a magic wand in their hand, if they are to rejuvenate Lukha once and for all with rupees two crore only. If not then Lukha is murdered one more time albeit with the help of the government. Lukha is being killed once again and it is much more painful because it was a Brutus-like stabbed. It is also the deepest cut because this time it is the people of the area who betrayed the Lukha.