Environmental Impact: Assessment of Stone and Sand Quarrying In Jaflong, Sylhet
Jaflong is one of the attractive natural tourist spot in the Bangladesh, located in Gowainghat Upazila of Sylhet District and situated at the border between Bangladesh and the Indian state of Meghalaya. It is nestled at the foot of the Khasia-Jainta hills, a place of pristine loveliness. Not long ago visitors to this remote area would be confronted by a glorious triad of river, hills and brilliant blue sky that could have come straight out of an artist’s canvas. But this idyllic picture has been ruined by the careless and unregulated extraction of stone that has been going on for decades. Commercial greed is ripping the heart out of Jaflong. What could have been an attractive tourist destination is in danger of becoming a barren wasteland. The rapacious operation is not only changing the landscape, but also threatening the delicate ecosystem. Environmentalists have seen this stop-start maneuver before and say far-reaching steps must be taken if the area is to be restored to its former glory. So it is the burning time to act soon enough to preserve Jaflong and to regain the paradise.
In Bangladesh, the main source of sand and gravel is from in-stream quarrying and mining which come from different parts of the Sylhet division. Jaflong is one of the prime zone to the practice of both in-stream and off-channel extraction of sand, gravel, stone etc. During the monsoon, the river currents wash down precious rocks and pebbles from India into the Jaflong area. More than 7,000 men, women and child stone-laborers are engaged there.
Increasing demand for housing materials and physical infrastructure maintenance means brisk business for providers of sand and stone from hillsides and river banks of that region. Sand and stone have long been used mainly for construction of roads and building. Today, the demand for these materials continues to rise for its multi purpose use such as stones are carved to make ‘pata’, which is used as sort of a grinder, especially for spices.
Jaflong’s ecology as well as its natural beauty is being systematically destroyed due to haphazard sand and stone quarry from two prominent rivers Piyan (55 km) and Dauki (10.75 km) and neighboring hillsides. Many public and private properties are also threatened owing to the business. Stones that rolled downstream with the current have long been collected and sold by locals. Previously stones were collected manually; laborers armed with shovels and wicker baskets load the stones onto small boats called “burkis”. But it is only in the recent past that heavy machinery and systematic excavation took quarrying to a new level. An estimated two hundred stone crushing plants have been set up in the area, and these churn out thousands of square feet of stone chips every day, which is now a big panic for environmentalists.
This main purpose of the report is to describe the potential and observed impacts on the physical, ecological, socioeconomic environment and human being due to stone sand quarry on a range of environmental parameters and suggest some mitigation measures against environmental degradation, which will assist to develop a management plan to protect the environment and a sound and sustainable quarrying practice in the Jaflong and surrounding areas.
Source: Department of Geological Sciences, JU
Figure 1: Mapof Jaflong area
One of the significant aspects of the study was literature review. A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period. Prior to data collection from the field, relevant literatures were analyzed from the field relevant to environment, impact on the environment and mitigation measures, EIA, stone and sand quarry, and study area related journals, books, reports, etc. Information was also collected from different public and private organizations.
In a general term, the environment is all the external factors influencing the life and activities of people, plants, and animals. “Environment,” in the case of EIA, is defined as the natural and physical environment and the relationship of people with that environment. An environment is a complex of external factors that acts on a system and determines its course and form of existence. It may have one or more parameters, physical or otherwise. The environment of a given system must necessarily interact with that system. Generally, the environment of some object or action consists of the substances, circumstances, objects, or conditions by which it is surrounded or in which it occurs. The environment is basically divided into 3 types:
1. The Physical Environment or A-biotic Environment: the physical or the a-biotic means non living which constitutes of soil i.e. land, water bodies and air on the surface of the earth. Climatic factors such as sunlight, temperature, rainfall, humidity, pressure and wind speed are also considered to be a part of the biotic environment. The physical environment like soil water bodies and air are the essential suppliers of nutrient elements the living beings. The land scope area provider the residential space to the living organism the climatic factors of the a-biotic environment controls the weather of a place.
2. Biotic Environment or Biological Environment: The biological means the living things. So, the biological environment means the living part of the environment. This includes the plants, animals including human beings and microorganisms like bacteria and fungi .The elements in a biological environment are interdependent on each other and thus they interact with each other.
3. Socio-Cultural Environment: We all live in a society which has culture of its own and posses people having there own life style. The socio –cultural environment means the environment which is created by the man through his various social and cultural activities. The historical, cultural, political, moral, economic and aesthetic aspects of human life constitute to the socio cultural environment. The socio culture environment affects the social culture of human beings and hence is of the great significance. It is the socio culture environment in a community which can make a man a law abiding citizen or a criminal.
