The Burning Issue – Apr 2010

April 27, 2010 at 8:03 pm (Uncategorized)

The Shillong Times

30-04-10

NGOs seek Jairam Ramesh’s intervention
State Govt to move Centre against Balpakram drilling

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: The State Government has decided to move the Centre against the proposed exploratory drilling inside the Balpakram National park (BNP) in South Garo Hills.

Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma informed this to a delegation of the Garo Students’ Union (GSU), which met him here on Thursday.

The Government has decided to take up the matter with the Central Government after opposition to uranium mining inside the national park gained momentum with all major NGOs along with students and social groups coming together to protest the move by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to go ahead with its project.

Talking to reporters after the meeting with the Chief Minister, the GSU general secretary Sanjeeb Sangma said Dr Sangma assured the students’ body that the matter would be taken up with the Central Government.

It was decided during the meeting that the drilling exercises would be taken with the rightful consent of the people.

”It is a scared place for us and the government cannot override the sentiments of the people,” Mr Sangma said.

The students’ body also reiterated its opposition to the proposed drilling in the national park as according to them the drilling was merely a precursor to the actual mining of uranium inside the park.

The GSU also said that the team from National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) would not be allowed to visit the park to carry out inspection.

The move to drill inside the national park came to light after the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) asked the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment for de-notification of eight sq km of forest in the Balpakram National park.

Our Tura Correspondent adds: Meanwhile, the GSU and the United Achik Peace Forum (UAPF), a conglomerate of all leading civil societies, have dispatched separate petitions to the Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh seeking his intervention to stop the proposed uranium exploration at Balpakram National Park.

The GSU and the UAPF have pointed out that the decision to de-notify the 8 km stretch of the Rongcheng Plateau inside the national park is a pre-step to drilling which ought to be opposed by one and all.

The GSU and the Forum further said mining in any form inside the national park would be considered sacrilegious.

“The importance of Balpakram National Park is pellucid not only as the heritage

of Garo Hills but also in its role as an ecological sanctuary,” said the Forum in its letter to Ramesh.

The danger to human health from uranium mining in Garo Hills was also raised in the letter. The Forum has expressed concern over contamination of the air, land and the streams from radioactive substance should mining be given a go ahead.

The Forum has resolved to oppose in strongest terms the decision to de-notify the 8 km stretch of Balpakram National Park and exploratory drilling by the DAE.

The Forum has also forwarded copies of the letter to local MP and Union Minister of State for Rural Development Ms Agatha K Sangma, the Director of the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India, Nuclear Fuel Complex, Director General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests and also to Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma.

It may be mentioned that the Balpakram National park is one of few places in the world which continues to have some of the most eye-catching birds and plants and it is also considered as one of the sacred places by the Garo people.

Meghalaya Times
Garo villagers ready to shed blood; no compromise on mining
Written by the Editor
Thursday, 29 April 2010 11:36

Staff Reporter
TURA, Apr. 28: Rongcheng village in South Garo Hills of Meghalaya is located in a very remote area along the Indo-Bangla border in the proximity of the famed Balpakram National Park. This village entered the national limelight with the proposed drilling of uranium mining being opposed by the locals. Saidul Khan reports…
The locals including various pressure groups led by the Garo Students’ Union and the Garo Hills anti-Uranium Mining Forum, a conglomerate of various environment conscious organisations, have opposed the mining of any mineral around Balpakram National Park which is likely to directly or indirectly affect the bio-diversity and the ecological balance of the region.

The mining at Rongcheng will directly affect human lives and the rich bio-diversity of the Balpakram complex, including Balpakram National Park, Siju Wildlife Sanctuary and Baghmara Reserve Forests.

The proposal of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to carry out exploratory drilling for uranium in Rongcheng has been termed by the locals as ‘sacrilege’ for the Garo people. The village, which is located in close proximity with Balpakram, holds much significance as a cultural and religious place vis-à-vis a national park.
The site is home to several endemic species of plants and animals including almost 250 species of birds. It is also an important elephant corridor area and a habitat of the endangered Asian Elephant and contains unique geological formations. The site has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International.
To get a first hand impression of the location, this correspondent made an attempt to reach the proposed uranium area in Rongcheng. We reached the place after walking for over 12 kilometres from helipad in Balpakram. The villagers were agitated at the decision of the DAE to drill uranium in the area. The locals said that though no government officials have informed them about the proposed drilling, they got the information from local radio news transmissions.
The socio-economic condition of the village is poor with most of the locals depending on jhum cultivation for their livelihood. They are not very educated but are conscious enough to protect and preserve their natural heritage as they said: “We will not part away with our land. We are all ready to shed blood.”
The nearest market for this backward village is Rongara, located at a distance of about 30 kilometres and the villagers have to walk for at least seven hours to buy essential commodities. It is a hilly area comprising about 35 households with a population of about 250 people.
The headman of the village is a non adult about 16 years of age and the villagers have appointed two acting nokmas (headmen) to oversee the village’s day to day affairs. The acting headman, Winison M Sangma, said: “We don’t want any uranium mining. The department can’t forcefully take our land. At any cost, we will not part away with our land. We know that it will bring health hazards for our people and our next generation will be born deformed. We will give blood but not our land.”
A village teacher, Asan Momin, said: “Most of the villagers are illiterate and they are not aware about the health hazards of mining uranium but conscious groups are creating awareness and we are not going to part with our land for mining even if the government promises developmental packages.”
The locals say that though they may be illiterate, they are conscious and are aware of the ill effects of uranium mining. An elderly villager, Sajendro Marak, stated: “We will not compromise with anything – money or development – because we know that the effects of radiation will remain forever and haunt our next generation. We don’t want our children to suffer.”
Protesting the move of the government to drill uranium, the influential Garo Students’ Union has erected signboards and information boards opposing mining activities.
It is to be mentioned that the DAE’s proposal is silent on a number of critical issues, including access to the site and impact of the workers. The DAE is unable to give any assurance that wildlife will not be affected as the Rongcheng plateau is mostly accessible only on foot.
Equipment and machinery necessary for the drilling will still need to be transported to the drilling site. This will require road construction/improvement and forest areas being cleared, leading to habitats being lost or disturbed in the process.
Inaccessibility of the drilling site might also require temporary settlements within the national park which will involve clearing the natural vegetation and also cause disturbance to wildlife. The drilling activity in whatever form will undoubtedly upset the forest’s natural harmony.
The DAE in their proposal have incorrectly stated that the area of Balpakram National Park as 400 sq. km. The actual area is 162.3 sq. km only. The park is also sub judice in several court cases in the Shillong Bench of the Gauhati High Court.
It is clear that the DAE have submitted factually incorrect, misleading and incomplete information to the National Board of Wildlife to guarantee swift clearance of their proposal.
Finally, the DAE has given an elaborate justification for the exploratory drilling – sourcing uranium for India’s nuclear energy needs.
This makes it quite clear that the exploratory drilling is a precursor to full scale uranium mining, should the exploratory drilling reveal suitable deposits. “We are against any such eventuality and hence will oppose, tooth and nail, the exploratory drilling,” said a member of the anti-uranium mining group.

ALSO VISIT: http://picasaweb.google.co.in/saloni86/MeghalayaMining?feat=directlink

Public verdict for coal plant

From a Correspondent

SHILLONG, April 28: People of Rwiang, West Khasi Hills have accepted the proposals made by a company having a coal plant in the area for protection of the environment.

The public hearing, conducted by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) at Rwiang, 20 km from Nongstoin, supported the stand of the Shakambari Ferro Alloy Pvt Ltd on protection of the environment. The public hearing was attended by local headmen, representatives of traditional institutions, KSU, WKHSU, HPSO, FKJGP and student organizations. The meeting was chaired by Extra Assistant Commissioner in West Khasi Hills DM Wahlang.

Shakambari Ferro Alloys Pvt Ltd coordinator SC Mahanta explained the various steps to be taken by the company to protect the environment.

Rwiang Wildlife Environmental Protection president H Marbaniang said the existence of the factory would help the people of the area. “There are about 160 factories in Meghalaya, whereas in West Khasi Hills we have got none. Therefore, the people should accept this company. The company should have a Monitoring Committee to look after the welfare of the wildlife in these areas,” said Marbaniang.

Witting Mawsor, a senior resident, said the company would help the business of local coal dealers. WKHSU president Moslandar Marngar wanted the company to make sure that it provides 100 per cent jobs for locals.

 

http://www.sentinelassam.com/meghalaya/story.php?sec=2&subsec=8&id=34740&dtP=2010-04-29&ppr=1#34740

 


GSU to meet CM on Balpakram today

29th April 2010

By Our Reporter (Shillong Times)

SHILLONG: A delegation of Garo Students’ Union (GSU) will meet Chef Minister Dr Mukul Sangma on Thursday to discuss the proposed exploratory drilling in Balpakram National Park besides other developmental issue pertaining to the State.

Meanwhile, a public meeting held at Tura on Wednesday decided to oppose the proposed exploratory drilling in Balpakram National Park.

The meeting attended by the members of Seniors Citizens’ Forum, intellectuals, leaders of various NGOs including GSU, Post Graduate Garo Students’ Unions, Tura Government College Student Union, the Garo Graduates Union, Tura Chambers of Commerce, and the Council of Nokmas unanimously decided to launch a movement under the banner “Balpakram Anti-Uranium Mining Forum”.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma was unanimously elected as the president of the forum.

The forum will meet shortly in Tura to chalk out its future course of action.


Citizens’ forum decries proposed BNP mining

From Our Correspondent (Shillong Times)

TURA: The Tura A’chik (Garo) senior citizens forum has opposed the move to mine uranium by denotifying an area of 8.0 square km in Rongcheng plateau of Balpakram National Park.

The senior citizens forum had an emergent meeting at Tura, attended by members of the Asima Dingsima Rangsaljong Association (ADRA), and opposed the move by the Department of Atomic Energy to denotify the area for proposed uranium mining.

The president of the senior citizens forum, W G Momin, apprised the members present about the need to protect and preserve Balpakram national park and said every effort needs to be made based on the principle of equity and law on protection of Environment and Prevention of Pollution (Central and States, 1993) and also upholding the agenda of World Leaders Summit on Global Warming (December 2009).

Members pointed out that experts in the field of Forest and Environment selected Balpakram for a national park in 1986 primarily because the area harbours a rich biodiversity coupled with virgin forests that are teeming with wild animals,epiphytic orchids, medicinal plants and herbs, among others.

The senior citizens during discussion also dwelled on the historical background of Balpakram, that is the age old belief of the Garos that the place is the abode of the dead mens soul.

“We as custodians want protection and preservation of Rongcheng Plateau and will not allow under any circumstances to explore these areas for uranium mining,” stated the Tura A’chik (Garo) senior citizens forum.

The forum has also urged the Wildlife Department not to agree to the exploration of the protected and preserved national park.

The meeting passed a charter of resolutions passed by the members present. The resolutions called for protection of the entire park since it holds some the most endangered wildlife such as the Hoolock Gibbon, Golden cat, langur, binturong, clouded leopard, otter, slow loris, wild buffalo, among others.

Balpakram is also one of few places in the world which continues to have some of the most eyecatching birds and plants. The great Indian Hornbill, snow patridge, the large racket failed drongo, red jungle fowl, are some of the birds that visitors have come across inside the park.

The world famous pitcher plant and the colorful orchids of Garo Hills are also found in plenty in the national park.

The extensive destruction to forest cover due to coal and limestone mining in and around Nangalbibra and Chokpot in South Garo Hills which borders Balpakram has alarmed the NGOs including the senior citizens.

The mining has caused the Simsang river to become polluted resulting in toxic poisoning of all forms of aquatic life.

The entire land has become barren and streams and rivulets in the catchment areas have dried up and people’s health have been severely affected by coal dust pollution.

“The mining of uranium will definitely bring serious health and environmental hazards as we see in the living example of coal and limerstone mining. Mining will drive out both human and animal population from Rongcheng Plateau,” warned the Tura A’chik (Garo) Senior Citizens Forum.


Centre push for coal mining in Garo Hills

 

From Our Special Correspondent

 

NEW DELHI: The Centre has urged the Meghalaya Government to renew the mining lease of Simsang Block in Garo Hills with the Coal India Ltd (CIL) to meet the demand of coal for power sector in the north-eastern region particularly the proposed coal-to-oil liquefaction project of OIL at Duliajan.

The demand for power is increasing everyday particularly in the region and using coal from Meghalaya is most suitable for such coal-to-oil liquefaction, Union Minister for Coal Sriprakash Jaiswal said.

He urged the Meghalaya Government to renew the lease in 25 sq km Simsang Blcok in favour of state owned CIL.

Coal mining in the Samsang project was initiated by the CIL way back in 1990 after developing requisite infrastructure. But the operation was suspended after abduction of an employee and heavy water seepage at the initiation stage. The mining lease expired in 2008 too.

But to revive the mining operations with up-to-date technology, the CIL had several rounds of talks with the State Government and even paid the dead rent last year, Jaiswal told newsmen here recently. The hill state is endowed with reserve of coal to the tune of 460 million tonnes some of which are of good quality, he said.


 

MoEF clears clearance to Lafarge’s mining in Meghalaya

TNN, Apr 24, 2010, 01.21am IST

NEW DELHI: The ministry of forest and environment (MoEF) on Friday gave the green signal to limestone mining in Meghalaya by French multinational Lafarge for its cement plant in Bangladesh but put a series of conditions, to fulfil which the company would have to shell out more than Rs 100 crore.

The forest and environment clearance for the mining, to which as many as 31 conditions were attached, was conveyed to the Supreme Court on Friday by MoEF through an affidavit filed by standing counsel Haris Beeran.

The key conditions relate to payment of money for afforestation activity in twice the area under mining and creation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for development of the area around the mines, from which the limestone is transported to the plant at Chhatak through a conveyor belt.

MoEF said Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt Ltd has to pay five times the normal afforestation cost working out to Rs 55 crore with an interest of 9% from April 1, 2007. This would amount to nearly Rs 70 crore taking into account the interest component.

