Plans to take up uranium mining in Nalgonda draw flak

The Hindu, 14th July 2003

HYDERABAD July 13. Nalgonda district is sitting on a ticking time bomb. Helpless tribals reeling under severe radiation effects and the dangers of life in the dark shadows of uranium mining in the forest tracts of Jaduguda in Jharkhand could find an echo in the arid lands of Nalgonda if the Uranium Corporation of India Limited plans come through.

The corporation which runs the country's largest uranium mine at Jaduguda has proposed to undertake mining operations in Lambapur and Peddagutta villages in P.A. Pally mandal of the district where there are an estimated 11.02 million tonnes of uranium reserves spread over 1,326 acres, including a part of the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger reserve sanctuary. The proposal to set up a hydro-metallurgical plant was reportedly accepted by a high-level technical committee.

"People of Nalgonda have every right to know what is in store for them. Trying to push through this project in the name of national interests would be unfair," speakers said at a meeting organised by Samriti, Forum for Better Hyderabad and mines, minerals & People (mmP) here on Sunday.

The organisations demanded an Environmental Impact Assessment Study to be carried out on the project and public opinion taken before any further decision was announced by the Government. There was an urgent need for a debate on the hazards of uranium extraction project.

"Rich mineral deposits which were considered a boon for tribals have become their bane. Tribals have been displaced, their lands taken away and culture destroyed. Worse, the hazardous radiations have played havoc with their health and the flora and fauna producing genetic defects that could span several generations," Ravi Rebbapragada of mm&P and J. Rama Rao of Forum for Better Hyderabad pointed out.

They alleged that the corporation had flouted all environmental norms and reduced Jaduguda into a killing field. "Pregnant women walking past the dumping yards would abort instantaneously, children with deformities died the moment they were born and the lucky ones who survived, have to endure untold misery all their lives. What is the guarantee that a similar scenario would not unfold in Nalgonda," they asked.

A speaker said even Hyderabad was not safe as it would be drawing Krishna water from Nalgonda district. "Is the uranium project in the path of the Krishna water supply scheme?" he asked.'

The organisations demanded the Government to make available all information pertaining to the project. "It should be transparent in sharing this information, particularly with the local communities."

A documentary on the travails of Jaduguda tribals, "Buddha weeps in Jaduguda" made by a Ranchi-based filmmaker, Sri Prakash was screened on the occasion.