2.2 Stone and Sand Quarry
Quarry and Quarrying, open excavation from which any useful rock is extracted for various purposes, including construction, ornamentation, road building, and as an industrial raw material and the operations required to obtain rock in useful form from a quarry. Rock that has been quarried is commonly called sand or stone. Quarrying methods depend chiefly on the desired size and shape of the sand or stone and its physical characteristics. For industrial use (e.g., limestone for preparing cement), as the aggregate in concrete, or for road beds, the rock is shattered. Explosives are detonated in a series of holes drilled in the rock in a pattern designed to yield the greatest amount of fracturing. The rock fragments may be further reduced in crushing machines and sorted according to size by screening. For building stone, rocks that do not shatter are separated by blasting; for softer rocks or when explosives cannot be used (e.g., because they would disturb adjacent workings), a process known as broaching, or channeling, is used. In this process a line of holes is drilled perpendicular to the joints or cleavage planes of a formation; wedges are inserted into the holes and hammered until the stone splits off.
2.3 Environmental Impact
As with any infrastructure project or development action the potential for environmental impacts exist. These impacts can range from insignificant to highly significant, and from short – term to long – term. A requirement of the EIA process is to ensure that an assessment of the likely impacts of a proposed development is presented in the EIS focusing on:
– Likely effects;
– Significant effects;
– Description of impacts those are accurate and credible.
Prediction of impacts, are those by definition have not yet occurred. However, the criteria for the presentation of the characteristics of potential impacts sets out those potential significant effects of a proposed development must be described with regard to:
? Extent of the impact (geographical area and size of the affected population);
? Magnitude and complexity of the impact;
? Probability of the impact;
? Duration, frequency and reversibility of the impact;
? Trans-frontier / transboundary nature of the impact
Likelihood of Impacts
Any new development can give rise to an infinite number of impacts which are possible while in practice a very limited number are probable. Only probable or likely impacts need only be addressed as these are the type which are planned to arise in the course of a development or other (e.g. projected emissions, proposed earthmoving etc.) and those which can be reasonably foreseen to be inevitable consequences of the normal construction and operation of a development . Provision for the prevention and control of abnormal operations (accidents) must be regarded as reasonable and prudent. The extent, to which these circumstances (and their impacts) are examined, is guided by an assessment of the likelihood of their occurrence (risk).
The description of the impacts, which are expected to occur, should be as accurate and complete as possible. The methods employed should be explained and justified with reference to the project and environment under consideration. Such methods should be judicious, accurate, complete, and replicable. They should be conducted in accordance with established practice wherever this is applicable (EAR, 2009).
In some circumstances, it may be necessary to describe the full extent of a proposed development’s effects and emissions before the proposed mitigation measures become fully effective. Examples include temporary displacement of wildlife or visual impacts before landscape establishment (EAR, 2009).
The final or intended impact is that which occurs after the proposed mitigation measures have taken effect as planned. Examples include regeneration of ecological habitats, commissioning of environmental management systems, and establishment of tree screening.
Worst Case Impacts
Where the failure of the project, or its mitigation measures, could lead directly to profound, irreversible or health and safety a consequence, then this scenario is described e.g. habitat destruction during earth moving operations, contamination of a significant aquifer. It is important that the likelihood of such a scenario is stated and explained.
While the principle objective of the EIA process is to identify and mitigate significant adverse effects, it is also appropriate to describe the main positive environmental effects of the project.
Impacts which are caused by the interaction of effects, or by associated or off – site developments, are classed as indirect impacts. Cumulative and synergistic impacts are often indirect. Prediction of such impacts can be difficult until the full extent of direct impacts has been established, together with relevant mitigation measures. These in turn can establish secondary effects which are checked against the sensitivities of the existing environment described earlier (EAR, 2009).
Significance of Impacts
The significance of an impact is the second criterion which is used to determine the scope of an Environmental Impact Statement / Report. Significance is usually understood to mean either the importance of the environment that is affected (its sensitivity to change) or the importance of the outcome of the impact (the consequence of change). Significance is determined by a combination of (objective) scientific and subjective (social) concerns.
2.4 Mitigation Measures
As with any development activity which has the potential to create environmental impacts, these impacts may typically vary from insignificant to highly significant, and from short term to long – term. In addition some impacts may not be entirely evaluated until operation of the development is ongoing. Nearly all impacts can, however, be mitigated through the implementation of effective amelioration / mitigation measures and by the application of best available technology. In many cases, mitigative measures cannot fully avoid all impacts. However, mitigation measures are critical to ensure that operation of the quarrying practice will result in minimal environmental impacts.
Mitigation by Avoidance
Avoidance is usually the fastest, cheapest and most effective form of impact mitigation for major infrastructure developments. Environmental effects and the consideration of alternatives must be taken into account at the earliest stage in the site selection e.g. realignment of transport corridor to avoid residential property, minimize habitat destruction or reduce agriculture severance (EAR, 2009).
Mitigation by Reduction
This approach concentrates on the emissions and effects and seeks to limit the exposure of the receptor. Effective mitigation or ameliorative measures are those that are designed to reduce the known or predicted impacts of specific activities. This strategy seeks to intercept emissions, effects and wastes before they enter the environment. It monitors and controls them so that acceptable standards are not exceeded. Examples include dust control, water pollution control, and noise attenuation from machinery and vehicles (EAR, 2009).
Mitigation by Remedy
This is a strategy used for dealing with residual impacts, which cannot be prevented from entering the environment and causing adverse effects. Remedy serves to improve adverse conditions, which exist by carrying out further works, which seek to restore the environment to an approximation of its previous condition or new equilibrium such as:
o Restoring water or soil quality;
o Recording of landscape features.