Added to this, the mining company has to pay Rs 90 per tonne of the mined mineral since the commencement of mining. With Lafarge Surma having already mined around four million tonnes of limestone, it would have to pay around Rs 36 crore that will constitute the SPV, which would contribute towards the development of health, education, economy, irrigation and agriculture in the project area solely for the local community and welfare of tribals.

The clearance from the MoEF was sought by the Supreme Court taking into account the charges of Shella Action Committee, a conglomerate of traditional village bodies, that limestone was being mined in forest areas and that the enviornmental clearance was obtained fradulently.

Lafarge Umiam was mining the limestone quarry area spread over 100 hectares near the Indo-Bangladesh border for supply of raw material to Lafarge Surma Cement Project at Chhatak in Sunamganj, Bangladesh.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/MoEF-clears-clearance-to-Lafarges-mining-in-Meghalaya/articleshow/5849838.cms

 


 

Former Lok Sabha threatens agitation against uranium mining

April 23rd, 2010 – 12:25 am ICT by IANS

Shillong, April 22 (IANS) Former Lok Sabha speaker Purno A. Sangma Thursday threatened to launch an agitation against the central government’s proposal to conduct exploratory drilling for uranium inside the Balpakram National Park in the South Garo hills of Meghalaya.

The 400-sq km BNP is a known habitat for the Asian elephant, tiger and other endangered animals such as, Hoolock Gibbon and Slow Loris, apart from being home to rare and endemic plants.

Sangma’s threat assume significance after the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) approved the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)’s proposal to conduct exploratory drilling of uranium in the ecologically fragile Rongcheng plateau of the Balpakram National Park in Meghalaya.

The NBWL is headed by Prime Minsister Manmohan Singh.

A NBWL member, Bibhab Talukdar, who has been assigned to lead a site inspection team to South Garo Hills to seek the views of people on the DAE’s proposed exploratory drilling of uranium, and submit a report to the standing committee, has decided not to visit the national park.

“I have informed the board that I will not be visiting the place following people’s protest against the government’s proposal,” Talukdar said.

The Garo National Liberation Army, a mitant group has warned the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the state’s Chief Wildlife Warden from going ahead with exploratory work for uranium mining in and around the national park.

Last year, the DAE has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to de-notify an area of eight sq km on the Rongcheng plateau along the environs of Balpakram National Park in Meghalaya’s South Garo Hills for exploration of uranium.

“Balpakram is sacrosanct for Garos. We believed after death our soul goes and rests in Balpakram,” Sangma told IANS.

Therefore, he said, the question of mining or diluting the sanctity of Balpakram by way of mining is not acceptable to Garos.

The Hindus too believe that Balpakram was the mythological hillock from where Hanuman plucked the life-giving herbs ‘the sanjeevani’ for wounded Lakshman.

On April 24, Sangma said political (Garo) leaders and NGO leaders will meet at Tura in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills district to protest against the government’s decision to explore uranium inside Balpakram.

The influtential Garo Students’ Union Wednesday dashed off a memorandum to Union Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh opposing the DAE’s proposal to conduct exploratory drilling of uranium inside Balpakram.

The drilling exercise, he said would affect the fragile biodiversity of Balpakram and would be tantamount to encroaching on the tribal rights.

“Survey in the recent years has identified possibility of economical uranium mining in the Rongcheng plateau of Balpakram,” a DAE official said.

He said the DAE wanted to start the exploration exercise to confirm the uranium deposits to meet the country’s nuclear energy requirement which will be to the tune of 20,000 MW by 2020.

State Chief Wildlife Warden Sunil Kumar earlier told IANS that the proposed drilling exercise will have no adverse affect on the park.

“Since the drilling exercise is of temporary nature, which will be carried out as a day time activity, I don’t think it will disturb the landscape or ecology of the area,” Kumar said.

“Once the exercise is completed. The drilling areas will be restored to ensure that there is biotic interference in Balpakram,” he added.

The DAE has discovered about 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits in Meghalaya.

The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) plans to produce 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore a year and process 1,500 tonnes of the mineral a day.

It has also proposed to set up a Rs.1,046-crore open-cast uranium mining and processing plant in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district, which has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/politics/former-lok-sabha-threatens-agitation-against-uranium-mining_100352302.html


 

Tribal Garos oppose exploration of Uranium inside national park

 

Shillong, Apr 22: The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE’s) proposal to conduct exploratory drilling for Uranium inside the sacred Balpakram National Park has angered the tribal Garos in Meghalaya.

 

Former Lok Sabha SpeakerPurno A Sangma has threatened to launch a massive agitation in protest against the Centre’s decision to allow the exploratory drilling inside the national park in South Garo Hills district.

The 400-sq km BNP is a known habitat for Asian elephants, tigers and other endangered animals such as Hoolock Gibbon and Slow loris.

It is also home to rare and endemic plants.

The DAE had asked the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment for de-notification of 8 Sqkm of forest under the national park to conduct an exploratory drilling in the ecologically-fragile Rongcheng plateau of the park.

Keeping in mind the necessity for Atomic Energy, the Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) also unanimously recommended for exploratory drilling of Uranium.

The Committee also observed that the approval of State Board for Wildlife was not statutorily required.

According to a recent survey, the Rongcheng plateau is one of the ”most potential” sites for ”high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits”.

The exploratory drilling is aimed at that.

–UNI

 

http://www.newkerala.com/news/fullnews-94797.html

 


 

Mining bid in park hits union wall – GSU writes to Ramesh

A STAFF REPORTER

Guwahati, April 22: The recommendation of the National Board for Wildlife for exploratory drilling of uranium at the Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills district has been opposed by the Garo Students Union apart from local organisations in Meghalaya.

The 18th meeting of the standing committee of the wildlife board in New Delhi had taken the decision on exploratory uranium drilling. Union minister of state (independent charge) for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh had chaired the meet.

The committee, after discussions, unanimously decided to recommend exploratory drilling of uranium in the Rongcheng plateau of the park, keeping in mind the necessity for atomic energy.

The committee directed its member, Bibhab Talukdar, to visit the area and suggest safeguards, if any, to the state government under intimation to the ministry.

The Garo Students Union, in a memorandum to Ramesh, said it had decided to prevent the team from the board from entering the national park.

“Since we are principally opposed to any uranium mining in Garo hills, we do not see the point of exploratory drilling and therefore there is no merit in carrying out the site visit. We particularly hope that the proposed visit of NBWL team will not be allowed to reach a flashpoint and the team will not insist in conducting the site visit in violation of the people’s desires,” the memorandum said.

The member secretary of the committee, M.B. Lal, who is also the additional director general of forests (wildlife), said according to Section 35 (6) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, any diversion within a national park needed recommendation of the wildlife board. Besides, according to Section 29 of the act, any diversion within a sanctuary needed recommendation of the State Board for Wildlife.

Therefore, in the instant case, approval of the State Board for Wildlife was not statutorily required. The committee, however, also observed that recommendation of the state board be obtained for the proposal.

The department of atomic energy had sought permission for exploratory drilling in the ecologically fragile Rongcheng plateau for which it had requested for de-notification of 8 square km of forest under the national park.

According to a recent survey, the Rongcheng plateau is one of the “most potential” sites for “high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits”. The exploratory drilling will aim to confirm the presence of such deposits.

The 400-sq km national park is a known habitat for the Asian elephant, tigers and other endangered animals such as, hoolock gibbon and slow loris, apart from being home to rare and endemic plants.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100423/jsp/northeast/story_12368875.jsp


 

Whiff of discontentment in MUA

Our Bureau

SHILLONG: Discontentment seems to be brewing in the ruling conglomerate as a chunk of Congress MLAs who did not find favours with Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma are privately airing their feelings for the need to assert themselves.

Barely hours after Dr Sangma was sworn in, some of these MLAs went into private huddles. After the full Cabinet was constituted last week-end, the whispers of discontentment have become louder.

According to sources, the unhappy lot in the Congress is being joined by some of the minor coalition partners. Although it is still in an early formative stage, if not effectively put down by the leadership, the situation has the potential for turning serious.

Sources said at least two prominent Congress MLAs, who have been denied ministerial berth, constitute the nucleus of this discontentment.

Much to the discomfiture of the newly-inducted Chief Minister some of the MLAs from Jaintia Hills are said to be adding oxygen to the simmering discontentment. It is learnt that a couple of Jaintia MLAs who were hopeful of a Cabinet berth after they helped the party with hard cash, are “angry” over this “denial”.

Add to it the “loose” coalition partners like the KHNAM, HSPDP and the pack of Independents, who are not in the Cabinet, are said to be alert to the emerging opportunity. There are unconfirmed reports that some of them have had confabulations, but none was willing to speak more than “I don’t know anything”.

Informed sources said already an exercise of permutation and combination is underway. Although political observers are not willing to give more credence to such speculations than “mere wishful hypothesis”, everybody agrees that the key to stability of MUA is in the hands of UDP.

Even though the official position of UDP is that it would like to complete the full tenure as the major partner of Congress-led coalition, in the cloak-and-dagger politics of Meghalaya anything is possible, observers say.

In the prevailing political atmosphere where many believe that stability of the present combination can hardly be guaranteed, the opposition NCP which finds Dr Sangma its bete noire, would only be too eager to fish in the troubled water.

However, the bitter memories of the short lasting marriage of NCP and UDP and given the air of distrust among the erstwhile MPA partners, could still prove to be the saviour for the ruling coalition, observers say.

http://www.theshillongtimes.com/shillong.html


 

Apex court refuses to lift ban on limestone mining
SC blow to Lafarge

 

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to lift the stay on limestone mining by French cement giant Lafarge in the forests of Meghalaya till the Ministry of Environment and Forests submits a report on environmental compliance.

“Till the time appropriate reports are submitted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, we are not inclined to accept the report of MoEF and permit the mining,” a Special Forest Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices S H Kapadia and Aftab Alam said.

The Ministry had recently filed an affidavit before the court stating that it had given the go-ahead on the condition that the company implement various welfare schemes for the locals.

The Bench was of the view that the Ministry’s report giving clearance for mining has not appreciated the recommendations of an expert committee that called for comprehensive bio-engineering plan, periodical assessment of flora and fauna.

The court said it would consider lifting of the stay only after the four conditions mentioned in the report of the expert committee are fulfilled.

Among them, Lafarge has to submit detailed comprehensive bio-engineering plan of the area as per the suggestion of Central Institute of Mining & Fuel Research, Nagpur and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur. The cement firm would have to make periodical assessment of flora and fauna of the area including a time bound plan for conservation as recommended in the digital mapping report of the mining area.

The apex court has also asked for a comprehensive bio-diversity conservation plan with a provision of time bound implementation be prepared by the state government and the fund should be provided by Lafarge in a time-bound manner.

It also asked Lafarge to implement Surface Miner Technology to reduce environmental impact as recommended in the digital mapping report.

The opposition for lifting the February 5 order staying the mining operation came from senior advocate Harish Salve, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter and senior advocate P S Narasimha, appearing for the tribals of Shella village, who raised questions over the environmental clearance report submitted by the MoEF in alleged haste.

“The site inspection report of MoEF raises more issues than it answers. These are post environment clearances. How can they rapidly conclude it in two days only… should have spent at least 10 days. What was the need of such rapid assessment,” Salve submitted. Salve said no mandatory soil testing was done by the MoEF on the grounds that no top soil was available in that area.

“If we grant clearance in such way then we can imagine the type of environmental damage,” he said, adding that there was no urgency in granting permission to Lafarge. He said the yardsticks for giving environmental clearance has to be uniform and referred to apex court’s decision in the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project which was not cleared for four years till entire parameters were followed. Narasimha questioned the MoEF report saying that the committee even did not meet the locals.

“We cannot permit law of this country to be bended because it is a case of MNC firm. They would have to take permission as per the law. Even its takes four years, let it take,” he submitted.

However, senior advocate Fali Nariman appearing for the cement firm, requested the court to lift its stay as the stock of raw materials for the Bangladesh plant has been finished. He submitted that Lafarge would pay for “whatsoever penalty is imposed.” The MoEF on Friday had filed an affidavit giving a go-ahead to mining activities on the condition that the company work for the welfare of the locals and would follow some mandatory conditions. The MoEF had directed Lafarge to deposit Rs 90 crore for the creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle, which would be headed by the Chief Secretary of Meghalaya.

The development projects, which will be solely for the local community and welfare of the tribals, could be in areas such as health, education, economy, irrigation and agriculture.

The MoEF submission came after the apex court had on April 12 directed it to take a final decision on the revised forest clearance for the 116-hectare limestone mine area in the Khasi Hills Forest area of Meghalaya. The apex court on February 5 had stopped Lafarge from carrying out limestone mining in Meghalaya for its cement plant in Bangladesh, saying mining in the environment sensitive zone cannot be allowed. The Bench had stayed mining activities on the basis of a MoEF report, which had said that the company was extracting minerals from the land falling in the forest area. The 255 million dollar Lafarge Surma Cement project at Chhatak in Bangladesh is wholly dependent on limestone extracted from East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. Limestone is transported from Meghalaya to Bangaldesh through a 17-km-long conveyor belt. (PTI)

http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/taxonomy/term/5028


 

GNLA, FKJGP oppose Balpakram mining


Shillong Times 20-04-10

TURA: The Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) has warned the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State from going ahead with exploratory work for uranium mining in and around the famous Balpakram National Park (BNP).

Publicity secretary of GNLA, Gilsang Matgrik Marak alias Aski, issued a press release strongly protesting any attempt by authorities to mine uranium in Garo Hills.

“We strongly condemn the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) to send a Uranium Site Inspection Team to BNP and warn the State Chief Wildlife Warden, Sunil Kumar, against working as an agent of the DAE,” threatened the militant outfit.

Supporting the role of the Garo Hills Anti-Muning Forum (GHAMF), GSU, KSU and other NGOs for opposing the proposed mining, the GNLA stated that Garo Hills would turn into another ‘Chernobyl’ if the project goes ahead.The outfit has also called upon the people of Garo Hills to rise up against any kind of uranium mining and prevent an impending catastrophe.

