The Burning Issue – May 2010

May 1, 2010 at 12:19 pm (Uncategorized)

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Why Lafarge Limestone Mining Put on Hold-3

Written by the Editor

Wednesday, 26 May 2010 04:42

The Giant’s Gigantic Blunder

G W Lyngdoh

SHILLONG, May 25:

th March 2006, and on the same day, the transfer of lands from the sellers to the buyer. The Lum Mawshun Pvt. Ltd and, from Lum Mawshun Minerals pvt Ltd to the Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt. Ltd and, the grant of mortgage of these lands in favour of the six international banks by forcibly dispossessing the rightful land owners. This same Deputy Commissioner, held the public hearing on 18th January 2006, as Chairman, which hearing was convened by the Meghalaya Pollution Control Board. the general public on that day raised objections to such public hearings and criticized the meaning of such public hearing as becoming a mere formality because Lafarge had already started its mining operations and the minerals transported to Bangladesh via conveyer belt. The vehement public objection had also been submitted to the Deputy Commissioner; however, it all came to naught. Instead, the DC made out his own proceedings of the public hearing leaving aside the public objections.

The mechanized mining operations include deep hole drillings and blasting. According to locals, the powerful blasts produce very strong vibrations much like powerful earthquake which shake the whole area causing fear of possible damage to houses should the

drillings and blasting be sustained and go on uninterrupted. Further, emission of black smoke and gaseous particles bring out a thick haze, like a blanket, covering the sun rays and preventing sunlight to touch the ground in the areas of operation and their vicinity. The locals are also in fear of serious ecological and environmental consequences where rivers and streams, flora and fauna and water sources in the area will be adversely affected. They also alleged that pregnant mothers, children of tender age and the old folks have been affected. The Shella Action Committee members are of the view that, even if there is any impact emission report by the authorities and government agencies, these are at best, only on paper and in name and, are not specific as to the real results. These reports, they say, invariably benefit the big corporate and never the people at large.

Another serious allegation is that the Lafarge Umiam Company is transporting limestone, shale and silt stone and other unknown minerals in closed wooden boxes through their conveyer belt. It is not known what the closed wooden boxes contain.

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court, in paragraph 119, reported in AIR 1997 SC 3297 in the case between Samantha – versus – State of Andhra and others it is clearly mentioned that the Government has no power to grant mining leases for mining purposes in tribal lands under the 6

th schedule to the Constitution of India.

You are mind absorbing sidelights to the Shella versus Lafarge episode that has lasted for nearly a decade. It is of interest to note that the special committee sent to investigate as a fact finding mission came to Shella village on 2

nd April. The coming of the committee members from Delhi that too on Good Friday and leaving the next day was quite intriguing to the people in the area. The Committee supposedly met the locals, and institutions like Shella village Dorbar, members of the churches, a certain women’s organization and so onat Hat Shella in a locality called Sohlap. It is worth mentioning that Shella has nine dongs (localities) in all with their own Tymmen Shnong. The special committee officials never informed the Shella confederacy of their coming and the Shella village Dorbar was also not in the know of their visit. What actually transpired during the Committees two day stay was that it met certain small groups in their own personal capacity sans any authority of the village Dorbar.

Another interesting episode happened during the Court proceedings on 26

th April when senior advocate Harish Salve, who was assisting the Court in the matter, said the mining activities are permitted after the company gets all the environmental compliance reports, adding that, in this case Lafarge obtained environmental clearance by misrepresenting the facts. He said that the company started mining activities before it submitted proper environmental compliance reports. He cited examples of the Supreme Court denying permission on environmental grounds. He said that Lafarge must do a proper job in complying with environmental norms. Making a forthright point Salve said that Lafarge had deep pockets. Or else, “let them wind up and go home” Salve added. He said that a bad precedent would be set if the company is given permission without proper compliance of environmental norms, and in turn, lead to huge loss of bio-diversity.


th schedule of the constitution of India. The object of the 6th schedule is to protect the indigenous tribal communities of the Hills of North East India against oppression and exploitation. But this has been trampled down and relegated to the waste basket by the coming of Lafarge, a giant cement producing company. The Lafarge Umiam mortgaged the land sold to it and the leased land on behalf of Lafarge Surma Bangladesh. What was not conceivable was in the fact that the Khasi Hills ADC through its department of revenue gave an NOC without the Forest Clearance of the forest department of the council. This happened between the years of 1998-2001. It is a glaring fact that it was not in the province of the revenue department to certify that the Shella Confederacy is a non forest land.

The emergence of Lafarge Umiam Mining pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of Lafarge Surma Cement Ltd of Bangladesh has resulted not only in taking away of tribal land by way of leases and sale forever, the tribal lands, it is the large tracts of land also that have been mortgaged to an international consortium of foreign banks that is most disturbing. Such sale consisted of 87 sale deeds in the form of deeds of conveyance and two lease deeds in the name of 55 persons, who have been termed as being claimants only, under the false certificates of a self styled Headman. There are two lease deeds covering a period of 60 and 90 years for 96,000 square meters of land. Whereas, land sold out to the company is a whopping 41/2 lakh square meters. These deeds were duly registered by the Sub-Registrar Sohra Civil-sub-division in complete violation of Section 3(1) and Section 6 of the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act 1971 and Meghalaya government notifications dated 17-5-1978 and 6-9-79 which prohibit transfer of tribal land and which prohibit registration of transfer of tribal land. These lands, sold and leased, to this company have already been mortgaged as security by Lafarge Umiam pvt.ltd by their special resolution dated 29-3-2005 to the off-shore lenders, that is, to six international banks for the loan of $ 153 million borrowed by the Lafarge Surma Cement Ltd of Bangladesh for their cement plant at Chattak, Bangladesh.

Apart from the DFO, Khasi Hills Division issuing a certificate declaring forest and agricultural land as barren wastes, later refuted by officials of the Environment and Forest ministry on representation to the ministry by the Shella Action Committee, the Deputy

Commissioner, East Khasi Hills, as competent authority under the said Act of 1971granted sanction on 13

Why Lafarge Limestone Mining Put on Hold-2: The Giant’s Gigantic Blunder

Written by the Editor

Monday, 24 May 2010 09:30

G W Lyngdoh

SHILLONG, May 23: The above matter listed before the Supreme Court on 26th April 2010 is very sensitive and important and is being closely watched by both the domestic and international media. The matter relates to violation of both environment laws and rights of tribal and indigenous people by the world’s largest cement manufacturing company ‘Lafarge’ of French.

The matter relates to a cross border project in India and Bangladesh. The company has a cement plant at Bangladesh and the entire raw material i.e. limestone is sourced from Shella Confederacy, East Khasi hills District in Meghalaya, India where the company has obtain a mining lease through its Indian Subsidiaries. The limestone is carried across the border by an elevated conveyor belt.

Environment Issue:  In the Rapid Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report, the company described the mining site “Wasteland” and “Rocky land which does not support plant” The MoEF granted Environment clearance (in the year 2001) on the basis is no diversion of forest involved”.

Later, the MoEF, on a site inspection in 2006 found the site to be in the midst of thick forests contrary to the description given by the company in EIA. MoEF found that the false disclosure was made with a view to avoid the need of obtaining forest clearance under the Forest Conservation Act. The MoEF directed the company to close its operation in April’2007. Lafarge approached the Supreme Court in I.A.No.  , 1868/2007.