Impacts which cannot be mitigated
It will not always be possible or practical to mitigate all impacts (e.g. felling of mature trees). Where this is the case then the residual impacts are clearly described in accordance with the system of impact description as described above (EAR, 2009).
2.5 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
The need for a systematic method of evaluating the environmental effects of a project or a plan has been recognized for several decades. Environmental impact assessment, EIA, was introduced as a means to accomplish this in the USA in the early 1970s. Since then the use of EIA has spread throughout the world and the methodology has been developed and adapted to various purposes connected to decision making at different levels in enterprises and society (Anderson, 2000).
Aims and Objectives
EIA may be described in a very simple way: consider the environmental load of a proposed action and identify the effects and find an agreement between the stakeholders of the best solution. There are different aims of EIA that will influence the choice of method and the scope of the study. The aim is dependent on who is the user as well as on the use of the result. The use of EIA in a project development or in a development action may be regarded as a way of avoiding environmental impacts by using EIA at as early stage as possible in the development. This is also a way of avoiding costs due to these impacts. The general objectives of the EIA study are to provide (Andersson, 2000);
§ Baseline information about the environmental, social, and economic conditions in the project area;
§ Information on potential impacts of the project and the characteristic of the impacts, magnitude, distribution, who will be the affected group, and their duration;
§ Information on potential mitigation measures to minimize the impact including mitigation costs;
§ To assess the best alternative project at most benefits and least costs in terms of financial, social, and environment. In addition to alternative location of the project, project design or project management may also be considered; and
§ Basic information for formulating environmental management plan.
Roles and Perspectives:
Since there are many persons of different categories involved in an EIA in various ways, the perspective on what an EIA is may vary. The following list is hypothetical, but may be used to illustrate what an EIA may mean to different categories (after Morgan 1998):
o Environmental scientist – a process that predicts a likely change in the environment (e.g. fish population, air quality etc).
o Sociologist – a process of informing local communities about changes in the environment allowing the population to participate in the decision-making.
o Member of the local community – a way for the council and developers to justify a development project.
o Consultant – a job.
To aid identification, prediction and assessment of impacts on different environmental factors a variety of EIA methodologies have been developed depending on their application. Some of the common EIA methodologies include:
– Environmental Evaluation System (EES)
– Cost benefit analysis
– Overlays/ GIS
2.6 Relevant Literature Review
There are numerous articles in the literature that describe environmental impacts from human activities other than quarrying, but there are relatively few articles that specifically refer to impacts from quarrying.
The environmental impact of sand quarry on the Jaflong area has clearly been manifested through a report of Star Weekend Magazine, published on February 13, 2009 heading by “A Stone’s Throw from Eden”. The environmental effects caused by the quarrying of stone from the Piyan River, is no exception, often causing adverse impacts to natural resources, river course, noise level, air quality, agro-pastoral system, biota and their habitats, and human health of that region. Jaflong has always been known for its natural resources. The British East India Company’s Resident Collector Robert Lindsay wrote about extracting limestone and iron ore from the Khasia hills. Stones that rolled downstream with the current have long been collected and sold by locals. But it is only the recent past that heavy machinery and systematic excavation took quarrying a new level (Mahmood, 2009).
A report, titled “Potential Environmental Impacts of Quarrying Stone in Karst–A Literature Review” by William H. Langer published by U.S. Geological environmental impacts from quarrying carbonate rocks in karst. The reported environmental impacts have occurred in a wide variety of karst terrains, under a wide variety of climatic conditions, where the natural systems have been stressed by a wide variety of human activities. It should not be assumed that impacts in one karst terrain under a particular set of natural and manmade conditions will also happen in a different karst terrain with a different set of natural and man-made conditions (Langer, 2001).
Another report of European Agency for Reconstruction (EAR) published in 08 March 2009 titled “Sectorial EIA Guidelines – Quarries and extraction stone and gravel” has developed some guidelines on mineral extraction projects have been prepared as part of the Project: ‘Environmental Management Strengthening’, and have been tailored to the specific situation in the FYR of Macedonia. The guidelines focus on providing guidance for the EIA procedure as well as the development of the Environmental Impact Statement EIS. The guidelines include the principal of cumulative collection of environmental information for subsequent use in the preparation of the EIA. An accurate description of the existing environment including a baseline data provided for monitoring the environmental impacts of the project. Effective ameliorative or mitigative measures are also designed to reduce the known or predicted impacts of specific activities. This section provides technical guidance on the description and analysis of impacts on specific environmental topics in accordance with the requirements of European Communities Directive 85 / 337 / EEC.
The study process can be described by a number of steps. There is a large component of iteration in the process as is shown in Figure 2. The first iterative block consists of a screening to make the decision that an EIA is needed of the stone and sand quarry in that area, a scoping to identify impacts and issues to consider due to quarrying activities in that region, and environment description of the project site has been prepared from various literature analyses. In the next block follows impact prediction, key impacts identification, evaluation and planning of mitigation action. In this section public participation and communication between different parties involvement have occurred. Then the last block follows up in an environmental impact statement of the study. In all section of the process different ideas from different people have implemented.
