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Uranium exploration opposed in BNP
Published on 15 Apr. 2010 11:43 PM IST
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A proposal to de-notify 8 sq km of forest for an exploratory drilling at a newly-surveyed uranium site inside the Balpakram National Park (BNP) has been opposed.
According to a report in UNI, the 400-sq km BNP in Meghalayas South Garo Hills district is habitat for Asian elephant, tiger and other endangered animals such as, Hoolock Gibbon and Slow Loris, apart from being home to rare and endemic plants.
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has requested for de-notification of 8 sq km of forest under the national park for an exploratory drilling in the ecologically fragile Rongcheng plateau of the Park.
The Rongcheng Plateau is one of the ‘most potential’ sites for ‘high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits’, which requires confirmation.
The exploration exercise is aimed at to confirm feasible uranium deposits in the area, a DAE official said.
However, the Ministry of Forest and Environment is yet to issue a clearance certificate to the DAE, even as the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) decided to send an inspection team to Balpakram to ascertain facts about the proposed drilling site.
‘’Normally, any mining activity around a national park is rejected outright, but considering uranium as a critical mineral, we have to look at larger national interest,’’ a NBWL member said.
However, anti-mining groups in Garo Hills region has raised objection to such exploration of uranium deposits inside the park.
‘’We are not going to allow any mining activities inside Balpakram,’’ Chitmang Hills Anti-Mining Forum leader Ginseng Sangma said.
Balpakram has been identified not only as a biodiversity and ecological hotspot, but a sacred place for tribal Garos. The tribal Garos believe the spirit of their ancestors reside in the forest of Balpakram.
The Hindus also believe that Balpakram was the mythological hillock from where Hanuman plucked the life-giving herbs, ‘sanjeevani’, for wounded Lakshman.
The Garo Students Union has decided to restrict outsiders from venturing inside the park following the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) proposal for an exploratory drilling in Rongcheng plateau of the Park.
‘’We will write to the Chief Minister and the Centre opposing the proposal to explore uranium deposits inside the national park,’’ GSU President Alex Sangma said.
The Kylleng-Pyndenhsohiong-Mawthabah uranium mining project in Meghalayas West Khasi hills is lying pending since 1992 after several anti-nuke groups and political parties opposed the project citing radiation effect on human health and environmental degradation.
The Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) has proposed to set up a Rs 1,046 crore opencast uranium mining and processing unit in Domiasiat area, which has an estimated deposit of 9.22 million tones of uranium ore.

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