Central Empowered Committee (CEC) submitted report before the Supreme Court in August’2007 in which it has strongly indicted the Khasi Hills Autonomous Council and the local DFO in falsely certifying the lands as ‘’non forest” .CEC has also recommended initiating actions against officers of MoEF for taking action promptly against the user agency on discovery that the lands are forest lands.

However, the CEC recommended that in view of the fait accompli situation, post facto forest clearance may be given subject to payment of 5 times NPV.

The FAC has now recommended diversion of 166 hectares of forest land. The recommendation is before the Supreme Court for its approval.

The amicus is of the view that since we are faced with a fait accompli position, the project should be allowed to continue despite irregularities subject to creation of a SPV in light of the Vedanta’s case.
On 23.11.2007, the Supreme Court as an interim measure allowed the Company to resume its mining activities in view of international agreement.

Shella Action Committee filed the above I.A.No. 2225-2227 in 2008 seeking intervention and probe into the affairs of the company.

On 05.02.2010, the Court directed stay of mining activities by the company. The Company fearing the closure of its cement plant approached both the GOI and GOB (government of Bangladesh) to intervene in the matter. The Attorney General of India appeared and strongly argued for vacating the order of 05.02.2010 citing strained diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh.

The document on record contradicts the arguments of the UOI… (Union of INDIA). The project is not conceived out of any international treaty between India and Bangladesh. This is a commercial venture of a private company funded by international banks. Since the project involved cross border trade, India gave a letter of assurance to facilitate this trade subject to compliance of our domestic laws and regulations. The Company backed by the UOI is arguing that the said letter is an international agreement between the two countries.

Under the directions of the Attorney General, the MoEF conducted a site inspection on 2nd and 3rd of April. The Site Inspection report again confirms that the lands are forest lands. The MoEF, however, instead of recommending fresh EIA inter alia recommended that the Company shall prepare a comprehensive forest rehabilitation and conservation plan covering the project as well as the surrounding area and shall prepare a comprehensive Biodiversity Management Plan to mitigate the possible impacts of mining on the surrounding forest and wildlife.    On 12.04.2010, the Supreme Court had directed the MoEF and the suggestion of the Attorney General for creation of a SPV. The matter is now listed on 26.04.2010.

Land Issue: There is a PIL pending before the Guwahati High Court challenging the transfer of tribal lands in favour of the Company. The lands in Meghalaya, where the mining site and the conveyor belt are located, are tribal lands under the Sixth Scheduled of the Constitution of India. The Meghalaya Land Transfer Regulation Act, 1971 prohibits transfer of tribal lands to non tribals 200 crores except by a previous approval of the competent authority who shall accord such sanction subject to certain conditions which include welfare of tribals and development. Here, the sanction was granted in 2006 much after all the transfer of lands was completed (2002-2004) including mortgage of tribal lands by the company in favour of international consortium of banks to obtain a loan of 153 million USD (admitted fact). The competent authority granted sanction because the revenue department had approved the project. The sanction order does not reflect any independent exercise of mind by the competent authority as to the nature of the land, its ownership and tribal welfare. The Shella Action Committee contends that the Company colluded with the Ex Headman of Shella Village and the Nongtrai Village Durbar and fraudulently obtained transfer of lands in its favour by taking advantage of the fact that there is no proper land tenure system in the region. The Shella Action Committee contends that the actual land owners are illegally dispossessed of their lands because of the failure of the competent authority to exercise care while granting the sanction. The Shella Action Committee has filed a transfer petition (civil) No.277/2010 seeking transfer of the PIL to Supreme Court.

The union of India and the State Govt. is silent on the recommendations of the CEC to initiate action against the guilty officials. The Company is liable to be prosecuted under section 15 and 16 of the Environment Protection Act. Moreover the land disputes needs to be adjudicated before the project is allowed to continue.

So far, the project is allowed to continue only by virtue of the interim order dated 23.11.2007.

The Shella Action Committee is not against development of the region. But when we talk about development in an eco sensitive state, it must be sustainable development. The GOI’s stand that it would affect its relationship with Bangladesh cannot be a reason for not determining, if the project is environmentally benign in an eco sensitive region.

It is because of our objections that the Attorney General has suggested for creation of SPV. However, we insist that this is not enough. The fresh EIA is compulsory and the project should await the outcome of the land dispute.

We request you, therefore to take a political decision that no mining should be permitted without a revised Environmental Clearance on the basis of a fresh EIA study and public hearing. You may kindly give necessary instructions to the counsel for state of Meghalaya appearing before the Supreme Court. On 26th April 2010 the advocates for the Shella Action Committee Mr P.S.Narasimha, Senior Advocate Supreme Court and Mr Somiram Sarma Advocate made a very significant deposition before the Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Mr K.G.Balakrishnan. The brief to the submission is as follows.

http://www.meghalayatimes.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12429:why-lafarge-limestone-mining-put-on-hold-2-the-giants-gigantic-blunder&catid=44:front-page&Itemid=28

The Giant’s Gigantic Blunder

Written by the Editor

Monday, 17 May 2010 09:01

G W Lyngdoh

SHILLONG, May 16: The Lafarge Surma Cement of Bangladesh was first noticed in 2002-3 when after several years of its own investigation came to understand that limestone deposits in the Shella confederacy was not only plentiful but of high grade quality which could sustain its operations in the neighboring country for many decades to come. Its foray into the limestone bearing areas of the confederacy began since the late nineties but became in earnest when the company, through its subsidiary, Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt. Ltd., began to acquire land by way of purchase and lease in 2002-3. The acquired lands were mortgaged to Lafarge umiam mining in March 2005. Subsequently, and in a short period of time, the Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills, granted sanction for transfer and mortgage to the international banks or, in legal parlance, the offshore lenders on the 13th of March 2006. This action of the Deputy Commissioner has been interpreted in legal circles as being in violation of the Meghalaya transfer of Land Regulation Act, 1971 and Government of Meghalaya Notifications of 1978-79. It may be noted here that Shella village and its surrounding areas are rich in mineral resources like, limestone, shale and silt stone etc. Shella and surrounding areas are tribal lands under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution and under the jurisdiction of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council.

From 2002 to 2005 eighty seven (87) nos. of sale deeds were duly registered by the Sub-Registrar of Sohra Civil Sub-Division The agreement executed by the Shella village dorbar and Lafarge Umiam Mining pvt. Ltd was authenticated by the Additional Judge, Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council Court in 2007. The end result to the above wheeling and dealings was that, the genuine owners of the lands mortgaged to off shore lender or, foreign banks, had no way out but to take the issue to Court, that is, to the Guwahati High Court being the Principal Court at Guwahati, being a subject matter of alienation of tribal lands to a foreign multinational giant which is reputed to be among the top cement producers in the world.

In another significant development during the early stages of land acquisition by Lafarge the Divisional Forest Officer, Khasi Hills Division, of the forest department, government of Meghalaya issued a certificate declaring that that the lands in Shella village were barren wastelands. To top it all, the official had been accused of handing over the certificate direct to Lafarge without observing the rules by showing the certification made to the higher authorities of the forest department. This failure on the part of the official to observe proper procedure has sent shock waves not only to legal circles in the State but also to his own parent department. On a complaint by the Shella Action Committee, an association of land owners in the area, to the ministry of environment and forests the ministry deputed its own officers to make a spot inspection at Shella village.