FKJGP joins bandwagon: Meanwhile, the newly-constituted FKJGP, Garo Hills zone, also opposed the proposed uranium mining inside the national park. The federation has resolved to support the KSU and GSU on their anti-uranium mining campaign and has said they will not allow private or government firm to extract the ore from Garo Hills.

“We will soon submit petitions to both the State and Central governments to immediately stop any proposal for exploratory mining,” informed the FKJGP.

 


GNLA opposed Uranium mining Meghalaya Times

Monday, 19 April 2010 10:14

SHILLONG, Apr 17:  The Publicity Secretary, Garo National Liberation Army(GNLA), Gilsang Matgrik Marak alias Aski, in his press statement released to the media strongly condemn the decision of the National Board of Wildlife, (NBWL), to sent a Uranium Site Inspection Team to Balpakram National Park.

Aski added the GNLA warn the State Chief Wildlife Warden, Sunil Kumar to take the project ahead, and advised Kumar to abstain from being a “Dalal” of the Department of Atomic Energy.

In a stronger statement, Aski added, “We are fully prepared to welcome Sunil Kumar and his BOSSES with our 3Bs:- (1)BULLETS, (2)BOMBS, (3)BLOOD if they step into their area.”
GNLA added, they whole-heartedly support the GSU, GHAMF and other NGOs and also request them to prevent this “Day light robbery of our Deadly” natural resource which might bring another ‘CHERNOBYL’ to our land.

Aski added GNLA extended their gratitude to the KSU for supporting the Garo Hills people in this issue.

Lastly, the release calls upon all people of Garo Hills to rise up against any kind of Uranium-Exploration and prevent this impending catastrophe in our land. 

 


 

NBWL to carry site inspection of Balpakram

Shillong Times 16-04-10

Guwahati: The National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) has decided to undertake a site inspection of the uranium deposit in Balpakram National Park in the State in response to the proposal submitted by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to de-notify an area of 8 square kilometers at Rongcheng Plateau in Balpakram National Park for exploratory uranium mining.

A highly-placed source informed that the Board at a meeting held in New Delhi on April 12, had decided to send a site inspection team led by one of its standing committee members to Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills district in view of the DAE’s proposal.

The go-ahead from the NBWL holds the key for the DAE’s bid to explore uranium in Balpakram given that any non-forest activity like exploratory drilling inside a national park requires approval from the NBWL.

The inspection team of the NBWL is expected to give ear to rising protests against the attempt to mine uranium inside the national park area in the State.

The Rongcheng Plateau in Balpakram National Park has been identified as a site for high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits. The total uranium ore deposit in Khasi and Garo Hills region of Meghalaya is estimated to be 9.2 million tonnes and it is of immense importance to the country considering the fact that India has set a target of 20,000 MW of nuclear energy by 2020.Anti-mining forum opposes mining proposal.

Meanwhile, the Garo Hills Anti-Mining Forum (GHAMF) has opposed the proposal of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to carry out exploratory Uranium mining inside Balpakram National Park.

The forum was of the opinion that drilling activity in whatever form will undoubtedly upset the forest’s natural harmony, since the park is home to several endemic species of plants and animals including almost 250 species of birds. Reiterating that the forum would fight tooth and nail against the exploratory drilling, the anti-mining forum said that since the DAE had elaborately justified the exploratory drilling in terms of sourcing uranium for India’s nuclear energy needs, it is evident that the exploratory drilling is a precursor to full-scale uranium mining.

It may be mentioned that the Garo Students’ Union has already declared its opposition to the project.

http://www.theshillongtimes.com


 

Uranium hunt bid in Meghalaya national park raises storm

Hindustan Times

Fri, Apr 16 09:40 AM

Guwahati, April 15 — A bid to de-notify a part of a sacred national park with a perceived Ramayana connection to facilitate uranium exploration has incensed tribal groups in Meghalaya. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to de-notify 8 sq km inside the 400 sq km Balpakram National Park (BNP) in Meghalaya’s South Garo Hills.

The area falls on the ecologically fragile Rongcheng Plateau. The Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) under MoEF had in a meeting on 12 December 2008 discussed DAE’s proposal for exploratory uranium mining in BNP. DAE justified the need for targeting BNP citing India’s national resolve to generate at least 20,000MW of nuclear power by 2020.

The Rongcheng plateau, a recent DAE survey said, is one of the “most potential” sites for “high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits” that requires confirmation through exploratory drilling. According to the Garo Hills Anti-Mining Forum (GHNAMF) – a conglomerate of 11 social and green organizations – locals were kept in the dark about the “clandestine bid” until it moved RTI last year.

“We are not going to allow any mining activities inside BNP,” said GHNAMF general secretary Ginseng Sangma. The biodiversity hotspot tag on BNP was not the only reason, he added.

“Balpakram is sacred for the Garo tribal people. We believe the spirit of our ancestors reside in these forests sustaining the tiger, hoolock gibbon and slow loris besides elephants,” said fellow activist Vaishali A Sangma.

BNP is holy for Hindus too. They believe Balpakram was the mythological mound from where Hanuman plucked sanjeevani, the life-giving herb, for the wounded Lakshman felled by Meghnad in Ramayana.

But isn’t mining activity in and around a national park rejected outright? In the case of uranium, considered a critical mineral, the MoEF can allow its mining in the “larger national interest”. DAE officials said things “haven’t progressed enough” to invite anger from local organizations.

But NMWL member Bibhab Talukdar said a team is scheduled to visit BNP on April 22 to seek the views of the people on DAE’s proposal and submit a report to the standing committee. Notably, another uranium mining proposal in Domiasiat area of West Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya has been hanging fire since 1992.

Several anti-nuke groups have stalled the project citing radiation effect on human health and environmental degradation.

Hindustan Times


 

Protests over bid to tap uranium
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS

Guwahati, April 15
The National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) has decided to conduct a site inspection in response to the proposal from Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to de-notify an area of 8 sq km at Rongcheng Plateau in Balpakram National Park in Meghalaya for exploratory uranium mining even as protests have been raging in the hill state over bid to tap uranium deposit in the area.

A source said the NBWL had, at its meeting in New Delhi on April 12 last, decided to conduct a site inspection by one of its standing committee members along with state forest department officials at Balpakram National Park in South Garo hills district of Meghalaya in view of the DAE’s proposal. Any non-forest activity like exploratory drilling inside a national park would need the approval of the NBWL.The Rongcheng Plateau in Balpakram National Park has been identified as a site for high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits. In fact, the total uranium ore deposit in Khasi and Garo hill areas of Meghalaya is estimated to be 9.2 million tonne and is of immense importance if the country is to achieve the target of 20,000 MW nuclear energy by 2020.

Meanwhile, the Khasi Students Union (KSU), which has been spearheading the anti-uranium mining campaign in Meghalaya, has taken strong exception to reports that now the government has turned its eyes to uranium deposit in Balpakram National Park in Garo Hills areas in the state.

http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/taxonomy/term/5028


 

NATION | Thursday, April 15, 2010

Opposition to uranium mining in national park

Sanat K Chakraborty | Guwahati

A proposal for an exploratory drilling at a newly-surveyed uranium site inside the Balpakram National Park (BNP), in South Garo hills of Meghalaya, has raised the hackles of wildlife and conservation groups in the State.

The 400-sq km BNP is a known habitat for Asian elephant, tiger and other endangered animals such as, Hoolock Gibbon and Slow loris, apart from being home to rare and endemic plants.

Last year, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) had sought permission for an exploratory drilling in the ecologically fragile Rongcheng plateau of the Park for which the DAE has requested for de-notification of 8 sq km of forest under the national park.

According to a recent survey, the Rongcheng Plateau is one of the “most potential” sites for “high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits”, which requires confirmation. The exploratory drilling is aimed at that.

Citing India’s national resolve to generate at least 20,000MW of nuclear power by 2020, the DAE justified the need for “exploration efforts for economically feasible uranium deposits,” and sought clearance of the Ministry of Forest and Environment.

However, the proposal came to light following an RTI appeal by a local conservationist group in South Garo Hills, which got wind of the uranium find. What angered the local NGOs was the “clandestine manner” in which the exploratory drilling activities were proposed by the DAE.

“We are not going to allow any mining activities inside the BNP,” said Ginseng Sangma of the Chitmang Hills Anti-Mining Forum, which filed the RTI petition about the proposed exploratory uranium mining activities.

He said BNP was not only a biodiversity and ecological hotspot, “it’s a sacred place for us.” The Garos believe the spirit of their ancestors reside in the forest of Balpakram.

Not only the indigenous Garos, the Hindus too believe that Balpakram was the mythological hillock from where Hanuman plucked the life-giving herbs, sanjeevani, for wounded Lakshman.

Meanwhile, on Monday the issue came up for discussion at the meeting of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). The meeting, chaired by Union Minister of State for Forest and Environment Jairam Ramesh, decided to send ‘an inspection team’ to ascertain facts about the proposed drilling site.

Normally, any mining activity around a national park is rejected outright, but considering ‘uranium’ as a ‘critical mineral’, the ministry has to look at ‘larger national interest,’ an NBWL member told The Pioneer.

Another uranium mining proposal in West Khasi hills of Meghalaya is lying pending since 1992, with several anti-nuke groups opposing the project citing radiation effect on human health and environmental degradation.

The Uranium Corpo-ration of India (UCIL) has proposed to set up a Rs 1,046 crore opencast uranium mining and processing unit in Domiasiat area, which has an estimated deposit of 9.22 million tones of uranium ore.

http://www.dailypioneer.com/249179/Opposition-to-uranium-mining-in-national-park.html


Opposition to Uranium Mining from Balpakram Mounts

Wed, Apr 14 06:49 PM

Shillong, April 14 (IANS) The standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) will send a site inspection team to Balpakram National Park in Meghalaya to ascertain people’s views on the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) proposal to conduct its exploratory mission in the park.

The DAE has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to de-notify an area of eight sq km on the Rongcheng plateau along the environs of Balpakram National Park in Meghalaya South Garo Hills for exploration of uranium ore.

‘Survey in the recent years has identified possibility of economical uranium mineralisation in the Rongcheng plateau,’ a DAE official said.

He said the DAE wanted to start the exploration exercise to mainly confirm the uranium deposits to meet the country’s nuclear energy requirement which will be to the tune of 20,000 MW by 2020.

On Tuesday, the board standing committee meeting, chaired by Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh in New Delhi, decided to depute a site inspection team to Balpakram.

‘We will be visiting Balpakram later this month to seek the views of the people on the DAE’s proposed exploratory drilling of uranium, and submit a report to the standing committee,’ NBWL member Bibhab Talukdar told IANS.

The 220 square km Balpakram National Park, apart from being an ecological hotspot, is also a sacred place for the indigenous Garo community in Meghalaya hills. The park is also called land of the eternal death in Garo mythology, as it is believed that the spirits of the dead reside here.

It is also believed by Hindus that Hanuman, while looking for the herb ‘sanjeevani’ with which to cure Laxman, who was injured in the battle against Ravana, found it in Balpakram.

The area is home to rare and endangered species of wild life which include the hoolock gibbons, slow loris, tigers and elephants.

State Chief Wildlife Warden Sunil Kumar said that the proposed exploration drilling exercise will have no biotic interference in the park.

‘Since the drilling exercise is of temporary nature, which will be carried out as a day time activity I don’t think it will disturb the landscape or ecology of the area,’ Kumar told IANS.

‘Once the exercise is completed. The drilling areas will be restored to ensure that there is biotic interference in Balpakram,’ he said.

However, several NGOs, including the powerful Garo Students’ Union (GSU) has opposed the DAE’s proposal to conduct its drilling exercise inside the national park.

‘We oppose DAE’s move to explore uranium deposits inside the park and we have also decided to ban outsiders and government officials from entering Balpakram,’ GSU president Alex Sangma said.

The drilling exercise, he said would surely affect the fragile biodiversity of Balpakram and would be tantamount to encroaching on the tribal rights.

Meanwhile, the GSU will send a letter to Chief Minister D.D. Lapang to oppose any move to de-notify eight sq km the Rongcheng Plateau to facilitate exploration of uranium.Earlier, the DAE has discovered about 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits in Meghalaya.

The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) plans to produce 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore a year and process 1,500 tonnes of the mineral a day.

It has also proposed to set up a Rs.1,046-crore open-cast uranium mining and processing plant in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district, which has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.

Indo Asian News Service

http://in.news.yahoo.com/43/20100414/812/tnl-wildlife-team-to-visit-before-uraniu.html


 
 
 
Lafarge to tailor ops for public benefit
 
Staff Correspondent
SHILLONG, April 13: In view of the Supreme Court upholding the Attorney General (AG)’s recommendation that an independent Environmental Assessment Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)  should  review the  Environment Compliance Reports at the next hearing, the Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited (LUMPL) has agreed to tailor its plans for the benefit of the people.
Even as the mining project has been kept on hold in the Shella-Nongtrai area, a Lafarge statement today said the LUMPL had plans to intensify its activity as suggested by  the AG.
Referring to the AG’s suggestion that envisages the setting up of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) –  which  would provide a structure for the organization in implementing the activity that will bring greater transparency in the processes – to  ensure that the interests of all stake-holders are equitably met.
“Lafarge is  committed  to total legal and environmental compliance,” said the statement.
“We are confident of an early and speedy resolution of the matter in the best interest of all stakeholders”, Lafarge added.
While Lafarge operations in Meghalaya have come to a virtual halt leaving its processing plant in Bangladesh on tenterhooks, Lafarge referred to the latest findings that gave the company a clean chit.
“The  report  submitted  by the high-powered committee of the MoEF, headed by BN Jha, RCCF North Eastern Regional Office of Environment and Forest, and  other  senior officials who visited the site recently under the orders of  the  Supreme Court, has confirmed that the company was meeting the environmental standards and was in compliance with the set norms”, said Lafarge.http://www.sentinelassam.com/meghalaya/story.php?sec=2&subsec=8&id=33539&dtP=2010-04-14&ppr=1#33539
       


 

KSU, GSU fire 1st salvo

‘Uranium mining’ in Balpakram

Shillong Times 13-04-10

SHILLONG: The KSU which is spearheading the anti-uranium mining campaign in West Khasi Hills has taken strong exception to reports that now the Government has turned its eyes to Balpakram National Park to extract uranium from the State.

