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Garos oppose uranium drilling inside park
Correspondent SHILLONG/ TURA, APR 23
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Published on 23 Apr. 2010 11:08 PM IST
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The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE’s)proposal to conduct exploratory drilling for uranium inside the sacred Balpakram National Park has angered tribal Garos in Meghalaya.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A Sangma has threatened to launch a massive agitation in protest against the centre’s decision to allow the exploratory drilling inside the national park in South Garo Hills district. The 400-sq km BNP is a known 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 DAE had asked the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment for de-notification of 8 Sq.km of forest under the national Park to conduct an exploratory drilling in the ecologically fragile Rongcheng plateau of the Park.
Keeping in mind the necessity for Atomic Energy, the Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) also uanimously recommended for exploratory drilling of Uranium inside the park.
The Committee, also observed that the approval of State Board for Wildlife was not statutorily required.
Recent survey, the Rongcheng Plateau is one of the “most potential” sites for “high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits”, which requires confirmation. The exploratory drilling is aimed at that.
Balpakram National Park, according to tribal Garos believes that after death their soul goes and rests in Balpakram.
The Hindus too believe that Balpakram was the mythological hillock from where Hanuman plucked the life-giving herbs – the sanjeevani – for wounded Lakshman.
“Yes uranium is an important mineral, but we cannot allow any exploration work inside Balpakram which is sacred place for Garos,” former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A Sangma said.
Therefore, he added, the question of mining or diluting the sanctity of Balpakram by way of mining is not acceptable to Garos.
“I am convening a meeting of political leaders and NGOs tomorrow at Tura in West Garo Hills district to chalk out our agitational programmes in all the three districts of Garo Hills to protest the government’s decision,” the veteran NCP leader said.
The powerful Garo Student’s Union has sent a memorandum of protest to Union Minister of Forest and Environment Jairam Ramesh opposing the centre’s decision to explore uranium inside the sacred Balpakram.
“We will not allow anyone to enter Balpakram to destroy our culture and believes,” GSU President Alex R Marak said.
The Garo National Liberation Army, a militant outfit condemned the decision of the National Board of Wildlife, (NBWL), to sent a site inspection team to Balpakram national park.
The Khasi Students’ Union which is opposing the Kylleng-Pyndengsohiong-Mawthabah uranium project in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills also extended its support to the GSU.
“The Garo people should not be misled by the government’s promises to facilitate DAE’s proposal for drilling of uranium inside the park,” KSU leader Hamletson Dohling said.
According to recent survey, the DAE has identified possibility of economical uranium mining in the Rongcheng plateau of Balpakram.
Notably, the Kylleng-Pyndengsohiong-Mawthabah uranium project in Meghalaya’s West Khasi Hills district has failed to kick-start since 1992 due to public protest.
Anti-mining groups and political parties have stalled the mining project citing health hazard and environmental degradation.

 
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