The findings of the officials of the MOEF are quite a revelation. The officials found that the so called barren wasteland was in actual fact, agricultural land, and crop plantation land and, with virgin fertile soil having dense forest of huge trees, medium size and small trees, a mixture of big and small trees that could, by no stretch of imagination be classed as barren waste. Consequently, the ministry ordered closure of all non-forest activities of the company in the areas in and around Shella village, in such areas as found to be forest, agriculture and crop lands. As was expected, Lafarge acted immediately on closure of its activities and petitioned the Supreme Court. Hence the case remains pending for disposal.

In what is seen to be of earth shattering significance is in the fact that the mortgage of tribal lands is to cover the loan of 153 million US dollars borrowed by Lafarge Surma Cements Ltd., of Bangladesh. The above company is a foreign company registered in Bangladesh with its head office in the capital city Dhaka. It is significant to note that the Lafarge Umiam Mining Pvt. Ltd. and Lum Mawshun Minerals Pvt. Ltd. are the subsidiaries of Lafarge Surma Cement Ltd.of Bangladesh.

According to the Shella Action Committee of Land Owners and their lawyers representing the former in both the High Court and the Supreme Court there are certain pertinent points to be observed in the case of Shella Action Committee verses Lafarge Umiam and the Khasi Hills ADC. These are; 1) that the Sixth Scheduled prohibits the transfer of tribal land to a non-tribal, and 2) that the present case may be read as precedent with Samatha case of Andhra Pradesh, 3) that mortgage of tribal land is in violation of the Meghalaya Land Transfer Regulation Act 1971, where sale, lease, and mortgage means transfer of land and therefore is in violation of this act, 4) that interference by political high ups like Mr Jairam Ramesh, who is Minister of Environment and Forest, Government of India should be in favour of mining in the Shella Area when the matter is sub-judice.

http://www.meghalayatimes.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12128:the-giants-gigantic-blunder&catid=44:front-page&Itemid=28

Proposal to mine uranium in BNP rejected, govt asked to close illegal mines

Written by the Editor (Meghalaya Times)

Sunday, 16 May 2010 14:32

Staff Reporter

SHILLONG, May. 14: The Garo Hills Anti Mining Forum (GHAMF) has hailed the decision of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to reject a proposal of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for exploratory drilling for uranium in Balpakram National Park.

The NBWL has also pressed the Meghalaya Government to ensure that all illegal coal mines in the vicinity of Balpakram are shut down with immediate effect.

These decisions were taken at a meeting of the NBWL held on Friday.

The GHAMF has congratulated Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh for “having stood by his reputation of being a friend of the people of the north east and of taking bold decisions.”

The forum also praised the Garo Students’ Union (GSU) for having played a critical role in spearheading the anti-uranium mining campaign.

The GHAMF also expressed appreciation to the Chief Minister Dr. Mukul Sangma for “carrying our voice to the Prime Minister’s Office” adding “The moral support of our local MLA Mr. Satto Marak has been an important ally in our campaign”.
The forum also thanked Sanjay Upadhyay and Shilpa Chohan of the Enviro Legal Defence Firm, Sengrak Marak, Salesa Nengminza, Kashmira Kakati and Sally Walker of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group for their support.

However, the forum also condemned the chief wildlife warden of Meghalaya for having given clearance to the project. It has urged the state government to replace the warden with “an active and conscientious chief wildlife warden”.
The GHAMF has resolved to launch a series of vigorous campaigns in Garo Hills against illegal private coal and limestone mines and has also urged the public to support the campaigns.

http://www.meghalayatimes.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12102:proposal-to-mine-uranium-in-bnp-rejected-govt-asked-to-close-illegal-mines-&catid=44:front-page&Itemid=28

Ramesh rejects proposal for uranium mining

BS Reporter / New Delhi May 15, 2010, 1:25 IST

Weathering the political storm over his controversial remarks, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh was back in action today as he rejected a proposal from the Department of Atomic Energy for exploratory drilling for uranium in the South Garo Hills of Meghalaya.

Chairing the 19th standing committee meeting of the National Board on Wildlife, Ramesh acknowledged that the country needed to augment domestic uranium supplies. However, due to the rampant illegal mining in the region which had hurt the sentiments of the local population, the committee decided not to allow any further exploitation of the region for its rich natural resources.

The committee also discussed a report prepared by one of its members, Asad Rahmani of the Bombay Natural History Society, on illegal private coal mines around the Balphakram National Park, where mining activity is maximum.

The report, which gives a detailed account of the rampant illegal mining in the area has urged the central government to take up the issue with the state government. “Such mining has severe implications for the social fabric of the state, health of its people, immigration, apart from environmental damage,” it says.

Mining has to be stopped at all the sites to prevent ecological damange to the landscape. It is a matter of great concern that the state seems to have lost all control over this region, says the report. “After visiting the area I found it gives the appearance of an untamed wild frontier where anyone can occupy the land and loot the natural resources,” says Rahmani.

The report describes that mining is done by untrained labour in a “rat-hole fashion”. “A hole is excavated on the hillside, sometimes up to 60 to 100 metres deep and coal is extracted manually and brought out as headload and dumped in the nearest open area, mostly roads,” it says.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/ramesh-rejects-proposal-for-uranium-mining/395037/

Uranium mining blocked

OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (The Telegraph)

New Delhi, May 14: A national panel of wildlife experts today rejected a proposal from the department of atomic energy for uranium exploration on the Rongcheng plateau in Meghalaya’s South Garo Hills.The standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife decided to reject the proposal for exploratory drilling in view of the sentiments of the local people and representations from civil society groups, the environment ministry said.The Rongcheng plateau falls in the Balpakram National Park, home to elephants, black bear, leopards, deer and the red panda, one of the rarest animals in the world.Several green groups and NGOs have campaigned against a proposal for exploratory drilling, arguing that it would harm the bio-diversity in the park.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100515/jsp/nation/story_12452005.jsp

DAE to shelve its Meghalaya plans

Times of India

THE DEPARTMENT of atomic energy will have to shelve its plans to augment the domestic supply of uranium from Meghalaya. The standing committee of the National Board on Wildlife has rejected the department’s proposal to undertake exploratory drilling for uranium inside the Balphakram national park in western Meghalaya at its meeting on Friday. The decision was taken in view of the sentiments of local people and the opposition from civil society groups, even though environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who chaired the meeting, acknowledged the need to enhance the domestic supply of uranium.

The DAE had sought permission to commence exploratory drilling in Rangcheng plateau inside Balphakram national park in South Garo Hills district. Incidentally, the Uranium Corporation of India, the sole prospecting and mining utility under the DAE, has not been able to extract uranium ore from Domasiat mines in West Khasi Hills district Meghalaya.

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=ETNEW&BaseHref=ETD/2010/05/15&PageLabel=2&EntityId=Ar00202&ViewMode=HTML&GZ=T

Wildlife board rejects uranium mining project

Special Correspondent (Hindu)

NEW DELHI: A uranium mining project in Meghalaya proposed by the Department of Atomic Energy has been rejected by the National Board on Wildlife (NBWL) due to strong opposition from local communities and civil society groups.