Reacting strongly to the news item published in The Shillong Times, KSU general secretary Hamlet Dohling said the people of Garo Hills should be aware and should not be misled by the Government’s promises.

“People will ultimately suffer from radiation, if mining of uranium takes place in the State,” Dohling said.

Besides the health hazards, the environment of the bio-diversity hotspot will also be adversely affected, if uranium mining takes place in and around the famous park, according to the KSU leader.

Calling upon the people of Garo Hills to remain alert, the KSU also offered its hand to assist and work with Garo NGOs against uranium mining in the State.

Meanwhile, the GSU also expressed its opposition against any uranium project in the in Garo Hills region.

GSU general secretary Sanjeev Sangma while speaking to THE SHILLONG TIMES said the organisation had a meeting with different organizations on Monday and adopted a resolution that no company would be allowed to visit Garo Hills with the intention of drilling uranium from the Garo Hills.

The organisation will also submit petitions to both Central and the State governments calling for not allowing any company to use Balpakram Park as a medium of revenue generation at the cost of its wildlife and biodiversity.

The Union said it would hold public meetings if the Government goes ahead with the “exploratory mining”.

The Department of Atomic Energy has already submitted a proposal to de-notify an area of 8sq km for exploratory mining in the Roncheng plateau and the matter is lying with relevant department of the Union Government.

It is learnt that the DAE had proposed the exploratory drilling from 2008 besides it was also one of the agenda of the standing committee meeting of the National Board of Wildlife in 2008.


 

DAE submits proposal to de-notify 8 sq. km area for exploratory mining in Roncheng Plateau

Now uranium mining in Balpakram National Park

Shillong Times 12-04-2010

Shillong: The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has now set its sights on uranium occurring in and around the Balpakram National Park.

A proposal to de-notify an area of 8 sq. km for exploratory mining in the Roncheng Plateau in the environs of Balpakram is already lying with the relevant departments of the Central Government.

Environmentalists are alarmed that this would destroy the fragile pristine biodiversity hotspot of the State which is already waning due to rampant mining of coal and limestone by private individuals.

The DAE had proposed exploratory drilling since 2008. The proposal had been placed as an agenda item in the Standing Committee Meeting of of National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) in December 2008 but could not be taken up for discussion since a detailed proposal was pending.

Any non-forest activity like exploratory drilling inside a national park would need the approval of the NBWL.

It is learnt that the NBWL will be considering the DAE’s proposal in its next meeting scheduled for April 12 next as the detailed proposal has been submitted by the DAE.

Some activists in Garo Hills have filed an RTI application to the State Forest Department if there is a proposal for exploratory mining around Balpakram National Park. The Department affirmed that a proposal from the DAE was received and is pending for approval.

The justification given by DAE is India’s nuclear energy requirement which is to the tune of 20,000 MW by the year 2020.

The Rongcheng Plateau along the environs of Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills have been identified as the area containing high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits.

Incidentally, the Forest Department has identified some of the rare species of wild life in the area which include the hoolock gibbons, slow loris, tiger and elephant.

Surprisingly the opinion given by the Chief Wild Life Warden to the proposal is that there shall not be much biotic interference in the area and that the entire exercise is unlikely to disturb the landscape or ecology of the area.

Environmental NGOs are questioning whether the Wild Life Warden, not being a physicist is qualified to speak about ecological havoc that could be caused due to nuclear radiation from mining of uranium.

The Balpakram National Park is an important habitat to the endangered Asian elephant and has come under immense pressure from inconsiderate and wreckless coal miners clearing forest on its periphery to facilitate coal mining.

There is a long pending court case about its boundary and compensation made to land owners. Now, Balpakram National Park is on India’s 20,000 MW Nuclear power generation ambition radar.


 

Illegal coal mining in Meghalaya has to stop: SC panel

Due to the provisions of the sixth schedule, the state’s land laws vary from the rest of the country

By Padmaparna Ghosh

New Delhi: A Supreme Court committee on forests has asked for an end to unauthorized coal mining near protected areas in Meghalaya.

The central empowered committee appointed by the apex court has, in a recent letter, asked Meghalaya’s chief secretary to ensure that no mining or laying of roads takes place in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

Mint has reviewed a copy of the letter.

The Supreme Court had directed the committee to examine the matter in January after the Garo Students Union, an activist students’ group, filed a petition before it in November.

The illegal coal mining is taking place in South Garo Hills, bordering the Balpakram National Park, which also covers the Siju Bird Sanctuary.

“Ecologically, this area is one of the seven hotspots in the world with a viable population of elephants of 1,000,” said Sanjay Upadhyay, counsel for the petitioners against the illegal mining.

Balpakram National Park spans more than 200 sq. km and is home to an estimated 550 species, including seven species of primates, more than in any other part of the country. It is also the sole habitat of the Hoolock Gibbon, the only ape found in India.

V.K. Nautiyal, principal chief conservator of forests for Meghalaya, said none of the coal mines in the area were authorized.

He explained that due to the provisions of the sixth schedule of the Constitution, land laws are different in Meghalaya and most of it is controlled by autonomous district councils and their chieftains.

“The land tenure system is strange here, with overlapping jurisdiction. Many different groups might have jurisdiction and we don’t have clear jurisdiction,” Nautiyal said. “Everywhere else, mining is nationalized. Here, we don’t interfere as local people extract coal for their own use, but now it has become much larger in scale.”

Coal mining in the region had been stopped once earlier by the forest department, but was restarted in 2009.

Upadhyay said the problem is symptomatic. “This sort of rampant illegal coal mining is there not just in Meghalaya, but many parts of the northeast.”

According to the Meghalaya government, the state has around 39.6 million tonnes of coal deposits.

This isn’t the only mining-related problem in Meghalaya.

In February, the Supreme Court had stayed the mining of limestone in the state by Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt. Ltd after hearing a petition filed by 21 local tribals and the Shella Action Committee, a not-for-profit group.

The petitioners had claimed that Lafarge Umiam had obtained environmental clearance by falsely declaring forest areas as wasteland and non-forest areas.

padmaparna.g@livemint.com

http://www.livemint.com/2010/04/03001729/Illegal-coal-mining-in-Meghala.html

 

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The Burning Issue – Feb & Mar 2010

April 27, 2010 at 7:57 pm (Uncategorized)

SC upholds mining ban on Lafarge
French cement company now wants to follow Vedanta
Ankur Paliwal

ON MARCH 29, the Supreme Court rejected the Centre’s plea to allow French cement company Lafarge to continue mining limestone in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills. The court had stayed mining in the area in February after local residents moved court saying Lafarge obtained mining licence through fraud and without the mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Attorney general G E Vahanvati argued that continuing the stay might sever India’s friendly ties with Bangladesh; the limestone quarried in Meghalaya feeds Lafarge’s cement factory in Sunamganj district of Bangladesh.

The company started mining in the region in 2006 by allegedly obtaining a false certificate that showed the area was wasteland.

“If this court has not allowed anyone to mine without EIA, why should we make an exception for it (Lafarge)?” asked the bench comprising chief justice of India K G Balakrishnan, S H Kapadia and Aftab Alam.

During the hearing Vahanvati submitted a draft proposal saying mining could be allowed by imposing conditions on Lafarge to fund tribal welfare schemes within a 50-km radius of the project. For implementing community development schemes, Vahanvati proposed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) on the lines of the one set up by Vedanta subsidiary, Sterlite Industries, in Orissa for mining Niyamgiri hills.

Vahanvati said the SPV, with equal participation from Lafarge and state government, could be made responsible for administering a community development fund and that Lafarge would pay Rs 10 crore into this fund every year. He said the company could be asked to pay Rs 50 crore for diverting forest land for mining.
The court posted the case for April 9 and asked the attorney general to prepare the modalities for EIA by then and also specify the conditions that could be imposed on Lafarge. Fali S Nariman who appeared for Lafarge said the conditions were acceptable to the company.

The petitioners, Shella Action Committee, said the court order on conducting anEIA amounts to giving an escape route to Lafarge. They said the company should be punished instead and the mining project should be cancelled. “To me this seems like the actual Sterlite model—violate all laws and get them regularized,” said R Shreedhar, geologist with the non-profit, Environics Trust of Delhi.


Bid to save park from coal mining – NGO seeks public support

The Telegraph

Shillong, March 29: Concerned over coal-mining threatening the Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills, an environment group has sought public support for a legal fight against the activities.

The Delhi-based environment group, Samrakshan Trust, the Meghalaya unit of which is based at Baghmara in South Garo Hills, has also initiated a fund-raising campaign to protect the environment through a legal battle.

Saloni Bhatia, the group’s outreach co-ordinator in a statement issued here said the cancer of illegal mining had now spread to the Balpakram-Baghmara landscape, the last remaining tract of relatively intact habitat that supports elephants, hoolock gibbons, tigers and a variety of other charismatic wildlife.

“In addition, the region is also home to at least 268 species of birds and over 450 butterflies according to the last count,” the statement said, adding that there are reports that the state is also gearing up to explore the possibility of uranium in Balpakram National Park.

The Garo Students’ Union (GSU) had spearheaded the fight against illegal mining in the Balpakram-Baghmara landscape. Prosper Marak, the GSU president (southern zone), Baghmara, was even honoured with the Sanctuary Young Naturalist Award by Sanctuary Asia, a magazine, and the Royal Bank of Scotland in December last year for the campaign.

Apart from the GSU, a group of NGOs from South Garo Hills — Youth Development and Vigilance Committee, Southern Youth and Cultural Organisation, Siju Ecotourism and Conservation Society, Siju Youth Socio Cultural Organisation and the Tura Government College Students’ Union have come together to fight the battle against illegal coal mining.

“In addition to building an anti-mining movement on the ground, the coalition is also engaged in litigation as one of its strategies. This is necessary in order to get a ‘breathing space’ for the larger anti-mining movement to build up pressure,” Bhatia said.

According to Marak, direct action by the GSU southern zone and other NGOs had resulted in intervention by the empowered committee of the Supreme Court to stop illegal coal mining in Gongrot Aking, which is close to the Balpakram National Park.

During the hearing of the petition filed by the NGOs on March 16 in the Supreme Court regarding coal mining in Gongrot Aking, the state government admitted that while no mining leases had been given unauthorised clearing of forest had taken place.

“We are supporting the Garo Students’ Union in four different litigation — two each in the Supreme Court and the remaining two in the Shillong bench of Gauhati High Court,” Bhatia said, adding that legal action is necessary in order to slow down the mining activities.

“Apart from legal action, we are also engaged in building a people’s movement against mining. Undertaking research to support such action and lobbying with the government are the measures being taken,” Bhatia said.

The Samrakshan Trust has sought both financial and moral support from the people of the country to curb mining legally and secure the future of the vulnerable region.

The fear of the NGOs is that indiscriminate mining, particularly in the forest and ecologically sensitive areas will cause severe depletion of forest cover and water sources for people as well as wildlife.

There is also the fear of largescale influx of migrant labourers, including Bangladeshis, coupled with increase in the incidents of crime, particularly extortion in the coal belts.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100330/jsp/northeast/story_12277183.jsp


Supreme court order banning mining in Meghalaya lands India in diplomatic soup

24 March 2010

(New Delhi, India) — Supreme Court’s order last month turning off supply of limestone on environmental grounds from Meghalaya to French cement giant Lafarge’s $255 million cement plant in Bangladesh has put India in a piquant diplomatic situation.

The Sheikh Hasina regime deputed senior officials to New Delhi to seek urgent intervention of the Manmohan Singh government saying stoppage of raw material guaranteed in 2001 by India would mean a 15% fall in cement production in Bangladesh and a severe setback to its housing projects.

The Nicolas Sarkozy government too activated its embassy in New Delhi to take up the issue with India, saying the French company’s cement venture in Bangladesh was an important initiative to generate employment in the natural disaster ravaged country as well as to fight poverty.

In this background, attorney general Goolam E Vahanvati on Tuesday made an urgent mention of the matter before a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan.

Without attempting to veil the magnitude of the diplomatic embarrassment being faced by India, the AG said SC had been misled into passing the order stopping limestone supply to the cement plant in Bangladesh “causing a huge international problem” for India. The Bench agreed to list the matter for hearing on March 26.

The February 5 order stopping mining in East Khasi Hill District till further orders came with a sense of outrage from the Forest Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices S H Kapadia and Aftab Alam, which took exception to tribal land being allegedly transferred in violation of rules to the French company’s subsidiary and then mortgaged to a host of foreign banks for raising a loan of $153 million.

Petitioner `Shella Action Committee’ had alleged that not only was the land, falling under Schedule VI of the Constitution banning its transfer to non-tribals, illegally taken over in collusion with local officials, but mining was started without the mandatory clearance from ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA).

Amicus curiae Harish Salve and A D N Rao had said the eco-fragile area was opened up without the mandatory forest clearance and the raw material was being sent to Bangladesh at cost price, depriving India of huge revenue from customs and other duties.

Unaware of the huge diplomatic row the government was walking into, additional solicitor general Harin Raval, who appeared for MoEF, had told the court that the ministry had clearly issued an order in May 2007 staying the mining operations, but the SC had allowed it to go on.

Lafarge Umuiam Mining Pvt Ltd (LUMPL) was mining the limestone quarry area spread over 100 hectares near Indo-Bangladesh border for supply of raw material to Lafarge Surma Cement Project at Chhatak in Sunamganj, Bangladesh.

Lafarge and Spanish cement producer Cementos Mollins had set up the state-of-the-art fully integrated cement plant at Chhatak with a captive power plant of 300 mw. In 2001, the Bangladesh high commissioner and then Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh had signed an agreement for uninterrupted supply of raw material to the plant from the mines in Meghalaya.