In spite of extensive and highly specific EIA legislation there are still circumstances where a determination will be required as to whether or not an EIS is mandatory for quarrying project (EAR, 2009). To recognize the importance of the EIA of stone and sand quarry at Jaflong it was important to consider the following issues:
§ Is the quarrying practice significantly affecting there more than one significant or sensitive environmentally based resource?
§ Are the activities of a large effect and does it involve emerging technologies or techniques?
§ Are there significant levels of unpredictability about effect arising from the methods, technologies or because of the absence of data on the receiving environment?
§ Is there reason to believe that there may be significant and reasonable levels of public concern about demonstrable effects on environmental resources?
If yes is the clear and immediate answer to any of these questions, then it is reasonable to anticipate that there would be a widely held view of stringent evaluation of such development activities. In such an evaluation, however, it is important to clearly examine whether concerns (public or expert) arise on account of:
– A single or very specific environmental topic, e.g. geology
– A single or very restricted characteristics of the development e.g. noise emissions
– Uncertainty or data limitations about a single aspect of the development.
The prior determination of the nature and detail of the information to be contained in an EIS is one of the most critical stages of the process. In this study it is both in formal and informal process but essential from the point of view of establishing full and effective communication between the various steps involved in the EIA process. The difficulty arises from the need to know the likely areas of potential impact and the appropriate methods by which to evaluate them prior to the commencement of detailed collection or assessment. It was determined by having direct or relevant prior experience of the particular project type, in this case quarrying and extraction developments, including the proposed receiving environment (EAR, 2009). These relate to the scope of EIA for various EIA projects and contain guidance on the description and analysis of impacts on specific environmental media.
3.3 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a document prepared to describe the effects for proposed activities on the environment. The environmental parameters considered in the EIS includes land, water, air, structures, living organisms, environmental values at the site, and the social, cultural, and economic aspects. The changes in consequence that result from quarrying activities is by and large negative except few positive impacts. This EIS report has described impacts, as well as ways to lessen or remove negative impacts.
A group creativity technique was designed to generate a large number of ideas for the research. Discussions were made with some individuals concerning about the environmental impacts of the quarrying activities and required actions to prevent those on the study area. There were two outputs of such brainstorming:
1) A concept to determine what kind of data and information would be collected from field survey.
2) Instruments were developed and applied in data collection method.
Figure 2: Outline of the study
3.5 Public Consultation
Informal interviews and discussions based on structured questionnaire (Appendix A1) were also carried out with the quarry labors of the Jaflong area. From these people three aspects were known. First, a scenario of quarrying practices in Jaflong area, secondly the environmental impacts and thirdly necessary mitigative measures for this region. From those discussions an idea was found which instruments should be applied for data collection. In this session, the following instruments were developed:
E FGD checklist
E In-depth interview checklist
E Format for collecting formal data, and Questionnaire.
Description of the Environment
In this assessment, data were collected on the physical environment, biological environment, and socioeconomic environment of the study areas of project reaches, with a particular emphasis on an 8–10 km buffer zone around the Jaflong area. These data and information are considered to be of prime importance in relation to the nature and location of the proposed projects.
4.1 Physical Environment
The climate of the investigated area is of usually tropical in character. It is remarkable for its uniform temperature, highly humidity and heavy rainfall from May to October. The climate is thus moist and warmed equable. The climate is thus moist and warmed equable. The average maximum and minimum temperature is 950F and 650F respectively (Khan, 1978). The north eastern part of the Sylhet region may be subdivided into three distinct seasons in a year, namely?
(a) The summer (March to May)
(ii) The monsoon (June to October)
(a) The winter (November to February)
The summer season is characterized by high temperature and moderate precipitation. It is also characterized by thunder and hailstorms of relatively short duration known as north western. The monsoon is characterized by heavy rainfall. The sky is often overcast with dark clouds and it rains heavily accompanied by gusty wind. The winter season is characterized by a pleasantly cool, calm and dry weather.
In the north?eastern part of Bangladesh, the maximum rainfall exceeds 157 inches at the foothills of the Shillong Massif (Reimann, 1993). The average annual rainfall is more than 150 inches (Khan, 1978). Sylhet gets about 150 inches and at Lalakhal it is 280 inches (Khan, 1978). The average summer rainfall is about 20 inches and about 4 inches during the winter.
The term physiographic means the description of the landforms, in this sense; it is obsolescent and is replaced by geomorphology. The investigated Jaflong and adjoining area is bordered on the northeast by the abrupt scarp of the 4000 to 6000 meter high Shillong Plateau, and on the east by Khasi?Jaintia Hill Range (Khan, 1978). The area is still in its early geomorphic youth and the work of subaerial denudation is conspicuous as a result features like Holocene general bed.
This physiographic unit is unconformably overlying the older formations. Thus this unit is mainly fresh and unweathered indicating a relatively smaller span of time for weathering. The extent of this physiographic unit in high altitude is an indication of widespread tectonic activities in the recent geologic past. In geologic future, it may act as a conglomeratic bed.