The decision was taken after detailed discussions by the Standing Committee of the NBWL which met on Friday. According to an official release, the proposal was rejected despite the fact “that the country urgently needs to augment domestic uranium supplies,” an admission made by the Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh who chaired the meeting.

The project proposed exploratory drilling for uranium in the Rongcheng Plateau in Balphakram National Park in the South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya.

http://www.hindu.com/2010/05/15/stories/2010051565041800.htm

Meghalaya uranium mining plan rejected

Assam Tribune

NEW DELHI, May 14 (IANS): The Environment Ministry today rejected a proposal of the Department of Atomic Energy to mine for uranium in Meghalaya’s Balphakram National Park following opposition from local people who contended it will affect the ecosystem.

The decision was taken at the standing committee meeting of the National Board on Wildlife (NBW) chaired by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh here.

“After a detailed discussion, the board decided to reject the proposal for exploratory drilling for uranium in Rongcheng Plateau in Balphakram National Park in South Garo Hills district of the State,” said Ramesh.

The board took this decision keeping in view the sentiments of the local people and a number of representations received from local civil society groups, he added.

The board also decided to press the State Government to immediately ban all mining and road construction activities within the park area; strict regulation of all coal mines in the district and implementation of proper mining plans to ensure that local people avail the greatest benefit.

http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=may1510/oth07

Mining along public roads prohibited

Written by the Editor

Thursday, 13 May 2010 11:29

Our Correspondent

NONGSTOIN, May. 12: The District Magistrate, West Khasi Hills, MR Synrem, in an order under section 144 CrPC, has prohibited random extraction of coal near public roads on Borsohra, Rajaju, Nonghyllam, Nongiri and Nongkulang, to avoid damage to the roads.

The order also stated that such attempts lead to destruction of roads and endanger vehicular traffic and also result in public inconvenience

‘New approach’ to uranium mining proposed

Assam Tribune

Raju Das

SHILLONG, May 8 – Meghalaya Government would adopt a “new approach” to try finding a solution to people’s fears about health and environment hazard, arising from Uranium mining.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said that he had a “fruitful interaction” with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh early this week about the proposed Uranium mining in Meghalaya and also other issues.

“The Prime Minister has assured that all necessary instructions would be given to relevant Ministries (concerning Uranium mining) for building up a consensus on this issue in the best interest of the people of Meghalaya in particular and India in general,” Sangma said during a press briefing yesterday.

Sangma said, as part of the new approach, complete engagement of all sections of the people including civil societies, NGOs, experts would be sought through discussions, seminars and workshops on the issue.

“The discussions and seminars would seek to find out whether there is a solution to the apprehension of the people as far as impact on health and environment issues vis-à-vis the proposed Uranium mining is concerned,” Sangma said.

Several NGOs and political parties in the State are opposed to mining of Uranium in West Khasi Hills district fearing health and environment hazard.

Govt will adopt new approach on mining issues: Mukul

Meghalaya Times

Written by the Editor
Saturday, 08 May 2010 09:29

Staff Reporter

Shillong, May. 07: Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma has said that his government will adopt a new approach to the issue of uranium mining in the state. “I am not telling anybody that we are going ahead with uranium mining,” Dr Sangma said.

The Chief Minister was briefing the press on his recent visit to the national capital, New Delhi.
The Chief Minister said that he discussed the proposed uranium mining issue in the state.
Dr. Sangma said that the government will address the health and environmental concerns and would also like to take into confidence the stake holders like the people living in the mining area, NGOs and the citizens before coming to a decision on the question of whether to mine uranium.

He also said that his government will seek the consensus of the stake holders by organising seminars and workshops to enlighten the people about the issue of uranium mining. “We are trying to seek the help of experts to find out whether there is a solution to the apprehensions of the people as far as impact on health and environmental issues vis-à-vis the proposed uranium mining is concerned,” the Chief Minister said.

During his meeting with the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, the Chief Minister apprised him of the economic and financial status of the state. He informed the Prime Minister that the present government in Meghalaya would lay more emphasis on income generation schemes for the poor including the small and marginal farmers with special emphasis on economic empowerment of women.

The Chief Minister said that his government will lay more emphasis in the development of pisciculture. “We will be involving small and marginal farmers and will try to utilise their land resources for rearing of fish,” Dr Sangma said. He informed that 8,000 farmers from all districts of the state will benefit from this scheme.

As part of the government’s initiative to uplift the economic conditions of the poor, a financial inclusion programme will be set off wherein the poor, small and marginal farmers will be given seed money of Rs 5,000 to begin some income generating programmes. Around 30,000 families will benefit from this programme.

Dr Sangma also said that in his meeting with the Planning Commission, he has sought special assistance for education over and above the planned assistance. “Since most schools in the state are privately run, we are trying to provide more emphasis in the area,” Mukul said.

He also laid emphasis on the harnessing of water bodies in the state for generating power. “We are looking to harness the potentialities of rivulets, streams and other water bodies, to reclaim the catchment areas which are depleting and converting them into assets,” he stated.

He said that the government was making efforts to tap energy through small hydel projects. “Our government is making an effort to identify areas for the purpose of generating renewable and green energy,” Dr Sangma said.

The Chief Minister said that the government will invite developers for harnessing energy in the state which will in turn provide revenue to the state exchequer and employment to the unemployed.

On the unemployment problem in the state, the Chief Minister said that he had discussions with officials of the Planning Commission and that his government is looking to address the issue. During the meeting with the commission, he laid stressed on developing the tourism industry in the state.

Dr Sangma said that his government will provide support to prospective entrepreneurs of the state with financial assistance for development of tourism especially in the hospitality industry.
The Chief Minister also discussed the long pending issue of the Shillong By-Pass and the four laning of National Highway 40.

He informed that the Central Government has assured the state government that expeditious action will be taken to speed up the projects. The issue of the Shillong-Nongstoin-Tura road which was accorded National Highway status in the year 2004, was also discussed.

PM: No force over uranium

OUR CORRESPONDENT (The Telegraph)

Shillong, May 7: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has “assured” Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma that all “necessary instructions” will be given to relevant ministries for building a “consensus” in the state on the contentious issue of uranium mining.Briefing the media here, Sangma said during a meeting with Singh in New Delhi on Wednesday, he had submitted his views on uranium mining emphasising the “new approach”.“New approach includes complete engagement of all sections of society, including civil society and NGOs through discussions, interactions, seminars involving experts to find out whether there is a solution to the people’s concern over issues pertaining to health and environment vis-à-vis uranium mining,” Sangma said.The chief minister said he had impressed upon Singh the need for complete engagement of all people for evolving a “consensus”.Sangma said he had also discussed how the state can reap maximum benefits if, through proper approach, the resources can be tapped.Singh had assured that all necessary instructions would be given to the relevant ministries for building a consensus on the issue of uranium mining, he said.When asked what the government would do on the issue in the absence of a consensus, Sangma said: “I would not like to presume anything at this juncture, but we should have optimism.”

The meeting between the chief minister and the Prime Minister comes days after the Meghalaya government decided to keep “in abeyance“ the proposed “exploratory drilling” of uranium in Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills district.