After this agreement, Lafarge had claimed to have obtained relevant clearances from MoEF, the state government, the autonomous hill council and the chief conservator of forest for limestone quarrying in East Khasi Hills.

By: Dhananjay Mahapatra
Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/SC-order-banning-mining-in-Meghalaya-lands-India-in-diplomatic-soup/articleshow/5716686.cms


Lafarge denies mining in Meghalaya despite court ban

March 20th, 2010 – 6:19 pm ICT by IANS

Shillong, March 20 (IANS) Lafarge Umiam Mining Private Limited (LUMPL), a subsidiary of French firm Lafarge, Saturday dismissed a civil society group’s allegations that the company was ignoring the Supreme Court’s stay on mining in Meghalaya.
On Thursday, Shella Action Committee (SAC), a Meghalaya-based civil society group, accused Lafarge of carrying on with quarrying activities in Shella, bordering Bangladesh, some 100 km South from here.

LUML termed the allegations “unsubstantiated” and said, “There is nothing new in the allegations made by the SAC…they have been advocating against the continuation of the project on various fictitious grounds for a long time.”

According to an e-mailed statement issued here, Lafarge claimed: “Similar allegations made by the NGO in a case filed in Gauhati High Court were examined by the Meghalaya government and found to be false and baseless. Accordingly, the state government had filed an affidavit in the court.”

The quarries operated by Lafarge subsidiary Lum Umiam Mining Pvt Ltd in Meghalaya supply limestone for its $250 million Lafarge Surma Cement plant at Chhatak in Bangladesh, located just 10 km away from the quarries across the Indo-Bangladesh border. The limestone is sent through a 17-km-long cross-border conveyor belt.

On Feb 5, the apex court ordered the French firm to immediately stop its mining operations following SAC’s allegations that the firm has raised funds from various international banks after mortgaging the state’s land it had fraudulently transferred to itself.

The bench ordered LUMPL to stop its mining operations in Meghalaya on a lawsuit by SAC.

The lawsuit alleged that the French firm transferred the land belonging to tribals to itself in collusion with some local groups.

The lawsuit alleged that the firm later “mortgaged the tribal land to foreign banks like the Asian Development Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the Deutsche Investitutions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, the European Investment Bank, the Arab Bangladesh Bank and the Standard Chartered Bank”.

SAC legal adviser B.M. Roy Dolloi said Lafarge is ignoring the apex court’s stay by carrying on with the mining operations during the stay period.


Green warriors of the Garo hills

By Teresa Rehman

Meghalaya’s South Garo Hills are under serious threat from illegal coal mining. The Garo Students Union, and its dynamic leader Prosper S Marak, have been battling to preserve the biodiversity of this region. Marak was declared Earth Hero for 2009 and also won the Young Naturalist Award for 2009.

In Meghalaya’s inaccessible South Garo Hills, an ‘eco-mutiny’ went virtually unnoticed. Except for the fact that eco-warrior Prosper S Marak, president of the southern zone of the powerful student body, the Garo Students Union (GSU), was declared one of the Earth Heroes of 2009 by Sanctuary Asia and the Royal Bank of Scotland, and was awarded the prestigious ‘Young Naturalist Award’ in December 2009.   The award statement read: “The Young Naturalist Award is presented to the 24-year-old emerging green warrior Prosper S Marak for his work to protect the biodiversity of the rich Garo hills of Meghalaya, and who continues to inspire young men and women in the state to protect their natural heritage.” Prosper Marak grew up just outside the forests of Balpakram National Park and Siju Wildlife Sanctuary. He learnt to love and respect nature at a very young age.

Marak was instrumental in leading a youth uprising in five hamlets in Gongrot, in South Garo Hills, taking the ‘illegal’ miners completely by surprise. In his acceptance speech, he said: “I accept this award on behalf of my colleagues in GSU who have fought tooth-and-nail to preserve Balpakram National Park and the amazing wildlife of the Garo Hills.”

The story goes back to November 2008 when an attempt was made to open up a new coal mine on the periphery of Balpakram National Park. Like all coal mining in Meghalaya, no environmental clearance or related permissions had been taken for the mine. There are approximately seven laws under which clearance has to be sought by state and central bodies before any mining activity can be initiated. In any case, coal mining cannot be undertaken by private individuals as all coal (including that in Meghalaya) was nationalised in 1967.   In blatant violation of the law of the land, ‘illegal’ coal mines continue to flourish all over Meghalaya. Local people in the Garo hills and other parts of the state operate the mines on their lands without any mining leases by the state government, under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, and the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973, that was amended in 1976.

The disputed mine was being planned in an aking called Gongrot (tracts of community land in the Garo hills are called aking). Since Gongrot is a remote aking, a road has first to be built to connect the mining area to the existing PWD road. This connecting road would have passed partly through Gongrot and partly through another aking called Halwa Atong. In order to build the road, standing forests in both akings would have had to be cut down.

In July last year, contractors came with bulldozers and began clearing the forests. The GSU swung into action. They seized the bulldozer and handed it over to the police. A protracted legal battle ensued; in the intervening period young men and women cleared the debris and began to reforest the area. They took turns patrolling the restored lands to ensure that the miners did not return to destroy what had been resurrected. “This was a symbolic act of taking the land back from the miners and returning it to the forest. All these years, our ancestors have been protecting our forests,” says Marak. The protests startled the illegal mining mafia as well as the government that is reluctant to regulate mining in the state. Indeed, Meghalaya is the only state in the country where private ‘illegal’ mining flourishes without any hindrance. Now, thanks to the pressure, Meghalaya has put together a mining policy that is being closely assessed and will have an impact far beyond Balpakram.

Marak’s associate Ginseng Sangma, also a student, believes the protests were the least they could do for the community and the forests they grew up in. They convinced over 100 school and college students to join in the innovative non-violent protest by replanting the forest stretch that had been destroyed by the bulldozers.

Sangma, now a second-year BA student at Captain Williamson Magor Memorial College in Baghmara reminisces about the early days when many species of wild animals roamed the forests, including elephants and leopards. “Now, even the lush streams have dried up due to the rampant deforestation. Forests have been cut and converted into orchards. If the trend goes on, all our natural treasures will disappear and there will be nothing left for future generations,” he says.  Protests against illegal mining have been ongoing in Meghalaya’s Garo hills where a group of NGOs and citizens have set up the Chitmang Hills Anti-Mining Forum against unplanned and unscientific mining. Chitmang is the name of a peak — the highest in the South Garo Hills — that’s considered sacred among Garo society. In view of its importance and considering the threat to the entire region from mining, the anti-mining forum has chosen its name well.   Spearheaded by the Samrakshan Trust, the forum also comprises the Garo Students Union (GSU), Youth Development and Vigilance Committee, Southern Youth and Cultural Organisation, Atong Cultural Organisation, Siju Youth Socio-Cultural Organisation, Achik Tourism Society, Achik Youth and Cultural Organisation and Siju Ecotourism and Cultural Society.  Arpan Sarma of the Samrakshan Trust says: “What is happening in Balpakram is a subset of a larger malaise. People are disgusted with the rampant illegal mining in the state.”

Apart from Balpakram National Park and Baghmara Reserve Forest, the area comprises nearly 400 sq km of community-owned lands spread over 36 akings. A large proportion of this land is forested and used by local people to earn a livelihood.

Samrakshan helps local communities set up community conservation reserves aimed at preserving forested habitats on community-owned lands. It is also working in Balpakram-Baghmara to ensure that elephant habitats and critical corridors remain accessible for use by the animals.

The forum has appealed to various statutory and traditional tribal authorities. “We have sent a petition to the regional office of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in Shillong regarding violations of the Forest Conservation Act. We have also filed a complaint with the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council regarding prosecution of the headmen of Gongrot and Halwa Atong akings for felling standing forests to pave the way for illegal mining,” says Asith Sangma, president of the forum.  Asith explains that Balpakram National Park, apart from being an ecological hotspot, is also a sacred place in the hills. It is called ‘land of the eternal death’ in Garo mythology, as it is believed that the spirits of the dead reside here.

“We don’t want to create another Jharia (Jharkhand)-like situation here. We will have to protect this area at the cost of our lives,” Asith says. Jharia, a town in Jharkhand, had to be shifted due to coal mine fires that could not be controlled.

(Teresa Rehman is a journalist based in northeast India. She was awarded the Sarojini Naidu Award for Best Reporting on Women and Panchayati Raj in 2007 and the Sanskriti Award for Excellence in Journalism 2009)


UCIL allegedly planning to mine uranium in BNP

Written by the Editor
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 09:46
Garo Hills News Agency

TURA, Feb. 14: The Government of Meghalaya, facing the brunt of various NGOs over the proposed uranium mining in Khasi Hills district, is all set to face similar fate in Garo Hills, as Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) has sought for No Objection Certificate from the Ministry of Environment & Forest, Government of India to look for a possibility of uranium in Balpakram National Park, one of India’s bio-diversity rich areas home to some of world’s endangered flora and fauna in South Garo Hills.
The park is already under threat from poachers and illegal coal miners. Time and again media and environmentalists have raised the issue of illegal mining in the BNP but the concerned authorities are yet to take notice to save the region situated along the Indo-Bangla border.

The national park known for its varied species of flora and fauna and endangered plant and animal species, is a popular tourist attraction drawing researchers from across the globe. It is also known for its mystical stories and folklore.

Prosper Marak, a young environmentalist and president of Garo Students’ Union (GSU) who bagged the prestigious Young Naturalist Award 2009 under the category Earth Heroes in Mumbai conferred by Sanctuary Asia and the Royal Bank of Scotland last November, in an interview informed that UCIL has sought for clearance from the concerned authorities to look for a possibility on the presence of uranium in Balpakram.

“On November 2, I met the Director of Bombay Natural Historical Society, Arshad Rahman, who informed me that UCIL has sought for clearance from the Ministry to look for uranium in BNP. We strongly criticise it and will never allow anybody to exploit our natural resources. We are discussing the matter with our Khasi counterpart, who is opposing mining in Khasi Hills areas”, said the young environmentalist.

Marak, led by his student body, has strongly criticised the move and is taking measures to ensure that the initiative will not materialise.

http://www.meghalayatimes.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7933:ucil-allegedly-planning-to-mine-uranium-in-bnp&catid=44:front-page&Itemid=28

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More on Uranium Mining

April 27, 2010 at 3:49 pm (Uncategorized)

New Uranium Mining Projects – Meghalaya, India

http://www.wise-uranium.org/upinml.html

UCIL plans uranium exploration in Balpakram National Park (Meghalaya)

The National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) has given the nod to exploratory drilling of uranium in the South Garo Hills in Meghalaya. (The Shillong Times 22 Apr 2010)

The National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) has decided to undertake a site inspection of the uranium deposit in Balpakram National Park in the State in response to the proposal submitted by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to de-notify an area of 8 square kilometers at Rongcheng Plateau in Balpakram National Park for exploratory uranium mining.
Meanwhile, the Garo Hills Anti-Mining Forum (GHAMF) has opposed the proposal of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to carry out exploratory Uranium mining inside Balpakram National Park. (The Shillong Times 16 Apr 2010)

Uranium Corporation of India has sought for No-objection Certificate from the Ministry of Environment & Forest , Government of India to look for a possibility of Uranium in Balpakram National Park (BNP), one of India’s bio-diversity rich area home to some of the worlds endangered flora and fauna.
Balpakram National Park located in South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya is already facing threat from poachers and illegal coal mining activities. Time and again media and environmentalists have raised the issue of illegal mining in BNP, situated along the Indo-Bangla border. The national park known for its varied species of flora and fauna and endangered plant and animal species is a popular tourist attraction.
Prosper Marak, a young environmentalist and president of Garo Student Union in an interview last November informed that UCIL has sought for clearance from the concerned authorities to look for a possibility on the presence of uranium in Balpakram. The young environmentalist led by his student body has not only strongly criticized the move but has already taken up measures to ensure that this initiative will not be materialized. The student body is up against the UCIL to save the mother earth. (NETV Feb. 9, 2010)

Assam, Meghalaya state governments clash over potential uranium discovery in border area

The potential discovery of uranium in a remote village, bereft of roads and electricity, inside the dense forests of the Assam-Meghalaya border, has sparked a major border row between the two states. The contentious village is just 97 km from Guwahati and predominately populated by Nepali, Garo and Khasi people. While the Khasis are in favour of being with Meghalaya, the Nepalis and Garos want to be with Assam. (UNI June 2, 2008)

Australia to invest in uranium mining in Meghalaya

Australia is keen to invest in Meghalaya for uranium mining operations and share the technologies for safe mining, Australian High Commissioner to India John Philip McCarthy said in Shillong. (Zee News Limited May 21, 2007)


Kylleng-Pyndemsohiong-Mawthabah project (Meghalaya)

(formerly Domiasiat project)

Uranium mining in the West Khasi Hills is opposed by Khasi Students Union (KSU), Langrin Youth Welfare Association (LYWA), Women Against Uranium Mining (WAUM).

