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Anti-mining groups opposed to exempt uranium sites from Land Act
Correspondent SHILLONG, AUG 10:
Published on 10 Aug. 2009 11:32 PM IST
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Question mark looms large over the Meghalaya government’s proposal to exempt the identified Uranium sites from the purview of the Meghalaya Land Transfer Regulation Act. The anti-mining groups said the government’s proposal to relax the provisions of the Land Transfer Regulation Act was aimed at facilitating the uranium project in state’s West Khasi hills district. ‘’The proposal is totally objectionable to us. We will not allow the government to go ahead with its proposal at the cost of human lives,’’ Khasi Student’s Union (KSU) supremo Samuel Jyrwa said. The Union spearheaded the anti-uranium mining agitation in the states for over three decades now. Land is a sensitive subject in Meghalaya and is protected under Schedule VI of the Constitution and the Meghalaya Transfer of Land Regulation Act, 1971. Transfer of land to non-tribals and companies is prohibited. But the state government had, in 2001, relaxed the provisions of the Land Transfer Regulation Act enabling Lafarge to acquire the land. Recently, Chief Minister D D Lapang had revealed to pro-uranium group that his government had come up with a proposal to waive off uranium deposits in the state from the purview of the Land Transfer Regulation Act to pave way for the UCIL to mine the natural uranium. The Chief Minister had sought two weeks’ time to examine the various clauses of the Meghalaya Land Transfer Regulation Act before taking a final decision to exempt the UCIL from the purview of the Act. Ironically, the proposal to grant exemption to the UCIL came up when the government had constituted a committee to give more teeth to the Meghalaya Land Transfer Regulation Act. “We failed to understand the mind of the government. On one hand, they (government) speaks about the protection of the land of the indigenous tribes of the State, on the other hand, it moves to exempt mining areas, that will predictably cough up crores of rupees, from the purview of the Act in order to give the UCIL the liberty to start the mining project,” Jyrwa said. Warning the government not to go ahead with the proposed exemption, the KSU Chief said, “If Lapang is really serious with this matter, then he must be prepared for a strong resistant from the KSU. We would continue to oppose any proposals to facilitate the uranium mining project.” Revised estimated at the cost of Rs 1,046 crore, 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. 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 to allow the government to go ahead with the uranium project. Echoing the KSU’s Chief, Langrin Youth Welfare Association (LYWA) BS Lyngdoh said, the issue of uranium mining is an issue of the life and death of not only the people of the West Khasi Hills, but of the whole State. “We will foil this new attempt of the government to facilitate mining of Uranium in the state,” Lyngdoh said. However, pro-Uranium groups like the Langrin Warsan Lyngdoh Socio and Economic Development Organisation (LWLSEDO) welcome the government’s proposal to allow UCIL to take up the uranium mining project in the state. “We welcome the government proposal which is in the interest of the public residing in the proposed uranium mining areas and we want the UCIL to start the project soon,” LWLSEDO President Wonder Myrthong said.

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