When asked about the fate of the Joint Committee on Uranium Mining in Meghalaya (JCUMM) formed last November under the D.D. Lapang administration, Sangma said: “Whenever a new government assumes office, it is taken for granted that all political appointments and bodies made by the preceding government get automatically dissolved.”

Sangma hinted that his government would reconstitute the JCUMM, a body comprising NGOs for and against uranium mining and other government officials, to look into various issues including the health and environment aspects of the proposed uranium project in West Khasi Hills district.

On May 5, Union minister of state for science and technology and earth sciences, Prithviraj Chavan, stated in the Lok Sabha that the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research had identified 17,252 tonnes of high grade in situ uranium resources in Meghalaya.

Chavan had said full-capacity production from the proposed uranium project at Kylleng Pyndensohiong Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills district could meet about 20 per cent of the indigenous requirement.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100508/jsp/northeast/story_12424109.jsp

Uranium issues resurface

Written by the Editor (Meghalaya Times)

Thursday, 06 May 2010 11:43

Thomas Lim It is now once again clear that the issue of uranium mining in the state is not going to settle down that easily. Earlier it was focused on West Khasi Hills, especially in Mawthabah, Nongtnger, Kyllengpyndengsohiong, where uranium was spotted, not the proposed Uranium Exploratory drilling from a village called Rongcheng, South Garo Hills that is at Balpakram National Park.
The earlier stand off between the pro and anti mining groups come to some conclusive settlement by keeping the mining in abeyance, and Joint Committee on Uranium Mining in Meghalaya (JCUMM), to work out  a proper strategies and planning undertaken by the authorities concerned and taking into confidence the general public and the NGO leaders who have to be convincingly educated about what will happen if the mineral is mined.

Strategies and planning are important while handling this issue since in Meghalaya, the under current, specifically regarding uranium, is definitely more a mind game rather than crusade, be it for pro or anti mining.
Now in the case of South Garo Hills, the similar mind game could be witnessed, where the NGOs, including the newly formed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), and now the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have raised the slogan: “Garo villagers ready to shed blood; no compromise on mining.”

The mind game is all about how to motivate the innocent habitants of the uranium rich villages into joining either of the groups. By now, a huge percentage of the villagers are well versed of the effects and impacts of mining uranium. To begin with, Rev. PBM Basaiawmoit, H S Lyngdoh, and other well-meaning individuals and leaders started the crusade against mining by accumulating visual and print reports from other states and countries on the ill effects of uranium. This sowed the seeds of fear about the mineral and its mining among the gullible villagers who until then had not known that they are going to be at the centre-stage of a decade’s long controversy.

Then the threats from militants groups which are alleged to have demanded crores of Rupees from the UCIL and the villagers in case they permit the government to extract the ore to be processed into ‘yellow cake’. This was followed by the practice of smuggling raw uranium (or what some persons involved in this ‘trade’ thought was uranium) to other parts of the country ostensibly to be routed to other countries, possibly to be handed over to militant groups who have a  huge desire to own some of this mineral.

In between all this, the uranium mining issue became a political golden goose for several aspiring individuals some of whom have already seated themselves almost permanently in the corridors of power. Ironically, if the uranium mining issue is not kept alive through sentimental rhetoric some of these leaders are sure to lose the elections and be come unemployed.  The innocent villagers in West Khasi Hills and now South Garo Hills are yet to recognise this factor but of late, there are indications that all of them are not as unaware as some individuals thought they are. Whether this will be positive or negative for the state government’s dreams to come true is a question that still lacks an intelligent answer.

In this mind game, the state government was a loser till now until they hit upon the idea of placating the villagers to accept the mining activities with the promise of all round development which is now being initiated by the UCIL in connivance with the state government. In fact, the state government has no other option but to allow the mining since there are multi crores of Rupees at the end of the rainbow. The government cannot afford to lose sight of that especially in cash starved times like these.

On the other hand, if the issue is kept kicking and alive, several persons, old and new, will be in the State Legislature in 2013. So, the mind game has to continue.
The uranium issue being a mind game, is it not the right time for the state government   to bring in uranium experts or scientists to educate both the pressure groups and the villagers instead of wasting the time on confabulations on how to tackle the pressure groups? Tackling the pressure groups with the might of the law will be only a temporary solution. One can definitely find a sound logic in the demand by pressure groups that the government should publish a White Paper on the health hazards or the lack of it induced by uranium mining.

With the pressure groups having been split on the mining issue, the Centre should take the lead in publishing the White Paper since that would be the best way to convince one and all.

http://www.meghalayatimes.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11631:uranium-issues-resurface&catid=39:editorial&Itemid=30

Mukul tip to PM on uranium issue

The Sentinel

Staff Correspondent
SHILLONG, May 7: Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma has impressed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the need to have a dialogue between the civil society, NGOs and experts to remove the apprehensions of the people over the vexed issue of uranium mining in the State.

In view of the opposition to the proposed surveying of the uranium deposits in Balpakram bio-reserve in South Garo Hills and the belligerent stand by Khasi Hills-based NGOs against the proposed extraction of uranium ore in Mawthabah area of West Khasi Hills, the Chief Minister told newsmen today that he had apprised the Prime Minister of a new approach to finding a way to remove the apprehensions expressed by the people.

“The new approach includes complete engagement of all sections of the people through discussions, interactions, seminars and workshops to find a solution to the apprehensions of the people over health and environmental issues,” said Sangma.

The Chief Minister said he had briefed the Prime Minister on the importance of a consensus on the issue of uranium mining that should bring maximum benefit to the rest of the people of the State and the nation as a whole.
Sangma indicated that there would be no hasty decision on the issue.

The Sentinel had on Tuesday reported that the Chief Minister would prefer going with the voice of the people on the uranium mining issue.

The proposed uranium mining in Mawthabah, West Khasi Hills has for long been a thorn in successive governments’ flesh but the proposed surveying of the uranium deposits in Balpakram bio-reserve has only added to the problem. Amid the opposition, the Chief Minister said the Union ministries concerned had been directed by the PMO’ office to aid the State in enlightening the government, NGOs and civil society and to develop a pragmatic consensus on the issue.

Consensus must before uranium mining, says Mukul

Govt to adopt ‘new approach’

Shillong Times

08-05-10
By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: Ruling out the possibility of uranium mining in the State without the consent of public, Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma on Friday stressed on the need to adopt a ‘new approach’ to find out a solution to the apprehensions of the people as far as impact on health and environmental issues are concerned.

Talking to media persons here on Friday, the Chief Minister, who recently held a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on this controversial issue, emphasized on the need to engage civil societies and NGOs to allay the apprehensions of the public.

Dr Sangma said he impressed upon the Prime Minister that it was necessary for evolving a consensus before commencing the proposed mining project.

Asked what does he mean by the ‘new approach’, the Chief Minister said, “The new approach includes complete engagement of all cross sections of people to evolve a consensus on the uranium mining.”

He said that complete engagement of the people was necessary on the issue so that the people could discuss the benefit that the state would reap from the uranium project.

Dr Singh during the meeting with the Chief Minister had also assured that the direction would be given concerned ministries to support the approach of building a consensus on the issue.