State assembly panel gives go-ahead for uranium mining in Meghalaya

A Meghalaya assembly panel Friday (Mar. 19) recommended that the government take up a uranium mining project in the West Khasi Hills district without further delay but subject to some conditions. The 10-member committee, headed by Congress legislator H.D.R. Lyngdoh, made the suggestion regarding the Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah uranium mining project in its report tabled in the assembly. Lyngdoh heads the committee on Welfare of Scheduled Tribe/Castes and Other Backward Classes in the Meghalaya assembly.
The panel, which visited several uranium mining sites at Jadugoda in Jharkhand and the Uranium Corp of India Ltd (UCIL) units, found that miners who had worked in uranium sites and processing plants for 30-35 years had suffered no radiation effects. The members visited the proposed Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah (KPM) uranium mining site in the West Khasi Hills.
However, the committee recommended that the government set up a dedicated health service unit and environmental survey laboratory by UCIL to monitor the workplace and environment at the mining site. The unit should be independent of administrative control of UCIL so that proper reports are available, it said. It also wanted UCIL to hold medical camps in surrounding villages at least once in a week to provide free medical check-ups and medicines. UCIL should also provide assistance in literacy and education programmes to the locals. (IANS Mar. 19, 2010)

Meghalaya State government forms uranium panel

The State government has formed a 33-member committee to go into the various aspects of uranium mining in the West Khasi Hills district. The committee comprising members from various NGOs, experts from both the governmental and private along with Ministers has been asked to give its report within three months. The first meeting of the committee is yet to be fixed. On November 4 last year after a meeting with the anti-mining groups the government had announced that a committee would be constituted to scrutinize issues involved in the mining. The government had also assured that any decision on uranium mining in West Khasi Hills would be taken only after examining the report of the joint committee. The committee will examine the issues related to health, environment and public safety in the before carrying out the actual mining. (Shillong Times 16 Feb 2010)

The first meeting of the joint committee on uranium mining was today (Mar. 2) boycotted by groups opposing the quarrying of the radioactive mineral in Meghalaya. The boycott by Khasi Students Union (KSU) and Co-ordination Committee of Social Organisations (CCSO) was prompted by the inclusion of a pro-mining group, the Associations of Meghalaya for Development and Advancement (AMDA), in the joint committee. (The Telegraph Mar. 2, 2010)

Meghalaya government suspends pre-mining development activities for uranium mine

Meghalaya today decided to keep in abeyance for three months activities related to uranium mining and form a joint committee, involving pressure groups, on the issue. The government’s move came after a meeting, chaired by chief minister D.D. Lapang, with the Khasi Student’s Union (KSU) and the Co-ordination Committee of Social Organisations, a forum of anti-uranium mining groups. The meeting decided not to undertake the Rs 2.09 billion [US$ 44.4 million] pre-mining development projects at the mining sites of West Khasi Hills for three months.
Lapang told reporters after the meeting that a joint committee on uranium mining in Meghalaya would be constituted. It will have seven members, including experts from the KSU and the Co-ordination Committee of Social Organisations and government representatives. The committee will examine all issues related to uranium mining within three months and submit the findings to the government. (The Telegraph Nov. 5, 2009)

Agitation against uranium mine project in Meghalaya suspended after talks offered by state government

The Khasi Students Union (KSU) on Wednesday (Oct. 28) suspended its agitation against the proposed uranium mining project after the Meghalaya government invited it for talks. Chief Minister D.D. Lapang said on Tuesday night that the State government would hold discussions with the union if it called off the agitation. The group had called another round of night road blockades from October 29, sources said. (The Hindu Oct. 29, 2009)

Violent incidents mark second road blockade against proposed uranium mine in Meghalaya

Four more vehicles, including three belonging to the government, and two government offices were set on fire, five Border Security Force (BSF) personnel injured in a petrol bomb attack and three KSU members arrested in separate incidents of violence as the KSU road blockade entered the second night on Wednesday (Oct. 21). (The Shillong Times Oct. 22, 2009)

Violent incidents marked the first night of the KSU-sponsored road blockade with reports of lobbing of petrol bomb, pelting of stones and burning of tyres in certain pockets of Khasi, Jaintia and Ri-Bhoi districts.
In Jaintia Hills, unidentified persons pelted stones on vehicles plying on the highway. Four buses were damaged at Mynkre village. Some passengers were reportedly received injuries in the attacks. Three trucks were also damaged at Umrangsong village. In another incident, two buses hired by Assam Rifles jawans were also stoned and damaged. Some persons also pelted stones on two vehicles used by a Police patrol party. Incidents of tyre burning were reported from different places including Mihmyntdu near Forest Office, Phramer, Wapung, Mookhep and Ladrymbai.
There were also reports of sporadic incidents in Shillong before and during the blockade hours. An unidentified person lobbed a petrol bomb on a vehicle parked on the Mecofed office premises in Lumdiengjri on Tuesday afternoon. The vehicle belonged to Mecofed General Manager. The streets in the State capital wore a deserted look soon after road blockade started. Police personnel were seen patrolling various parts of the city. Police personnel have also been deployed along the National Highways to escort vehicles plying during blockade. Barely a few hours after the commencement of the blockade, it was reported that unidentified persons stoned a vehicle belonging to Meghalaya State Electricity Board (MeSEB) at Mawkhar area on Tuesday night. (The Shillong Times Oct. 21, 2009)

Government office set on fire in Shillong

A government office was set ablaze by unidentified persons in the heart of the city of Shillong this morning. The incident comes a day before the Khasi Students Union (KSU) sponsored three-day night blockade to protest the proposed uranium mining project in the state begins. (PTI Oct. 19, 2009)
Another government office was set ablaze in Meghalaya at midnight last night, a day ahead of the Khasi Students’ Union’s second phase of agitation against uranium mining. (The Telegraph Oct. 20, 2009)

Union minister asks state government to seek consent of indigenous people for uranium mine project in Meghalaya

The Union minister of state for rural development, Agatha Sangma, has asked the Meghalaya government to go slow on the uranium mining project saying opinions of all sections of people should be taken into account before going ahead with it.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Agatha said as land was precious for the indigenous people, the government should not take any hasty decision on starting the project. According to the minister, even if the mining takes a very long time, the government should continue its effort to hold dialogues with the indigenous people before arriving at any conclusion. “The identity of the indigenous people of the state is their land and the government should not do anything which can jeopardise their interest,” Agatha said.
The agreement with the UCIL at present is that the villagers will lease the land required for uranium mining for 30 years. According to the minister, taking away the precious land of the people for uranium mining will be insensitivity. (The Telegraph Oct. 18, 2009)

UN envoy asks government to seek consent of indigenous people before starting uranium mining in Meghalaya

A UN envoy today said the government should seek the consent of local people before taking up uranium mining in Meghalaya, an issue hanging fire for over two decades. “Such projects need participation of indigenous people. They should agree that they would like to have such a project on their land,” Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Victoria Tauli Corpuz told reporters here. The Forum is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights. (PTI Oct. 15, 2009)

Night road blockade against proposed uranium mine in Meghalaya

The first night of a two-night road blockade turned violent: coal-laden trucks were attacked with petrol bombs and one government vehicle was set on fire.
The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), which is spearheading the movement against the proposed uranium mining in the State has called for a two-night road blockade in the four districts of East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Ri-Bhoi from October 14. The blockade was called in protest against the Cabinet’s decision to allow UCIL to implement ‘pre-project’ developmental programmes in Mawthabah, West Khasi Hills. The night road blockade begins from 7 pm October 14 to 5 am on October 15 and again from 9 pm on October 15 till 5 am on October 16. (The Shillong Times Oct. 14/15, 2009)

Picketing against uranium project paralyses government functioning in Meghalaya

Functioning in government offices was today paralysed in Meghalaya in view of picketing held by Khasi Students Union (KSU) in protest against the proposed uranium mining project in the state. The impact of the picketing was more in the capital city, with offices either remaining closed or recording very thin attendance, officials said, adding the state secretariat also wore a deserted look while banks remained closed. (PTI Oct. 9, 2009)

Thousands attend rally against proposed uranium mine in Meghalaya

Intensifying its protests against the State Cabinet’s decision on pre-project development programmes of UCIL as well as the proposed mining of uranium, Khasi Student Union (KSU) has warned the Centre not to bulldoze its way through in implementing the project. The KSU vowed that the anti-uranium groups would not budge from its stated position on the pre-project development package of UCIL and would continue to contest the government’s decision which they termed as “dreaded and against the voice of the majority.”
Addressing a public rally at Motphran (on Oct. 6) attended by thousands of people, KSU president Samuel B Jyrwa said in the name of development the State government through its Cabinet attempted to fool the people and tried to cover up the ill effects of uranium mining and the impact of radiation. Terming Mr Lapang’s statement as ‘childish and irresponsible’ when he expressed his apprehension that the Centre might forcefully mine uranium from the State, the KSU leader cautioned the Centre to desist from applying force in order to materialise its plan to mine the ore from the State. (The Shillong Times 7 Oct 2009)

Rally in New Delhi against nuclear power and uranium mining

Thousands attend rally against proposed uranium mine in Meghalaya

The public rally organized by Khasi Student Union (KSU), Mairang circle at Mairang on Wednesday (Sep. 30) was attended by thousands of people from the area besides prominent leaders of the student body from Shillong.
The rally was among a series of public rallies being organised by the KSU to create awareness among the people of the health hazards connected with uranium mining in the wake of the MUA-Government’s decision to grant permission to the UCIL to undertake pre-development programmes in specified areas in the uranium belt of West Khasi Hills. The move is seen as the first step towards facilitating mining of uranium found in Mawthabah, Domiasiat, Phodkylleng and Pyndengsohiong and other nearby villages. (The Shillong Times 1 Oct 2009)

Traditional Khasi outfit criticises Meghalaya government’s approval of pre-development projects for proposed uranium mine

The Meghalaya government’s decision to allow pre-development projects for uranium mining at Wahkaji was today criticised by a traditional Khasi outfit on grounds that it posed environmental hazards. Spokesman and adviser of the Federation of Twenty Five Khasi States of Meghalaya, John F Kharshiing said the white paper submitted by Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to the erstwhile Donkupar Roy government was unsatisfactory and inadequate as the project posed serious health and environmental hazards. A study of the white paper revealed that project activity would require large uninterrupted supply of water for which water resources in and around the project area would be tapped. This would eventually cause rivers and streams around the uranium mining area to be contaminated and become unfit for human consumption. (PTI Sep. 26, 2009)7

Students stage sit-in demonstration against uranium mining in Meghalaya

Protesting the leasing of land to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), Khasi Students Union (KSU) staged a sit-in demonstration in front in city on Tuesday (Sep. 22). Over 20 KSU members besides members of Langrin Youth Welfare Association (LYWA) participated in the sit-in demonstration near the Additional Secretariat here. Tuesday’s sit-in demonstration was part of series of ‘peaceful agitation’ announced by the students’ body after the government decided to lease out the land to UCIL.
The KSU Nongstoin circle will hold a public rally on uranium at Tiehjynsieh, New Nongstoin on September 24. (The Shillong Times 23 Sep 2009)

Students protest against uranium mining in Meghalaya

Protesting against the proposed uranium mining in the state, activists of Khasi Students Union (KSU) in Meghalaya today burnt effigies of Chief Minister D D Lapang and Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL). The students opposing the project fear that uranium mining would affect the environment and open floodgates of infiltration in the state. (PTI Sep. 18, 2009)

Meghalaya to lease land for UCIL’s developmental works

On Aug. 24, 2009, Meghalaya agreed to lease land to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) for 30 years in the uranium-rich West Khasi Hills district for “pre-project” developmental works, which, it said, should not be linked with mining. “This pre-project developmental work would provide better schooling, hospitals and roads to the people. We have agreed to release 422 hectares of land for 30 years,” Chief Minister D D Lapang told reporters after a cabinet meeting. (The Shillong Times 24 Aug 2009)

NGOs oppose proposal to exempt the uranium mining areas in Mawthabah from the purview of the Land Transfer Act

To facilitate uranium mining in Meghalaya, the state government is considering exempting the Land Transfer Act from the uranium rich belt in Mawthabah so that the Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) can set up a processing unit there. However, Chief Minister D D Lapang’s move has been criticised by NGOs who are opposed to uranium mining. The Land Transfer Act, introduced in 1972, bars non-tribals from buying or transferring land in Meghalaya. Under the Land Transfer Act, the UCIL cannot go ahead with the mining without clearance from the District Council and the state government. (Indian Express Aug. 11, 2009)
The Government’s proposal to exempt the uranium mining areas in Mawthabah from the purview of the Land Transfer Act (LTA), as expected, was protested by two prominent NGOs – the KSU and Langrin Youth Welfare Association (LYWA) – spearheading the anti-uranium campaign. (The Shillong Times Aug. 10, 2009)

Uranium mining project in Meghalaya to begin latest by 2010

Meghalaya Governor Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary has said that the controversial uranium mining project in the State would begin latest by 2010. Memebers of Synjuk ki Nongshong Shnong Langrin and Warsan Lyngdoh Area (SKNSLWLA) who met the Governor at the Raj Bhavan here recently was assured that the mining project would start by 2010 as India was running short of nuclear fuel. SKNSLWLA is a conglomerate of organisations from Uranium-rich Phod Kylleng-Pyndeng Sohiong near Mawthabah, West Khasi Hills district in favour of the Uranium mining project. (Assam Tribune 23 Feb 2009)

Local NGOs seek early Government approval of Mawthabah uranium project

Representatives of NGOs from areas near the proposed uranium mining site at Mawthabah, West Khasi Hills will meet Chief Minister Dr Donkupar Roy on January 29, 2009, to press the State Government for early permission to Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to start the project.
Leaders of Langrin Warsan Lyngdoh Socio-Economic Development Organisation (LWLSEDO) and Synjuk ki Nongshongshnong ka Langrin bad Warsan Lyngdoh (SNLWL) announced this at a public rally at Nongtyngnger near Domiasiat on Jan. 13, 2009. The delegation of LWLSEDO and SNLWL, including headmen of 30 villages surrounding the proposed uranium project site, will ask the Chief Minister to complete the process of issuing government permission to UCIL within March so as to facilitate early commencement of the mining project. (The Shillong Times 15 Jan 2009)

NGO report finds loopholes in EIA report on uranium mining project in Meghalaya

Researchers of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have said that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the proposed uranium mining project in Meghalaya did not address the environment and health concerns adequately. The sixth environment report of the CSE, which was released here today, pointed out that the EIA report completely disregarded the severe impact of mining run-off, tailing ponds and the waste disposal sites during monsoons.
“The containment and management plan proposed by the EIA is inadequate as the study was not done during the monsoon period, a season that sees the run-off of radioactive particles and other wastes,” Chandra Bhushan, associate director of CSE, said while releasing the report. Bhushan said the proposal of open stockpile of 6000 tonne of uranium ore at the project site was not acceptable, and it should be a closed one. “The EIA report did not mention the tailing management and was also silent on the effluent treatment plant,” he said, quoting the CSE report titled ‘Rich Land, Poor People: Is Sustainable Mining Possible.’ (Zee News 20 Oct 2008)