Jaflong and the adjacent areas is a monoclinic fold structure, tectonically situated in the Surma basin and falls in the Southern flank of the geoanticlinal feature. The area form an east?west narrow strip along a major thrust, called Dauki Fault (Murthy et al. 1969). The northern part of this fault was uplifted with the rising Shillong Massif, the southern has been down?faulted and concealed beneath a thick clastic sequence of Plio?Pliestocene age [Reimann, 1993]. Hiller  could prove that the maximum through of the fault system amount to as much as 18 km in the eastern half, where as the throw decrease significantly towards the west. The development of faults of localized nature in the area is possibly synchronous with the major Dauki Fault. The faults are step?like in nature and are associated with the major Dauki Fault. The fault north of Jaflong?Sripur road (near Tamabil) is responsible for the neighboring depressed areas like Kakia bil, Dhoka bil, Tama bil, Kami bil etc.
Topography and Relief
The area forms the foot hills of the Khasi-Jaintia Hill ranges. The hill ranges is higher in Indian Territory while situated in Bangladesh there are small hillocks trending east-west in a narrow trip and to the smooth depressions are locally known as “Haor”. The studied area is bounded in the north east by the elevated Shillong plateau and abrupt change in elevation in Khasia-Jaintia Hill in east. The hills are not a continuous but in others places it is highly elevated. Average elevations of the hills are 150-170 meter. Numerous River, bill khal and haor also cover the area, which maintain the flood plains. The marshy lands are filled during the rainy season (Chowdhury K. R, Biswas & Ahmed, 1996).
Figure 3: Topography of Jaflong
River Morphology and Drainage Pattern
The Dauki and the Piyan, the two major rivers (Figure 4) in the studied area, originates from the Umgat river of Assam. The Umgat originates from the hilly areas of Assam. Flowing southward, the river enters Bangladesh through Sylhet district and branches out into two: the Piyan and the Dauki.
Piyan River is a tributary of the Surma River. After entering into Bangladesh, the Piyan follows a 7km-route westward along the international boundary and slighty turns southwest to meet the Surma River at Chhatak. At Pratappur border outpost, the Piyan branches out into three courses: the Old Piyan, the Pabitradhala and the Naiyadala. Currently the original flow of the Piyain follows the course of the Naiyadala and meets the Shari-Goyain River at downreach. The Old Piyan and the Pabitradhala receives life during the rainy season. The total length of the Piyan is about 145 km. The river contains 22 meanders on its 80km course from Jaflong to Chhatak. As the river is a hilly stream, it often causes flash floods and transports a huge amount of boulders from its source area.
Figure 4: Two major rivers of Jaflong; (a) Piyan River, (b) Dauki River
The Dauki River is another important river of the study area that originated in the southern part of Shillong plateau and encroaches to Bangladesh at the foot of the Dauki town and carries huge amount of channel boulders during the monsoon. It is generally a hilly river with a rather strong current and flows in a meandering pattern towards south-west direction. Due to low slope, the river dumpily drops into carrying materials of different shaped boulders which come out from Shillong Plateau and from the adjacent hilly range. At the bottom of the Dauki River the sand bar gravel is present. The coarse, medium and fine sand are also found above it. The gravels are mainly granite, basalt, gneiss, schist and quartzite. Pinkish color sandstone is also observed at the Indian side of Dauki Riverbank.
4.2 Biological Environment
Once upon a time Jaflong was an important biodiversity “hot spots” in the Sylhet region. The area harbored wide varieties of wildlife species in its diverse mosaic of natural habitats. According to the local people about 25-30 years ago the area was strolled by tiger, deer, beer, pig, fox, python etc, which has been disappeared now. Among them only a few number of fox, rabbit and snakes are found now to catch sight of by the local community. The numbers of many endemic birds like magpie robin (Copsychus saularis), house sparrow (Passer domesticus), common myna (Acirdotheres tristis), red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer), rose-tinged Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) become a few. Aquatic species are not so diverse in the two said rivers (Dauki and Piyan). Among the fish species Indian longfin eel (Anguilla bengalensisI), bagrid catfish (Mystus vittatus), 2-track spinyeel (Mastacembelus armatus), loach (Lepidocephalus guntea) are available in a small quantity in those rivers.
4.3 Social, Economic, and Cultural Environment
Jaflong is a thinly populated area. The Muslim represents the majority. The minority is represented by the Hindus and others religions are Buddhists and Christians. Most of the people are professions live Stone collecting; some are farmer, wood cuter, day labours and a few service holders. The people of this hilly region are not very well educated due to lack of sufficient school, college and other education institutes.
Jaflong is famous for its stone collections and is home of the Khasia tribe. The Khasia live close to nature, in total harmony with Jaflong’s idyllic beauty. These days, concrete pillars are replacing the bamboo stilts, but the Khasia still cling to their simple rustic lifestyle. Theirs is a matriarchal society and women are free to choose their mates. The Khasia once practiced a pagan religion, and old records portray them as a fierce and warlike tribe.
Figure 5: A house of ‘Khasia’ tribe
The land grabbers occupied government khas land and reserved forestland and extracted stone by cutting small hills polluting the environment of Jaflong. They also established crushing mills on the forestland without permission from government.