“We have to address the concerns before going ahead with the project. We have to find out the answers to the apprehensions,” the chief minister said, ruing that despite reports of various committees and house panel, a public consensus has not yet been arrived. It may be mentioned that a public consensus could not been arrived into uranium mining in Mawthabah, West Khasi Hills district after Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) along with other same like-minded organizations opposed it on the ground of health related issue. On the other hand, another organisation — Association of Meghalaya for Development and Advancement (AMDA) — is supporting the mining of uranium saying, “it would bring economic development to the district and as well as to the State as a whole.

Similarly, the Department of Atomic Energy, which is proposing to conduct exploratory drilling of uranium at Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills district, is facing strong opposition from various anti-mining groups.

Last month, the Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife, headed by the Prime Minister, recommended the exploratory drilling for uranium in the ‘sacred’ park.

South Asian Primate Network (SAPN) letter to Shri Jairam Ramesh

To,                                                                                                                              5 May 2010

Shri Jairam Ramesh

The Hon’ble Minister for Environment and Forests

New Delhi, India

Sub: Proposal to denotify part of Balpakram National Park, Meghalaya; Primate Values

Dear Sir,

It has been brought to our notice that the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests to de-notify an area of eight sq km on the Rongcheng plateau in Balpakram National Park in Meghalaya, South Garo Hills to prospect for uranium.

We’d like to inform you that the Balpakram National Park, among its rich biodiversity, also holds important populations of 7 species of primates. Of these, the park is an especially critical habitat for the stump-tailed macaque. There are fewer than 250 animals and it is is therefore Critically Endangered in India. Two other species are Globally Endangered (hoolock gibbon and capped langur); and two more species (northern pig-tailed macaque and Assamese macaque) were assessed by the IUCN Primate Specialist Group in 2003 as Endangered in India. Four of the species are also on Schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act. Summary details in table is attached for your kind perusal.

In view of Balpakram NP being one of the few remaining large, contiguous habitats in India that holds viable populations of several endangered primates, we request you to use the authority vested in you as the Minister of Environment and Forests of India, to refuse this ill-advised move for denotification of an integral part of the Park. The wildlife of this unique National Park must not be endangered at any cost. Your intervention in this will be crucial to retaining the sanctity of the National Park.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Kashmira Kakati, Member, IUCN SSC PSG, Author

Sally Walker, Coordinator for South Asia, IUCN SSC Primate Sp Group and signatory

Supported by

Sanjay Molur, Coordinator for South Asia, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr Russell Mittermeier, Chair, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr Anthony Rylands, Co-Chair, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Dilip Chetry, Member, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Jayanta Das, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr.Jihosuo Biswas, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Anwarul Choudhery, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Govindasamy Agoramoorthy, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Rauf Ali, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Parimal Ch. Bhattacharjee, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Jihosuo Biswas, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Joydeep Bose, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Debojyoti Chakraborty, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Dilip Chetry, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Anil Kumar Chhangani, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Jayanta Das, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Atul Kumar Gupta, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Praveen Karanth, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Ajith Kumar, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Awadesh Kumar, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Honnavalli N. Kumara, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Rekha Medhi, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Surendra M. Mohnot, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Sachin Anil Punekar, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Durgh Singh Rajpurohit, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Sunita Ram, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. K.K. Ramachandran, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Narayan Sharma, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Mewa Singh, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Anindya Sinha, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Ghan Shyam Solanki, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Charles Southwick, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Arun Srivastava, IUCN SSC PSG

Dr. Govindaswamy Umapathy, IUCN SSC PSG

Balpakram National Park, among its rich biodiversity, also holds important populations of 7 species of primates, nearly all of which are threatened.

Sl. No Name Area of occupancy (km²) Population trend(Total Population in India) Status IUCN Status in India Status – Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 Number of PAs NEIndia presence confirmed
1 Western Hoolock GibbonHoolock hoolock 605 Declined by >50% in last 50 years(610) Endangered Endangered Schedule 1Part 1 25*
2 Capped langurTrachypithecus pileatus pileatus <3500 Declining(<600) Endangered Endangered Schedule 1 Part II 5
3 Slow LorisNycticebus bengalensis >2001 Declining(Unknown) Data Deficient Data Deficient Schedule 1, Part 1 16
4 Stump-tailed macaqueMacaca arctoides <500 Declining(<250) Vulnerable Critically Endangered Schedule II 4
5 Assamese macaqueMacaca assamensis assamensis >2001 Declining(<425) Vulnerable Endangered Schedule II 16
6 Northern Pig-tailed macaqueMacaca leonina >2000 Declining(<5000) Vulnerable Endangered Schedule II 22
7 Rhesus macaqueMacaca mulatta >2000 Not known(>100,000) Lower Risk Least Concern Schedule 1, Part 1 21

IUCN speaks out against Balpakram mining proposal

07-05-10

Shillong Times

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: The South Asian Primate Network (SAPN), a representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has urged the Ministry of Environment and Forests to reconsider the proposal by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to de-notify an area of eight sq km on the Rongcheng plateau in Balpakram National Park in Meghalaya, South Garo Hills for exploratory drilling of uranium.

In a letter addressed to Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh, the Primate Specialist Group claimed that Balpakram National Park is home to seven species of primates. Of these, the Park is a critical habitat for the Stump-tailed Macaque, of which there are fewer than 250 animals remaining in the country. Two other species — the Hoolock Gibbon and Capped Langur – are recognized as globally endangered while two other species — the northern Pig-tailed Macaque and Assamese Macaque — were assessed by the IUCN Primate Specialist Group in 2003 as endangered in India.

The group, further, mentioned that since Balpakram is one of the few remaining large, contiguous habitats in India which holds viable population of several endangered primates, there was an immediate need to do away with all proposals for uranium mining in the National Park area.

AMDA to exit uranium panel

05-05-10
Shillong Times

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: The Association of Meghalaya for Development Advancement (AMDA) will formally seek its withdrawal from the Joint Committee on Uranium Mining on Meghalaya (JCUMM) on Thursday.

Informing this on Wednesday, AMDA president Wonder Myrthong said despite its withdrawal from the Committee the Association would request the State Government to include it in all the visits to the proposed uranium mining sites either in the State or outside.

The Association will also appeal for allowing mining of uranium at the earliest, he said.

Earlier on Monday, Deputy Chief Minister Bindo M Lanong, in-charge of Mining and Geology, had indicated that the Association would no longer want to be a part of the JCUMM.

The anti-uranium mining groups including the KSU have been asking the State Government to exclude AMDA, the ”pro-uranium group”, from the Committee.

Govt allays fear over BNP mining

05-05-10
By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: The State Government on Tuesday allayed the concern of NGOs and people of Garo Hills over the Centre’s move to go for exploratory mining for uranium in Balpakram National Park (BNP) saying that “nothing will be done which hurts the people’s sentiment.”

Giving a strong hint that the State Government would not give its consent for the proposed drilling in the national park, Forest and Environment Minister Dr RC Laloo said, “The Government will not take a major decision on the issue without the consent of the people.”

“No drilling will be carried out in the park without the consent of the public.”

The minister even admitted that drilling inside the park would affect the fauna of the park as loud noise from the drilling is likely to disturb the wild animals.

According to Dr Laloo, the Chief Minister has taken a correct decision by leaving it on the public to decide on the controversial issue of exploratory drilling for uranium mining in BNP.

