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Leasing land to UCIL in Meghalaya likely to be on backburner
Correspondent SHILLONG, SEPT 20:
Published on 21 Sep. 2009 12:42 AM IST
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Public resistance over the leasing of land to Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) in Meghalaya to facilitate mining of uranium in West Khasi Hills district is likely to be put on the backburner. Several organisations have opposed the Cabinet’s decision of leasing 422 hectares of land for 30 years to UCIL for pre-project development in the Uranium-rich areas. Moreover, the allies of the Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance coalition government - the United Democratic Party, Hills State People’s Democratic Party and Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement - questioned the Cabinet’s decision. The opposition Nationalist Congress Party has also opposed the Cabinet’s decision and urged the government not to go ahead with any decision affecting the lives of the people. “The government may put the matter on the backburner as it wants to get the consensus of all political parties and groups,’’ a government official said. Deputy Chief Minister for Mining and Geology Bindo M Lanong said the government will discuss the issue again in view of the public protest. The influential Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) has even launched its first phase of agitation protesting the decision. “We are not against development of the state, but against UCIL-funded pre-developmental projects in 422 hectares of land in the uranium-rich deposits of Mawthabah and Nongbah Jynrin,’’ KSU supremo Samuel Jyrwa said. The UCIL would invest Rs 1,000 crore to undertake pre-developmental project activities to build schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure. Initially, the government-owned mining company would invest Rs 209 crore for these projects. Opposing the government’s decision, the Garo Students’ Union (GSU) urged the Centre and state government to sit down and rethink the viability of mining uranium in Meghalaya. “In the long run people in the region where the ore will be mined from will be affected critically, as visible in Jadugoda where countless lives were lost and physical malformations arise due to exposure to radiation from the ore and the radon gas emanating from the mines,’’ GSU activist Sanjeeb A Sangma said. Moreover, the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP) which is maintaining a neutral stand on Uranium mining asked the government to review the Cabinet’s decision. The only exceptions are the landowners of the area - Synjuk ki Nongshong Shnong Langrin and Warsan Lyngdoh Area and Langrin Warsan Lyngdoh Socio Economic and Development Organisation (LWLSEDO) - which has welcomed the decision. “We welcome the Cabinet’s decision to start the developmental projects and the uranium mining in our areas,’’ LWLSEDO president Wonder V Myrthong said. The UCIL had proposed a Rs 1,046 crore open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Mawthabah in the West Khasi Hills district which has an estimated deposit of 9.22 million tonne of uranium ore. The UCIL, however, has failed to drum up support for the project, with several NGOs and anti-mining, civil and human rights groups opposing the proposed mining.

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