India invests in development of infrastructure around proposed uranium mining site in Meghalaya

In an effort to woo the anti-uranium mining groups in Meghalaya, especially after the Central delegation’s recent failure to convince the NGOs and political parties for the UCIL project, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 8 billion [US$ 182 million] for development of infrastructure around the mining sites in West Khasi Hills. The amount has been sanctioned for setting up of five rural health centres, one Kendriya Vidyalaya (Central government school for children of employees of India’s central government), a polytechnic and for water supply connections in the area. (The Shillong Times 27 Aug. 2008)

Meghalaya Government forms expert panel on uranium mining

The State Government has constituted an expert committee on health to study the implications of uranium mining by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) in Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong in West Khasi Hills district of the state. The Expert Committee, comprising five medical doctors specialised in different areas of medicines will be headed by Dr R Nongrum, a senior surgeon in Shillong Civil Hospital.
“These government doctors will carry out a study to find out the implications of uranium mining,” Meghalaya Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Adviser Pariong told UNI. Dr Pariong said the Health department officials would go to Domasiat where some of the local people were involved in exploration of uranium with the officials of the Atomic Mineral Division (AMD) in 1991. “These health officials will find out the status of health of the local people who were involved in the exploration work and report to the committee,” he said. The State Health department officials will also visit Jadugoda to study the implication of mining on the local people there. (UNI) (The Shillong Times Aug. 6, 2008)

Three expert groups to assess health effects of proposed uranium mine in Domiasiat

An all-party committee on uranium mining has decided to invite three expert groups to study the effects of radiation emitted from mining of the ore in Domiasiat, West Khasi Hills. The decision was taken in Shillong on July 18, 2008, at the first meeting of the committee constituted by the NCP-UDP led Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA) coalition government. The Congress which had earlier refused to be part of the panel also attended the sitting for evolving a consensus on uranium mining.
The three expert groups would study and verify the radiation in the State (of Meghalaya) and Jharkhand, where mining of uranium ore is going on. Meghalaya Chief Minister and chairman of the committee Donkupar Roy told reporters soon after the meeting that the committee has decided to invite independent group of experts from the State and outside to find out facts on radiation. He said besides the independent experts from the Health department would also be involved.
Roy said doctors from the State would be sent to Jharkhand to find out the health status of the people who have been residing in and around the mining areas. However, Roy said that the government is yet to identify the experts. He said that the committee will have a second sitting after the expert groups submit their findings. (Assam Tribune July 21, 2008)

Traditional heads oppose uranium mining in Meghalaya

The Grassroots Democracy Advisory Council (GDAC) appealed to the people and the State Government not to allow uranium mining at any cost for the sake of the future generation while calling all the national and state political parties, who are yet to come out with their respective manifestoes on uranium mining, to specify in clear terms their stand on this serious matter. The council comprises Ka Dorbar Ki Nongsynshar Ka Ri Hynniewtrep (Federation of 25 Khasi States), Ka Dorbar Ki Doloi and Council of Nokmas. (The Shillong Times 9 Jan. 2008)

Khasi Students Union launches agitation against uranium mining project

The Khasi Students Union has decided to launch a three-day agitation to pressurise the Congress-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance Government not to issue a no-objection certificate to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited to mine uranium and also against the Government’s “hasty decision in handing over of power projects” to five private companies. KSU would start its agitation on January 7 by marching towards the state secretariat, followed by a road blockade on January 8 and a general strike in East, West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts on January 9, 2008. (Indian Express Jan. 4, 2008)

Environmental clearance granted for uranium mine in Meghalaya

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has allowed Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to commence uranium mining in Meghalaya. The ministry has given environmental clearance to set up the proposed Kylleng-Pyndengshohiong Uranium Mining and Processing Plant of the UCIL, official sources said. The clearance has been given for an annual production capacity of 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore by opencast mechanised method and processing of 1500 tonnes per day of ore processing plant involving total land requirement of 351 ha at Mawthabahn in West Khasi Hills district. The clearance is subject to implementation of certain conditions and environmental safeguards which has been intimated to the UCIL, sources added. (The Economic Times Dec. 30, 2007)

Police kills five militants in Meghalaya

On Oct. 30, 2007, members of a Special Operations Team (SOT) of Meghalaya police killed five militants of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC). The militants allegedly had planned an attempt on the life of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) Chief Executive Member HS Shylla for being in favour of uranium mining in Meghalaya. (The Shillong Times Oct. 31, 2007)

5-Night road blockade against uranium mining project in Meghalaya

The KSU-sponsored night road blockade started at 7 p.m. on June 19, 2007, in the city of Shillong. The blockade which covers East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts was called by the student body to press for the release of five of its activists including central organising secretary Daniel Khyriem who are being detained under Meghalaya Preventive Detention Act (MPDA). (The Shillong Times June 20, 2007)

Majority at public hearing says no to uranium mining

A majority of the people attending the public hearing on uranium mining at Nongbah Jynrin, West Khasi Hills on June 12, 2007, opposed the mining project.
West Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner Freeman Kharlyngdoh said that around 700 people attended the three-hour-long public hearing conducted by the Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB). “A majority of the people from the area opposed the proposed uranium mining on the ground of health hazard while those who supported the project constitute only 25 percent,” Mr Kharlyngdoh said adding that villagers from the vicinity of the project site were in support of uranium mining. Stating that villagers from adjoining areas of Nongbah Jynrin like Umdohlun, Wahkaji and Phlangdiloin were vociferous in their opposition, Mr Kharlyngdoh said that the Seng Kynthei Phlangdiloin, Langrin Youth Welfare Association (LYWA) and Warsanlyngdoh-Nobosoh-phoh Youth Awakening Organisation (WNYAO) had launched massive campaign against the project. (The Shillong Times June 13, 2007)

36h general strike against proposed public hearing on uranium mining

On June 11, 2007, 5 a.m., began a 36h general strike in Shillong, called by the Khasi Students Union (KSU) against the proposed Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board public hearing on uranium mining. (The Shillong Times 11 June 2007)

Road blockade against proposed public hearing on uranium mining

Traffic was stalled and normal life disturbed in the Meghalaya capital following the night road blockade organised by the Khasi Students Union (KSU). As a result of the four-day road blockade, which began at 8 pm on June 6, 2007, vehicles went off the road and residents left for their homes early. The KSU called the road blockade in protest against the proposed public hearing on uranium mining at Nongbah-Jynrin at Mawthabah, scheduled for June 12, 2007. (The Telegraph June 8, 2007)

Public hearing scheduled on proposed Mawthabah uranium project

The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board (MSPCB) will hold a public hearing on the proposed Mawthabah uranium project at Nongbah Jynrin on June 12, 2007. The Environmental Public Hearing Committee headed by MSPCB Donkupar Horoo, which was constituted on May 4, 2007, would conduct the hearing and record the views, suggestions or objections put forward by the local bonafide residents of the area. Further, the Committee has invited suggestions, comments and objections from local villagers and environmental organisations of the area within one month on the environmental aspects of the proposed project. (The Shillong Times May 10, 2007)

Protestors prevent road construction work for proposed uranium mine in Meghalaya

On July 20, 2006, activists of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and the Hill State People Democratic Party (HSPDP) opposing uranium mining, chased away the labourers engaged in construction of a road from Wahkaji to Mawthabah. (The Shillong Times 21 July 2006)

BARC report rules out health hazards from proposed uranium mining in Meghalaya

Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) report has ruled out any impact on health by radiation due to proposed uranium mining in Meghalaya. The BARC report, received by the state government recently, indicated that “at the estimated dose of 0.02 milli-sievert per year in public domain in the immediate vicinity attributable to the mining operation, no undesirable health impact is expected,” state’s Mining and Geology Minister Prestone Tyngsong told the assembly during question hour on June 27, 2006. (PTI June 27, 2006)

District administration prohibits uranium debate “in order to maintain law and order”

The district administration has thrown spanner in the much-hyped debate between KHNAM (Ka Khun Hhynniewtrep National Awakening Movement, a political party backed by the Khasi Students’ Union) president Paul Lyngdoh and KHADC (Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council) Chief Executive Member HS Shylla by prohibiting any such debate on uranium and related issues within its jurisdiction. The debate was to be held at Nongstoin on May 31, 2006, following a war of words between the KHADC chief and KHNAM supreme over the uranium mining.
According to West Khasi Hill Deputy Commissioner KL Tariang, the prevailing situation in West Khasi Hills is “not conducive” for such an event. He said the permission for the proposed debate on the scheduled date was not given “in order to maintain law and order, besides ensuring peace and tranquillity in the entire district”. (The Shillong Times, 29 May 2006)

Meghalaya State government to form panel on uranium mining

“The Meghalaya government would form a committee with representatives from various sections of the society to decide on the vexed uranium mining issue,” Chief Minister DD Lapang said May 25, 2006, reports PTI. “The government will not go about in a haphazard manner (in deciding the uranium mining issue). A committee is to be formed to elicit views, sentiments, opinions and comments from all corners,” he told reporters. The committee would have representatives from Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), people of the deposit area, government officials and NGOs, Lapang said after a Cabinet meeting.
The matter (of deciding on the issue) has not come to the Cabinet as yet, he said, adding that keeping at bay possible health hazards from uranium mining would be the government’s first priority. But the aspect of development would not be lost sight of. (Assam Tribune May 27, 2006)

Opponents vow to block road construction to planned uranium mine site

On May 3, 2006, the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) decided to physically prevent the proposed laying of foundation stone of the new road from Wahkaji to Mawthabah by the Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Dr Anil Kakodkar on May 9, 2006. KSU’s hardened attitude comes close on the heels of receiving pleading notice from Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) Chief Executive Member Mr HS Shylla, asking them not to mislead public on the issue. “We welcome development, but we oppose the proposed construction of the road from Wahkaji to Mawthabah as it is meant for mining of uranium and not in the interest of general public of that area”, KSU leader Mr Syiemiong said. (The Shillong Times May 4, 2006)
The road which was financed by Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) through the KHADC would be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 100 million (US$ 2.2 million). Already, Rs 9.6 million (US$ 0.21 million) had been released by UCIL to KHADC for the road project. The 20 kilometre road would connect Wahkaji with seven villages including Mawthabah. (The Shillong Times May 5, 2006)
The foundation stone laying of the road to Wahkaji has been shelved with the Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Dr Anil Kakodkar expressing his inability to attend the programme slated for May 9, 2006. (The Shillong Times May 7, 2006)
The visit of KHADC delegation led by its Chief Executive Member Mr HS Shylla to the mining areas of Wahkaji on May 9, 2006, came to an abrupt end when the West Khasi Hills district administration prevented them from taking the trip fearing violence between those people who welcome the uranium project and others who are against it. (The Shillong Times May 10, 2006)

District Council clears proposed uranium mining at Domiasiat

Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) Chief Executive Member Mr HS Shylla said that the KHADC submitted its recommendation to Meghalaya Chief Minister DD Lapang on April 11, 2006, in favour of the proposed uranium project at Domiasiat-Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills. “It is in the interest of the people and the State as whole”, the KHADC report said.
The Council is of the opinion that there is no harm in Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) in taking up the project however “it is up to the State government to allow the same”, Mr Shylla said.
A 14-member team led by Mr Shylla visited the UCIL project at Jaduguda and interacted with the employees of the Corporation and found that those working there are possessing sound health. “We have even entered the mine and found it safe for all working there”, he said.
Mr Shylla came hard on the anti-mining NGOs like the KSU and MPHRC saying that these organisations were misleading the people by creating fear psychosis about the uranium mining. “The NGOs which are involved in anti-uranium campaign are anti-development and anti-national and they should be put behind bars”, he said. (The Shillong Times April 13, 2006)

Medical team finds no health effects from former uranium exploration at Domiasiat

A medical team visited Phangdilion village on December 13, 2005, and organised a health camp on the same day. At least 376 people including 169 males and 207 females in the age group of 0 to 80 years had check ups in the health camp so as to enable the officials to have a conclusive report on the health hazards that uranium mining could have caused. NGOs recently claimed that the waste piles left from exploration for uranium a few years ago had been affecting the general health of the people.
The team said that contrary to the claim of NGOs, there was no apparent affect of radiation on the general health of the people residing around the mining areas. “There was only one case of radio oncology strongly suggesting an advance carcinoma of the throat case, besides a few skin problems like scabies and seborrhoea dermatitis. There was no endemic of any particular disease, but the people were suffering from common ailments”, the report said adding that infection of upper and lower respiratory tract and acid peptic diseases were prevalent, while essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus and chronic amoebasis were not detected.
The team had visited Phlangdiloin and checked patients from Pyndemsynia, Ryngkhiat, Nongmawmluh, Mawt-hemlang and Rangblang, all adjacent to the uranium mining areas. The report, however, said that the medical team could not cover Domiasiat village on the same day as the area was not easily accessible. (The Shillong Times 21 Dec 2005)

District Council forms committee to study proposed uranium mining in Domiasiat

The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) has constituted a special committee to study the proposed uranium mining in Domiasiat, West Khasi Hills. According to Mr Hispreachering Son Shylla, Chief Executive Member, the committee would take views of the people residing within the vicinity of the mining areas. The Committee will also seek the opinions of experts regarding the merits and demerits of uranium mining, Mr Shylla said adding that the committee would look into the national as well as International interest concerning uranium mining. The committee would submit its report within six months, he said. (The Shillong Times 28 Sep 2005)

State government in favor of uranium mining at Domiasiat

Meghalaya Governor, Mr M M Jacob has said that the state government and the district council were in favour of uranium mining. (The Shillong Times, Aug. 25, 2005)

Tribal council leader opposes uranium mining at Domiasiat

Tribal council leader Mr John F Kharshiing has condemned the stand of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), which is in favour of mining uranium even as he urged the people to stand united against the possibilities of uranium mining. In a statement issued in Shillong, the Chairman of Ka Dorbar Ki Nongsynshar ka Ri Hynniewtrep (Assembly of Hynniewtrep Traditional Rulers) said that the UCIL sponsored visit of members of the district council and traditional heads to Jaduguda is a farce.
According to Mr Kharshiing, the team members should have sought the opinion of an unbiased expert and not from employees of UCIL. He also urged the land-owners, villages and people to make a judicious decision as neither the UCIL nor the State Government has clarifed about the relocation and compensation of the affected families once the green signal is given. (The Shillong Times, July 20, 2005)