The Chief Minister recently assured a GSU delegation that the consent of the people would be taken before taking any decision on the matter.

Dr Laloo, while indicating his opposition to the proposed exploratory drilling in BNP, pointed out that the basic objective of declaring the area in Garo Hills as a national park was to preserve the flora and fauna. “Uranium mining will hamper the objective,” he said.

The exploratory drilling inside the park has been opposed by various NGOs and also political parties.

Mining Dept not informed about keeping mining in abeyance

Meghalaya Times
Written by the Editor

Tuesday, 04 May 2010 03:36

Staff Reporter

Shillong, May. 03:
Call it a communication gap or a total disregard for the concerned department, but it is learnt that the Mining and Geology Department is in the dark about the decision to keep in abeyance the exploratory drilling for uranium ore in Balpakram National Park, Garo Hills.

“The department is not in the know of the matter in Garo Hills,” Deputy Chief Minister in-charge Mining and Geology, Bindo M Lanong, said.

However, he added: “He (Dr Mukul Sangma) being the Chief Minister of the state is at liberty to take any decision on his own.”

Recently, the Garo Students’ Union (GSU) met the Chief Minister urging him to put off the proposed exploratory drilling at the park.

Lanong also stated that since the GSU met the government only on April 29 last, “the order to keep the exploratory mining in abeyance may be in transit”.

The Mining and Geology Minister has, however, instructed his officials in the department to seek information about the memorandum submitted by the GSU.

When asked whether the government would use the same measures for uranium mining in Garo Hills as it has done in the case of West Khasi Hills, Lanong said: “We cannot have two yardsticks. We will have to deal with it by the same yardstick.”

He also admitted that the uranium mining issue is a controversial subject and has to be accorded special attention. “Mining of uranium ore is a sensitive issue. It is not like mining of coal or iron-ore, we will have to look at it from a different angle and take into consideration the pros and cons,” he said.

Earlier, several NGOs from Garo Hills have opposed the Department of Atomic Energy’s (DAE) proposal to conduct its drilling exercise inside the park.

Last week the influential GSU met the Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Sangma, who decided to move the Centre against the proposed exploratory drilling inside Balpakram National Park.

Uranium unites

Shillong Times Editorial

03-05-10

The news that Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) is intending to conduct exploratory mining in Balpakram, Garo Hills has raised the hackles of social organisations across the state. Balpakram is not only a wild life sanctuary but also a repository of Garo indigenous beliefs. Attempts are now made to take a united stance on this issue. Recently the Garo Students’ Union (GSU) called on their counterpart the Khasi Students Union (KSU) which has maintained a consistent stand insofar as the mining of uranium in West Khasi Hills is concerned, to garner support for their cause. Since then several other citizens’ groups have been formed, a prominent one being led by NCP leader PA Sangma, to protest against uranium mining. Letters have also been written to the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment to halt this extractive mining process. Arguments have often been advanced by the pro-uranium mining lobby that West Khasi Hills is a backward outpost and that the coming of UCIL with its mining agenda in that area would bring the much-needed development in the form of road infrastructure and health services besides other benefits. But UCIL’s own track record in terms of safe mining and radiation standards are still not well established. Jaduguda is hardly a good example although UCIL would have us believe the contrary. Besides, why should development of a certain area be at the cost of ecological and environmental hazards which are bound to happen considering that the areas under consideration are forested biospheres. The Union government’s hurry to harness uranium for nuclear energy is well appreciated but its approach towards the mining of this contentious ore leaves much to be desired. The Centre is, as always negotiating with the state government without taking cognisance of the fact that in Meghalaya land belongs to individuals and therefore the process of acquiring land for mining purposes within such individually owned land is fraught with all sorts of problems. Perhaps that is why the UCIL’s eyes have turned towards Balpakram which is already under the National Wild Life Board. Thankfully the citizens here are aware of their rights and of the fact that they need to negotiate for safe mining procedures before they allow uranium to get out of their territory.

There are already enough examples of how land has been devastated by unscientific coal mining in Meghalaya. But this process can no longer be halted. What is unfortunate is that even NGOs are not keen to move the Government and the judiciary for reclaiming of land abandoned by coal miners. These abandoned mines are like volcanic craters and potentially dangerous in the long run. So is unregulated limestone mining. It is ironic that the state is still wrestling with a mining policy. Will this policy ever see the light of day?

KSU, GSU join hands to fight uranium projects

Shillong Times

03-05-10

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: The anti-uranium mining movement in Meghalaya has gained momentum with two strong student organizations of Khasi Hills and Garo Hills — KSU and GSU – deciding to join hands for the cause.

While KSU has long been protesting the proposed uranium mining by UCIL at Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills, the proposed exploratory mining inside Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills led to opposition from GSU and various other organizations.

The two student bodies have now decided to put up a joint fight against their common cause – to oppose uranium mining in Meghalaya.

The decision was taken after the two organizations had a long and detailed discussion on the sensitive issue on Friday last, KSU general secretary Hamlet Dohling said.

“We have all agreed that we would not allow the government to give permission to the concerned agency for implementing the uranium mining projects,” Dohling said.

“The issue is very sensitive as the projects would have adverse impact on the life of the local indigenous people,” he added. He also castigated the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for declaring the proposed uranium mining site at Mawthabah as a wasteland and not forestland. “The MoEF claim is misleading as the uranium-rich Nongbahjynrin-Phudkylleng and Mawthabah-Domiasiat areas in West Khasi Hills are also rich in flora and fauna,” Dohling said. “The Union Government wants to go for uranium mining in Meghalaya even if it may lead to total destruction of the environment,” he said.

CM: Democratic approach to uranium mining

The Sentinel

Staff Correspondent

SHILLONG, May 3: Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma today said that he would adopt a democratic approach on the controversial issue of uranium survey and mining.

Knowing well the opposition from NGOs to the proposed uranium mining projects in West Khasi Hills, the Chief Minister exclusively told The Sentinel today: “My approach is democratic in nature. Any decision on the issue will be based on the general voice of the people.”

Acknowledging that it will be a difficult task for the State Government to convince the people on the merits and demerits of uranium mining in the State, Sangma said: “I am aware of the concerns raised by the people on the issue, and the collective voice can never be ignored by the government.”

“If the people have doubts, there should be a way to remove such doubts to reach a consensus on the vexed issue,” stated the Chief Minister, and added that discussions, seminars and workshops would be organized before taking any decision.

Asked specifically as to how his government will treat the pressure put by the Union Government to hasten the process of uranium mining in West Khasi Hills, Sangma said: “India is a democratic country, and every decision is taken honouring the wishes of the majority. The same is the case in our State too.”

His statement assumed significance in view of the recent opposition to survey the uranium deposit in Balpakram in Garo Hills. Already a huge deposit of uranium has been located in West Khasi Hills and its extraction has been stalled by the anti-uranium group

Opposition to uranium mining gains momentum

Assam Tribune

Correspondent
TURA, May 2 – Opposition to uranium mining inside Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills is gaining momentum with all major NGOs along with student and social groups coming together to protest the move by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to go ahead with its project.

