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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