Potential and Observed Environmental Impacts
There are a lot impacts that stone and sand quarrying has on physical, ecological, social, economical, cultural, and political spheres of environment. Some of the impacts are direct, some are indirect; some impacts may be visual, and some might be unearth. However, all of the impacts associate due to human activities. The anticipated environmental impacts of quarrying in the Jaflong area are manifested in this chapter, and on the basis of the impacts a checklist (Table 5.1) on different environmental parameters has developed at the end of the chapter.
5.1 Impact on Physical Environmental
Impact on the physical environment of Jaflong due to quarrying is found river destabilization, dust pollution, land degradation, occupational noise pollution, flooding as well as destruction of riparian zone. The riparian zone includes stream banks, riparian vegetation and vegetative cover. Damaging to these elements is causing various induced problems like river modification, resulting in increased erosion, siltation, and reduced shading, and bank cover may lead to increased stream temperatures.
Sand and stone extraction within or adjacent to the Piyan and Dauki River has initiated channel erosion and degradation. Every year one side of the river bank confronts to erosion and it is continued to attrition.
Figure 6: Erosion to the Dauki River bank
In-stream quarry altering channel geometry enough to create local inflection of stream gradient and point bar mining increases the river channel gradient enough to increase water velocity above and at the quarrying sites, then local channel scouring and erosion result. Although it is accepted that erosion is a natural processes, it is generally accepted that quarrying exacerbates the problem. The processes most commonly associated with channel degradation are: (a) Large-scale removal of river sediment, (b) digging below existing riverbed and (c) alteration of channel bed form and shape.
Changes of River Morphology
Continuous removal of sand, stone and gravel transported by the river (bed load) is causing bed degradation and consequent effects on channel and bank stability of the Piyan River and Dauki River. The stone miners are now using machines that are destroying the river bed, leading to siltation in the river and altering the flow of the rivers. Sand is vital for sustenance of rivers and uncontrolled sand quarrying from the riverbed leads to the destruction of the entire river system. Continuous sand and gravel extraction in quantities higher than the capacity of the river to replenish them is leading to changes in its channel form and eventually erodes the river banks.
Dust is one of the most visible, invasive, and potentially irritating impacts associated with quarrying, and its visibility often raises concerns that are not directly proportional to its impact on human health and the environment (Howard and Cameron, 1998). A large amount of dusts are generated from excavation, drilling, crushing, screening, transportation, and re-suspension of road dusts (Langer, 2001). During the dry season the dust problems happen to severe condition due to the lack of rain in the Jaflong area. Site conditions that affect the impact of dust generated during extraction of aggregate and dimension stone include rock properties, moisture, ambient air quality, air currents and prevailing winds, the size of the operation, proximity to population centers, and other nearby sources of dust (Howard and Cameron, 1998).
In every morning the peace and quiet of Jaflong is shattered by the roar of bulldozers and hydraulic excavators.Stone crushers generate huge noise during crushing stones. The truck traffic that often accompanies aggregate quarrying can be a significant noise source. The impacts of noise are highly dependent on the sound source, the topography, land use, ground cover of the surrounding site, and climatic conditions (Langer, 2001).
Soil Contamination and Characteristics Alteration
Soil contamination around the quarrying site is mainly caused by oil spills by trucks and machinery used to extract sand. Thus stone and sand quarrying also causes serious disturbance to soil, severe soil erosion, and loss of topsoil and removal of top cover. Soil in that area might get compacted because of the transportation of machines and materials.
The area of Jaflong remains exposed to the risks of earth quake due to the presence of the Dauki fault. Haphazard and unsustainable in-stream stone extraction could make the things more threatening.
Figure 7: Acrushing plant(huge noise and dust generated from here)
Jaflong is situated in the foothills of the Khasia-Jainta range. During the rainy season water sometimes races down the slope, carrying mud and rocks. Flash flood can occur when gravel/sand is removed to certain depths which will result in long-term loss of riparian vegetation. Loss of vegetation also occurs when sand/gravel removal results in a significant shift of the river channel that subsequently causes annual or frequent flooding into the disturbed site (NMFS, 1998). Discharging quarry water into nearby streams can increase flashflood recurrence intervals. People of the Jaflong area face frequent and sudden flash flood every year. In 1988, 1995 and 2004 there was some devastating flash floods in that area which cause an enormous damage of life and property. Such man-made interference could make the flood situation much worse.
Engineering activities associated with quarrying can directly change the course of surface water. Sinkholes created by quarrying can intercept surface water flow. As the water of Piyan and Dauki River used for all purpose by the local people including drinking, bathing, washing etc, workers throw their debris (stone, food waste, feces) wherever they please. This way waste is strewn around the rivers. Fuel residues from the engine boats used for transporting sand and stone spread into the river water.
Though the Jaflong area is occupied by not many tube-wells because of the hard geologic structure of stone, there are some potential impacts relates to sand and stone quarrying. The removal of topsoil, overburden and aggregates may affect the quality of water recharging of an aquifer, and excavation below the water table may lead to de-watering of adjacent watercourses and wells. The quantity, and physical and chemical quality, of ground waters may be affected by quarrying activities; flows can be increased or decreased and may be contaminated by runoff or dust from the quarry.