The Garo Students Union and the United Achik Peace Forum (UAPF), a conglomerate of all leading civil societies, have dispatched urgent 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 denotify an 8 km stretch of the Rongcheng Plateau inside the national park is a pre-step to drilling which ought to be opposed.

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

Another important aspect that the Forum has put forward to the Environment Minister is the danger to India’s national animal – the Royal Bengal Tiger – that is already endangered and has a dwindling population inside the Park.

“The World Wildlife Foundation has put the Royal Bengal Tiger on the endangered list and the massive “Save the Tiger” campaign has been launched and has gathered momentum. It is the duty of the Union Government to capitalise on the campaign and not sabotage it,” stated the Forum in its letter to Ramesh.

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

The Forum has resolved to oppose in strongest terms the decision to denotify the 8 km stretch of Balpakram National Park and exploratory drilling by the DAE. It has also resolved to request the Government of India to stop the proposed exploitation of uranium at Balpakram based on the facts stated and premonition of the perceived consequences.

DAYA against BNP mining

Shillong Times

02-05-10

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: The Delhi A’chik Youth Association (DAYA) has extended its support to all the organizations voicing protest against the DAE move for exploratory drilling for uranium inside the Balpakram National Park.

In a statement the Association said, “The proposed drilling will not only destroy the ecosystem. There are various health hazards — the radiation will create an impact on human habitation.”

The drilling exercise would affect the fragile biodiversity of Balpakram and would be tantamount to encroaching on the tribal rights and also violates UN norms, the release said.

NBWL team refuses to visit BNP

Shillong Times

By Our Reporter

SHILLONG: With pressure mounting against proposed exploratory mining for uranium in Balpakram National Park from environment groups and student bodies, the DAE move suffered a major setback as an inspection team has refused to visit the site.

National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) member B Talukdar, assigned to lead an inspection team to the site, has refused to conduct the work “as several NGOs expressed their discontentment over the ‘inspection’ of the heritage national park.”

The team was to visit the site in order to ascertain people’s views on the proposal of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to conduct exploratory drilling for uranium inside the park.

“It is not proper for me to visit the Balpakram national park and carry out an inspection,” Talukdar told The Shillong Times on Friday.

Disclosing that he has already intimated his decision to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Talukdar said, “The proposed exploratory drilling has received stiff opposition from the people of Meghalaya and being a person from the region, I don’t want to see any conflict between the people.”

Meanwhile, sources said a new team of NBWL will be constituted excluding Talukdar to carry out the inspection work in the park. According to reports, the DAE has asked the MoEF to de-notify an area of eight sq km on the Rongcheng plateau along the environs of Balpakram National Park. Earlier, a delegation of GSU also met Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma and expressed their opposition to the exploratory drilling and proposed visit of the inspection team to the park.

KSU refutes report: Meanwhile, the KSU has refuted the MoEF report which claimed the proposed uranium mining site in Nongbah-Jynrin in West Khasi Hills District is a wasteland. “The MoEF should not mislead the people by giving wrong information, KSU general secretary Hamlet Dohling said claiming that the land is being used by the people for cultivation.

Exploratory mining at Balpakram in abeyance

Meghalaya Times
Written by the Editor

Friday, 30 April 2010 10:43

Staff Reporter
Shillong, Apr. 29: The state government has decided to keep in abeyance the exploratory mining of uranium at Balpakram National Park. The government came to the decision after meeting a delegation of the GSU here on Thursday.
Speaking to the media after meeting Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Sangma, GSU general secretary, Sanjeeb Sangma, said: “The government has assured us that it won’t go against the wishes of the people but will evolve a consensus on the issue.”

He, however, reiterated: “The GSU is in principle opposed to the mining of uranium from any area within Meghalaya.”
The GSU general secretary also said that the government assured the delegation that it would take up the matter with the Ministry of Environment and Forest and with the Department of Wildlife.
Sanjeeb also said that since the government had assured that them that the proposed exploratory mining would be kept in abeyance, the GSU would take a ‘wait and watch policy’.
He, however, warned that if the government ‘played’ with the sentiments of the people of Garo Hills, the union would not sit idle but would pursue the issue to its ‘logical conclusion’.
“Our central executive committee is meeting on May 5 where we will decide our future course of action,” the general secretary said.
Earlier, the Central Government had decided to depute an inspection team for Balpakram to ascertain facts about the proposed drilling sites. The 400 sq km park is a known habitat for the Asian Elephant, tiger and other endangered animals, apart from being home to rare and endemic plants.
Several NGOs of Garo Hills led by the powerful GSU are opposed to the proposed exploratory drilling of uranium ore from the park.
Apart from the issue of uranium mining, the GSU also discussed with the Chief Minister, the issue of the incompletion of the Nongal Bibra-Agia transmission.

MoEF report to UCIL ‘baffling’

The Sentinel

Staff Correspondent
SHILLONG, April 29: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)’s contention that the proposed uranium mining site in Mawthabah is wasteland and not forestland appears to be baffling while the thickly forested areas – Nongbahjynrin- Phutkylleng and Mawthabah-Domiasiat – in West Khasi Hills are considered to be rich in flora and fauna.
In its report submitted to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), the MoEF stated that “no forestland is involved” in the areas from where the UCIL is supposed to extract uranium.
“The total land requirement of the project is 351 hectares, including the mining area of 290.45 hectares which is wasteland. No forestland is involved”, said the MoEF in its environmental clearance letter to the UCIL in December 2007.
The report also said, “No ecologically sensitive area such as national park/wildlife sanctuary/biosphere reserve/tiger reserve is reported to be located in the core and the buffer zone of the proposed mine and that the area does not form corridor for schedule-I fauna.”
The report negated other findings about the dwindling flora and fauna in the uranium-rich areas, especially when commercial enterprises are exploiting the rich forests.
The proposed uranium mining site is still a home to a number of endangered species, right from the clouded leopard to the stag deer. Environmentalists feel that the proposed uranium project in the area of 351 hectares would have serious impact on the environment.
According to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, the 23 households and 131 people, residents of Nongbah Jynrin and Mawthabah, do not require relief and rehabilitation because of “the lease and the rent” that the UCIL will have to pay for their land. There is, however, concern over possible health hazards in the villages adjacent to the uranium mining site.

Sl. No Name Area of occupancy (km²) Population trend(Total Population in India) Status IUCN Status in India Status – Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 Number of PAs NEIndia presence confirmed
1 Western Hoolock GibbonHoolock hoolock 605 Declined by >50% in last 50 years(610) Endangered Endangered Schedule 1Part 1 25*
2 Capped langurTrachypithecus pileatus pileatus <3500 Declining(<600) Endangered Endangered Schedule 1 Part II 5
3 Slow LorisNycticebus bengalensis >2001 Declining(Unknown) Data Deficient Data Deficient Schedule 1, Part 1 16
4 Stump-tailed macaqueMacaca arctoides <500 Declining(<250) Vulnerable Critically Endangered Schedule II 4
5 Assamese macaqueMacaca assamensis assamensis >2001 Declining(<425) Vulnerable Endangered Schedule II 16
6 Northern Pig-tailed macaqueMacaca leonina >2000 Declining(<5000) Vulnerable Endangered Schedule II 22
7 Rhesus macaqueMacaca mulatta >2000 Not known(>100,000) Lower Risk Least Concern Schedule 1, Part 1 21

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