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Lapang mulls land transfer exemption for UCIL
Correspondent SHILLONG, AUG 8:
Published on 8 Aug. 2009 11:38 PM IST
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Meghalaya Chief Minister D D Lapang is mulling to exempt the Uranium deposit sites in the state from the purview of the Meghalaya Land Transfer Regulation Act to allow the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to mine the mineral. ‘’The Chief Minister told us that the government was keen to exempt the UCIL from the provision of the Land Transfer Act to carry out uranium mining,’’ Langrin Warsan Lyngdoh, Socio-Economic Development Organisation president, Wonder Myrthong, told reporters here. Myrthong met the Chief Minister and urged him to issue a no-objection certificate to the UCIL to take up mining in the Kylleng-Pyndengsohiong-Mawthabah areas of the West Khasi Hills district. Land in Meghalaya is protected under Schedule VI of the Constitution and the Meghalaya Transfer of Land Regulation Act, 1971, and its transfer to non-tribals is prohibited. But the state government had, in 2001, relaxed the provisions of the Meghalaya Land Transfer Act enabling Lafarge to acquire the land. Sources in the UCIL said New Delhi had made up its mind to kick off the Uranium project in the state very soon. The state government, too, is said to be aware of the development regarding the Centre’s stand. The Uranium project in the state has been kept on abeyance for over one-and-half-decades due to fierce resistance from tribal land owners and anti-uranium mining lobbies due to fear of radiation. ‘’The proposed exemption of the Act in the Uranium deposit sites would surely boost the morale of the UCIL at a time when India is in dire need of nuclear fuel to meet the huge demand for power generation. We would try to allay fears about radiation from Uranium and put its case forward to evolve a consensus on the issue,’’ an AMD official said. Meghalaya could contribute to 16 per cent of the country’s need for uranium. The contribution can even go beyond that as the DAE is also carrying out exploration work in Garo Hills where there are uranium deposits. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had already granted environmental clearance to the UCIL to mine Uranium in Meghalaya. UCIL had earlier planned to set up a Rs 1,046 crore open cast uranium mining and processing plant at Mawthabah, West Khasi Hills which has deposits of about 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore. However, the Centre’s Rs 800 crore compensation packages to develop infrastructure in uranium-rich villages of West Khasi Hills district has failed to convince the anti-mining lobby comprising NGOs and local leaders to allow the government to go for the uranium project. Myrthong claimed that the chief minister had sought two weeks’ time to examine the various clauses of the Land Transfer Act before taking a final decision to exempt the UCIL from the purview of the Act. The UCIL had planned to develop open cast mining for production of 375,000 tonne of uranium deposits at Kylleng-Pyndeng-Sohiong village and a processing plant at Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills district. Uranium ore deposits there have an average grade of 0.085 per cent. On health and environment hazard emanating from Uranium mining, Myrthong said, ‘’The allegation of health hazard is not true. There was no health threat found at Jadugoda (Uranium Mining project in Jharkhand) and so there arises no question to oppose uranium mining here.’’ However, the anti-mining group Langrin Youth Welfare Association (LYWA) accused the UCIL of instilling fear in the minds of the ignorant villagers and misleading them through inducement to develop an open-cast mining for production of uranium in Meghalaya. “ The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) continues to mislead the people of West Khasi Hills by their various inducements, including development and job packages to our ignorant villagers,’’ LYWA president BS Lyngdoh said.

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