5.2 Impact on Ecological Environmental
Quarrying which leads to the removal of channel substrate, resuspension of streambed sediment, clearance of vegetation, and stockpiling on the streambed, will have ecological impacts. These impacts may have an effect on the direct loss of stream reserve habitat, disturbances of species attached to streambed deposits, reduced light penetration, reduced primary production, and reduced feeding opportunities.
Gravel and stone quarrying from hills at Jaflong is one of the major causes of deforestation and forest degradation, as commercially valuable stones are often found in the ground beneath hill forests. To remedy from noise pollution, crushing plants are shifting from human habitation to desolate hilly areas. As a result, the trees of the hills are cutting down to set up the crushing plants and hilly areas are converting to plain lands. Unremitting erosion of the Piyan River is another factor for the reduction of the riverside forest garden of Khasia village.
Figure 8: Deforestation due to stone extraction from the hillside of Jaflong
Wetland habitat and fisheries
River sand and stone quarry can impact the ecology of a stream from the base of the food chain – aquatic plants – through to the benthic communities and higher order fish in the Dauki and the Piyan River. Quarrying of the river channel can destroy in-stream and river reserve habitats for a broad range of species as well as indirectly impair the functioning of the aquatic ecosystem in the affected nearby areas. Aside from the direct loss of habitat, increased stream turbidity as a result of the quarrying activity may temporarily reduce light penetration within the river, which will impact rates of photosynthesis and therefore primary production rates. The act also prevents longitudinal and lateral migration of fishes in the flood plain and obstruction may also occur in movement of fishes onto natural feeding and breeding grounds in the flood plain.
Forest and Vegetation:
Dust particles produced from quarrying activities as well as the vehicular movement have a resulting impact on the nearby plants and vegetation particularly on betel-leaf, orange, tea garden. Dust spread over the surroundings during dry weather, leach into the soil during storms, and create harmful conditions for the flora and fauna. When dust carried by wind settle on and smothers leaf surfaces, vegetation of neighboring forest can be damaged through the blocking of leaf stomata, thus inhibiting gas exchange and reducing photosynthesis.
The excessive increased rate of quarrying sets in motion the loss of habitat and territory, and loss of food supply for wildlife animals.Besides, the extreme noise resulted from the heavy quarrying machines and stone crushers may cause significant effects on surrounding wildlife population. These impacts may include: behavioral changes in mating predation and migration, and changes in interspecies relationships, altered predator-prey balance, increased competition for food and shelter.
5.3 Impact on Human Interests and Socioeconomic Environment
Operations of quarrying are being a hazard not only to environment but also to human beings. Stone quarrying and crushing has been known as a highly hazardous work, whereby workers are affected by many debilitating occupational health hazards and diseases. However, quarrying is a huge supporter of local economic development and creating jobs for people annual in Jaflong area; it brings high cost for natural aesthetic value for that area.
Workers in the quarrying sites and occupant in the areas are affected and vulnerable to some serious health problems. Quarry labors used to go under 20-30 ft depth of river water for collecting stone, when they sink water enters through their ears and create big troubles for their hearing system. Long term exposure to noise from stone crushers can initiate damage the delicate hair cells in the cochlea, which ultimately results in permanent hearing loss. Workers of the crushing plants are most vulnerable to noise pollution. During the extraction of stone the workers often hurt their fingers and nails. Some of them have no nails on their finger. Dust pollution may create various respiratory infections and damage to the nervous system. The other health hazards could be due to heavy manual labour, minor / major injuries and accidents at workplace, and long working hours.
The sand quarrying is alternative and handy income source for many indigenous people. Most of them are bankrupt and use to the quarry armed with a wicker basket and a spade. Some people have the mediocre solvency of their own boats; use it for stone collection from river. This was the traditional way of stone extraction and collection. But things have been changing there within since last 10 -12 years. Many powerful mechanized machines like stone crushers, bulldozers, excavators etc have set a new motion. Hence, many people started to work in the crushing plants. Around more than 7000 thousand people involve directly with this occupation.
Jaflong was one of the tourist attractions of the country with a nice landscape view and natural beauty. But this idyllic picture has been ruined by the careless and unregulated extraction of stone that has been going on for decades. The attractive tourist destination is in danger of becoming a barren wasteland. Indiscriminate cutting of plants and vegetation is not only changing the landscape, but also threatening the delicate ecosystem.
Dust particles carried by wind settle on plants and grass grown for fodder. Goats and cattle then refuse to eat those. The crops may also be affected by dust. The area used to be famous for oranges, but that’s almost disappeared. Thus dust pollution adversely impacts the overall agro-pastoral system. Quarrying may also associate with loss of agricultural lands.
