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Opposition to Uranium Mining from Balpakram Mounts

Written By mediavigil on Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 11:32 PM

Opposition to Uranium Mining from Balpakram Mounts

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


NBWL to carry site inspection of Balpakram

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.

Shillong Times

Uranium hunt bid in Meghalaya national park raises storm

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

GNLA opposed Uranium mining

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.

Shillong Times 20-04-10

GNLA, FKJGP oppose Balpakram mining

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.

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