District Council in favour of Domiasiat mining project after visit to Jaduguda

UCIL’s Domiasiat proposal received a boost when the high-level team, which visited Jaduguda in Jharkhand to gather first hand knowledge on uranium mining, virtually gave its seal of approval allaying fear of ill effects. The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) Chief Executive Member Prestone Tynsong said the team did not witness ill effect of mining on human life, vegetations, animals there. (The Shillong Times, July 14, 2005)

Activists seal off Domiasiat uranium mine project site

On April 12, 2005, the organizations fighting against setting up of the project erected a gate at Domiasiat in West Khasi Hills in order to check unauthorized entry into the area. The organizations – KSU, MPHRC, Dorbar Shnong of Domiasiat along with land owner Spillity Lyngdoh Langrin – who set up the gate warned people against passing through the gate to the area, identified for the proposed uranium mining project, without seeking prior permission from the land owner concerned.
Land owner Spillity Lyngdoh Langrin said that the gate was constructed as “a symbol of the people’s vehement protest” against the proposed uranium mining project at Domiasiat, which she had been voicing against since 1990. Spillity Lyngdoh also said that no UCIL representative or official would be allowed to enter the area and go to the proposed project site without availing prior permission from her. The Dorbar Shnong (village council) of Domiasiat has decided to extend its full support to the land owner to erect the gate keeping in mind the serious concerns regarding health hazards voiced by certain quarters in view of the proposed uranium mining project in the area. (The Shillong Times April 14, 2005)

Newly formed anti-uranium committee announces rally against Domiasiat uranium project

The newly-formed Co-Ordination Committee Against Uranium Mining (CCAUM) comprising 11 organizations including the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Meghalaya People’s Human Rights Council (MPHRC), Western Youth Welfare Organisation (WYWO), NADO, NAIDO, and Lai Lyngdoh Welfare Organization (LYWO) has decided to launch a movement in the entire Khasi and Jaintia Hills to prevent uranium mining at Domiasiat in West Khasi Hills.
The CCAUM, which was formed at a meeting held at Nongstoin on March 21, 2005, decided that the movement would be launched on April 6, 2005, by holding a public rally at Nongstoin to highlight negative impact of uranium mining on people living near the proposed uranium mining project. KSU president Samuel B Jyrwa said that the CCAUM had been formed in view of the State government’s move to issue No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to carry out uranium mining at Domiasiat.
Meanwhile, the CCAUM has condemned the statement of Chief Minister DD Lapang made in the State Assembly recently that the government would grant permission to UCIL to carry out the project at Domiasiat. CCAUM chairman and president of the KSU West Khasi Hills Circle Stanley Kharbani said that majority of the people of the district, especially those of Domiasiat, were strongly against the proposed uranium mining project and have thus decided to extend full support to the movement. “The CCAUM was supported by many political leaders of West Khasi Hills including the HSPDP President and MLA from Nongstoin Hoping Stone Lyngdoh,” Mr Kharbani claimed. (The Shillong Times, 23 March 2005)

Domiasiat project renamed to Kylleng-Pyndemsohiong-Mawthabah uranium mining project

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) has decided to change the name of the proposed uranium mining project in West Khasi Hills to Kylleng-Pyndemsohiong-Mawthabah Uranium Mining Project, instead of Domiasiat Uranium Mining Project. Official sources said that the name of the project had been changed after proper verification by the Atomic Minerals Division (AMD) and State Government revealed that there was no uranium deposit at the site of the present Domiasiat uranium mining project. (Shillong Times Mar. 14, 2005)

District Council to seek White Paper on Domiasiat project

The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) has decided to seek a White Paper from Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) on the advantages and disadvantages of uranium mining at Domiasiat in West Khasi Hills district. The decision to this effect was taken at a meeting held in Shillong on March 7, 2005, between the KHADC officials and traditional heads of Nongstoin and Langrin. (The Shillong Times, March 8, 2005)

Dec. 14/15, 2004, general strike against uranium mining at Domiasiat

On Dec. 14, 2004 at 7 p.m., a further general strike began against the uranium mining project at Domiasiat, among others. The strike was called by the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU). (Shillong Times Dec. 15, 2004)

Rally in favour of uranium mining at Domiasiat

On Nov. 9, 2004, the Langrin War-San Lyngdoh Development Organisation (LWLDO) held a big rally at Wahkaji village near Domiasiat attended by people of several villages. The rally decided to welcome the proposed uranium project while also urging the State Government to grant permission to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to start the mining process. The organisation which comprised of Rangbah Shnongs and Sirdars (headmen) of these villages was in favour of allowing uranium mining in Domiasiat. (Shillong Times Nov. 10, 2004)

UCIL official quits after threat from militants

UCIL’s mining adviser CF Lyngdoh resigned following threat from suspected militants. “Two armed militants came to my house on September 15 last and asked me to resign by October 1 and I had to resign”, Mr Lyngdoh told The Shillong Times. “One of them spoke in Khasi saying that for the good of the society, I should resign”, Mr Lyngdoh said. (Shillong Times Oct. 18, 2004)

Students’ organizations support Oct. 5, 2004, general strike against uranium mining at Domiasiat

The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) supports the October 5, 2004 general strike, sponsored by the North East Students Organisation (NESO). The strike will focus on KSU’s protest against uranium mining at Domiasiat. (Shillong Times Sep. 29, 2004)

UCIL obtains land owners consent for uranium project in Domiasiat

Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) has claimed that land owners in Meghalaya’s Domiasiat area have given their consent in principle for mining of the radioactive mineral, reports PTI.
UCIL chairman and managing director R Gupta said the consent of the land owners was a “step forward” for setting up UCIL project in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district. He also expressed happiness that the local people were ‘cooperating’ with the UCIL. Land in tribal-dominated Meghalaya belongs to the people and for setting up of any project their consent was regarded crucial. (Assam Tribune June 10, 2004)

Meghalaya NGOs opposed to uranium mining at Domiasiat

Three prominent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of Meghalaya have expressed strong opposition to the proposed mining of uranium at Domiasiat in the West Khasi Hills District of the State due to the apprehension of radiation-related health hazards.
Representatives of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), Hynniewtrep Environment Status Preservation Organisation (HESPO) and the Meghalaya People’s Human Rights Council (MPHRC), who had recently visited uranium mines at Jadugoda in Bihar, have alleged that mining of the yellow mineral has resulted in widespread health hazards in the vicinity of the mines.
The NGO representatives were part of a fact-finding team including Meghalaya Mining and Geology minister Deborah Marak, Labour minister Sayedullah Nongrum, besides other government officials, which was sent to Jadugoda by the state government. (Assam Tribune Mar. 20, 2004)
On April 26, 2004, the three NGOs organised a protest march through the streets of Shillong on the occasion of ‘World Anti-Uranium Day’. At this occasion, the Meghalaya Government has reiterated its stand that a decision on uranium mining at Domiasiat in the West Khasi Hills would be taken only after examining all aspects including health and safety. (Assam Tribune Apr. 27, 2004)

Meghalaya Government calls for studies on Domiasiat project

The Meghalaya Government has decided to urge the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to study the ecology of Domiasiat and submit a detailed report on the feasibility of carrying out uranium mining in the Domiasiat area of West Khasi Hills in Meghalaya. A separate team, comprising representatives of various NGOs would also be sent to Domiasiat by the State Department of Mining and Geology, Chief Minister D.D. Lapang said, adding the government would also take the feed-back provided by the NGOs into consideration before taking any decision on uranium mining. (Assam Tribune Jan. 19, 2004)

UCIL to start mining at Domiasiat

The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) has decided to start uranium mining at Domiasiat in Meghalaya and all precautionary measures has been taken. This was stated by the Minister for Mines Ramesh Bais in the Indian Parliament on Dec. 10, 2003. “Various pre-project activities like preparation of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)/Environment Management Plan (EMP) report, Detailed Project Report (DPR) have been initiated,” Mr Bais said. An application for mining lease has also been submitted to the State Government, he added. (Shillong Times Dec. 11, 2003)
UCIL assures: uranium mining at Domiasiat not to start without local consent

Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) Chairman-cum-Managing Director (CMD) Ramendra Gupta has said that the proposed mining of uranium ore from Domiasiat in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district would not be started until the people of the area extend wholehearted cooperation to the project. “We will start the project only after we convince the people that the project is in their interest,” Gupta said. “The project will only be started with public approval,” he reiterated. (Assam Tribune Aug. 26, 2003)

State Government to install committee on Domiasiat project

A high-level committee headed by Chief Minister D D Lapang will be constituted to examine all issues related to the proposed uranium mining project at Domiasiat. Informing this, Commissioner and Secretary of Mining and Geology department, S S Gupta said his department would soon submit a proposal to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for setting up of the proposed high-level committee which would comprise some ministers and senior government officials. The committee would examine all issues related to the project including health issues and would make recommendations to the Cabinet for its approval. Further, in case of any decision by the Government to grant mining lease to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), the committee would recommend the terms and conditions related to such lease.
Meanwhile, the UCIL chairman and managing director, R Gupta during his recent meeting with the state government clarified that the UCIL was ready to pay compensation to those land owners whose lands would be acquired for the project. Only a few families were required to be displaced and they would be provided jobs besides accommodation in UCIL quarters. The project would create 500 direct employment avenues and indirect employment was likely to exceed 5000. Moreover, Mr Gupta informed the State Government that there was absolutely no health hazard posed by the proposed mining of uranium to the local villagers while he also asserted that not a single case of diseases from uranium mining had occurred at Jaduguda.
250 tonnes of uranium (U3O8) would be produced per year through open cast mining at Domiasiat. (Shillong Times July 24, 2003)

More opposition to Domiasiat uranium mine project

The Meghalaya Peoples’ Human Rights Council (MPHRC) and the Hill State Peoples’ Democratic Party (HSPDP) have strongly opposed any move to carry out uranium mining at Domiasiat in the West Khasi Hills district on the ground that radiation from the mineral would pose health hazards, besides affecting the environment. (Assam Tribune June 8, 2003)

Open-cast uranium mining in Meghalaya likely

“The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) will adopt the open-cast method of mining uranium at Domiasiat in the West Khasi Hills to ensure safety to the people and the environment.” (Assam Tribune June 4, 2003)

Key ally of ruling party opposes uranium exploration moves

On May, 20, 2003, Hill State People Democratic Party (HSPDP), a constituent of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance coalition, opposed the Government’s decision to begin extraction [means exploration] of uranium in the State saying it would cause sickness among the people, reports PTI. Uranium extraction would also cause radiation effects among the cattle, HSDP president HS Lyngdoh told PTI here. (Assam Tribune May 22, 2003)
After over a decade, investigation and drilling of uranium deposits by the Uranium Corporation of India (UCI) have resumed in Meghalaya, reports PTI. The UCI has conducted geo-physical survey in Domiasiat area of West Khasi hills and was now negotiating with the individuals. The State government was not involved in the process, Chief Secretary J Tayeng told reporters. Process of excavation [means exploration] of the precious mineral had begun in Meghalaya in 1992 as Rs 450 crore [Rs 4.5 billion = US$ 96 million] were earmarked for the pilot project but it was reportedly abandoned due to protests from local people and village heads. (Assam Tribune May 23, 2003)

Tribal opposition blocks Domiasiat uranium project in northeast India

Opposition from the local Khasi tribe so far has prevented Uranium Corp of India Ltd (UCIL) from developing a commercial uranium mine at Domiasiat in the north-eastern province of Meghalaya. The Khasi district council says it owns the land and the state government – or the federal authorities – cannot acquire it. The district council has granted permission for UCIL to “conduct exploratory surveys” but not to undertake commercial mining. One senior UCIL official said: “Every time we turn up at the uranium mines, the tribes people chase us with bows and arrows and swords.” “They call us the agents of death and threaten to kill us if we try to mine uranium.” (BBC News May 5, 2003)

Tribals oppose Domiasiat uranium project in northeast India

Uranium Corp of India Ltd (UCIL) has received permission to begin uranium mining in Domiasiat village in the province of Meghalaya. Paul Lyngdoh, leader of the tribal Khasi Student Union (KSU), said the students had appealed to the village headman to withdraw the order immediately. (Reuters, Nov. 27, 2000)

Domiasiat project functional in 4 – 5 years

The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) plans to have the Domiasiat uranium mine operational in 4 – 5 years. While UCIL initially planned open-pit mining, it now prefers the in-situ leaching technique for the exploitation of the deposit. (The Hindu, July 20, 1999)

30,000 to be displaced for Domiasiat uranium mine ?

The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd. (UCIL) has proposed to acquire 10 square kilometers of land in the uranium deposit areas of Domiasiat in Hima Langrin of the West Khasi Hills (in the northeast of India). About 30,000 people are likely to be displaced and the UCIL is promising to provide 85 percent of the jobs to residents in the area. Some time before 1991, the Atomic Mineral Division of the Department of Atomic Energy discovered uranium in the West Khasi Hills. In the name of prospecting and taking samples, they already took out vast quantities of ore running into hundreds of tons. Now the Uranium Corporation of India has decided to “properly” acquire the land and do what may be considered “legalized destruction”. It is said that the deposit is the “largest, richest, near-surface and low- cost sandstone-type uranium deposit discovered in India so far”. The ores are spread over a 10-square-kilometer area in deposits varying from eight to 47 meters from the surface.

As part of their efforts to stop this assault on their territory, people have also sent a letter to the Prime Minister. The Department of Atomic Energy has been asked to explain, and in its letter of reply, had the cheek to say that mining will only help in removing the uranium which is the source of the radiation in this area!

Source and Contact: Anumukti (India), Vol.9, No.4, Feb/March 1996, E-mail: anumukti@gmx.net
[Reprinted from WISE News Communique No.459, 4 Oct 1996]

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