Figure 9: Stone and sand extraction from (a) Piyan River (b) Dauki River
When there is scarcity of stone or it is difficult to extract stone in the downstream in the Piyan River, people look for stone in the upstream. Thus they go to the upstream of Dauki River for collecting stone, which is situated in the Indian portion. As the stone collectors cross the Bangladesh-India border line, confronted to the target of BSF’s attack, that makes a regular conflict there.
|Environmental Parameters||Anticipated Environmental Impacts|
ImpactAdverse ImpactLowModerateSevereECOLOGICALFisheries P Forest and Vegetation PWetland Habitant P Wildlife P PHYSICO-CHEMICALErosion and Siltation PFlooding P River Morphology P Dust PNoise PSurface Water P Ground Water P Soil Characteristics P HUMAN INTERESTAgriculture P Health PEmploymentP Commercial Facilities P Service Facilities P Landscape PSecurity P
Table 5.1: Checklist of Environmental Parameters Affected due to Stone and Sand Quarry in Jaflong Area
The central purpose of the environmental impact assessment process is to identify potentially significant adverse impacts at the planning stage and to propose measures to mitigate or ameliorate such impacts, as well as establishing environmental monitoring requirements. Mitigative measures can only be effective if they are implemented and, following implementation, periodically monitored to ensure that the measure is resulting in its intended effect. Here are some mitigation measures suggested below to trim down the anticipated and potential environmental impacts of stone and sand quarrying at the area of Jaflong.
6.1 Riverbank and Channel Erosion
Vegetation will be the first and most effective defense against erosion in this zone. Grasses, ground covers, shrubs and trees can effectively protect the soil of the river bank. The plants must be compatible with the various habitats in the project area. In general, those selected for the channel must be able to withstand significant periods of inundation, have a rhizome-type of root network, and should not excessively restrict water flow.
6.2 Dust Pollution
Stone crushing plants are well known as major sources of dust pollution in Jaflong and surrounding region. A carefully prepared and implemented dust control plan commonly can reduce impacts from dust. Mitigation measures contained in the action plan included intensive inspection and enforcement of emission standards, improvement of road surface, road sweeping and cleaning, roadside black smoke inspection, and plantation. The crushing plants must have dust containment and dust suppression measures including enclosures of corrugated iron or plastic sheets and water sprinklers (Mahmood, 2009). Water spray and local exhaust system with particulate control equipments such as cyclone and bag filter can also be employed to reduce dust emission. Roads inside the quarrying sites are required to be paved with permanent surface such as asphalt or concrete in addition to water spray to reduce and suppress dust re-suspension. Trucks are required to be covered with blanket and go through wheel washing with water before leaving the sites (Langer, 2001).
6.3 Noise Pollution
The impacts of noise can be mitigated through various engineering techniques. Landscaping, berms, and stockpiles can be constructed to form sound barriers. Noisy equipment (such as crushers) can be located away from populated areas and can be enclosed in sound-deadening structures. Conveyors can be used instead of trucks for in-pit movement of materials. Noisy operations can be scheduled or limited to certain times of the day. Topographic barriers or vegetated areas can shield or absorb noise (Langer, 2001).
6.4 Surface and Ground Water Quality
There should be a fixed zone for quarry workers where they will dump all types of waste. Hydrogeological studies will be required to determine the likely effect of sand and stone quarry on groundwater flows in the area, particularly in relation to wells on adjoining lands.
The sudden flash flood in the Jaflong area results from the heavy rainfall in the upstream of the Meghalaya State of India, so there should be a forecasting and early warning system to alarm local people. Proper information and education should also be provided for the local community especially for quarry labors who are the worst sufferer of abrupt flash flood. Flood capacity in the river should be maintained in areas where there are significant flood hazards to existing structures or infrastructure. Post flood recovery is another essential tool for flood management.
6.6 Wetland Habitat and Fisheries
The mechanical removal of stone and sand directly from the active channel of rivers and streams should be limited as less as possible particularly for the breeding period of fishes. There should be some restricted wandering zones for fishes and other aquatic species in the river channel where quarrying activities will never be permitted. Finally, extensive sanctuary for wetland species should ascertain in the Dauki and Piyan Rivers.
6.7 Forest and Vegetation
Dust pollution should have to control properly especially in dry season. Dust settled on the leaves of betel-leaf, orange, tea and other plant species should wash regularly to remain unchanged the quality of their extracted products. Though excavation large stone from hillside has reduced, it should have to stop completely.
Removal of the source of dust and noise exposure is important to prevent further worsening of the disease. Personal protective equipments (helmets, safety belts, masks, safety shoes etc) can be provided to the quarry workers. The most important thing is that there have no advanced health facilities nearby to Jaflong, as the workers have to go elsewhere for better treatment. So it is essential to establish a modern facilitated hospital or health center to that region.
6.9 Aesthetic Value
Though Jaflong’s attraction to the tourists is dimming day by day, there is still some fascination to develop it an ecologically sound tourist place. If proper infrastructure can be developed, eco-tourism would be an alternative win-win option for that region.
Summarization of Findings, Conclusion, and Recommendations
The study analyzed as well as pinpointed a number of critical insights that are relevant to the impacts of quarrying on the Jaflong’s environment. Following are the summarizations:
n Stone extraction is being a common practice for the people Jaflong since post-liberation war period.Around 5000-7000 of Bangladeshi people engage in collecting the stone at the Dauki River and Piyan River. On average 35 million TCF of stone is extracted from Jaflong in every year.