Up against uranium

Andhra government rides roughshod over people's views

Published: Monday 15 May 2006

in the face of stiff opposition against the proposed Lambapur-Peddagattu uranium project in Nalgonda district, the Andhra Pradesh government and the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (ucil) -- a central government enterprise -- are pushing another one, the Pulivendula uranium project.

ucil's hasty move has created apprehensions , particularly given allegations that the corporation's Nalgonda project has a flawed design and is violates environment norms.

The new project will be set up in chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's assembly constituency, Pulivendula, in Kadapa district. Reddy announced the project in February 2006.

While for Nalgonda mining project, mining will be done in Lambapur and Peddagattu villages, a uranium-processing unit with a production capacity of 1,250 tonnes per day will be set up in Seripally village. For the Pulivendula uranium project, mining work will be carried out in Vemulapalli mandal and the processing unit, with a production capacity of 3,000 tonnes per day, will be set up at Tummalapalli village.

ucil wants to avoid the Nalgonda experience, where environmental groups and tribal people from at least 18 villages have been protesting over the last six months. It is trying to pre-empt criticism : in the first week of April, it took a group of people from Kadapa district on a trip to Jharkhand's Jaduguda uranium project to convince them that uranium mining and processing have no adverse impacts.

People don't, however, seem to be buying the hardsell. The opposition is also demanding that the government should reconsider both the projects, particularly the one in Nalgonda.

Contradiction in terms? Ironically, the Lambapur-Peddagattu uranium project was given central environmental clearance despite objections from the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (appcb). "appcb had rejected it for two reasons: One, the Supreme Court's directive does not allow mining within 10 km of water bodies; and, two, there has been stiff opposition from the local people," says Rajeshwar Tiwari, member secretary, appcb. "In fact on March 3, 2005, appcb had held a public hearing. More than 50 per cent of those who participated opposed the project," Tiwari adds.

ucil got conditional clearance from the Ministry of environment and forests (moef) on December 21, 2005 and later the final environmental clearance despite the result of the public hearing. Moreover, the conditional clearance, with a set of 37 clauses, stipulated that the corporation should not violate the apex court's guidelines relating to mining activity. But, the proposed mines in Nalgonda are just 1.6 km away from the Nagarjunsagar water reservoir.

Nagarjunsagar is the prime source of drinking water for Hyderabad city and irrigates more than 647,499 hectares. According to the technical committee of appcb, the uranium concentration in Nagarjunsagar water is already above who stipulations. Moreover, violating the forest conservation act, moef has alloted a part of Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Sanctuary for mining.

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