Guwahati, April 22: The recommendation of the National Board for Wildlife for exploratory drilling of uranium at the Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills district has been opposed by the Garo Students Union apart from local organisations in Meghalaya.
The 18th meeting of the standing committee of the wildlife board in New Delhi had taken the decision on exploratory uranium drilling. Union minister of state (independent charge) for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh had chaired the meet.
The committee, after discussions, unanimously decided to recommend exploratory drilling of uranium in the Rongcheng plateau of the park, keeping in mind the necessity for atomic energy.
The committee directed its member, Bibhab Talukdar, to visit the area and suggest safeguards, if any, to the state government under intimation to the ministry.
The Garo Students Union, in a memorandum to Ramesh, said it had decided to prevent the team from the board from entering the national park.
“Since we are principally opposed to any uranium mining in Garo hills, we do not see the point of exploratory drilling and therefore there is no merit in carrying out the site visit. We particularly hope that the proposed visit of NBWL team will not be allowed to reach a flashpoint and the team will not insist in conducting the site visit in violation of the people’s desires,” the memorandum said.
The member secretary of the committee, M.B. Lal, who is also the additional director general of forests (wildlife), said according to Section 35 (6) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, any diversion within a national park needed recommendation of the wildlife board. Besides, according to Section 29 of the act, any diversion within a sanctuary needed recommendation of the State Board for Wildlife.
Therefore, in the instant case, approval of the State Board for Wildlife was not statutorily required. The committee, however, also observed that recommendation of the state board be obtained for the proposal.
The department of atomic energy had sought permission for exploratory drilling in the ecologically fragile Rongcheng plateau for which it had requested for de-notification of 8 square km of forest under the national park.
According to a recent survey, the Rongcheng plateau is one of the “most potential” sites for “high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits”. The exploratory drilling will aim to confirm the presence of such deposits.
The 400-sq km national park is a known habitat for the Asian elephant, tigers and other endangered animals such as, hoolock gibbon and slow loris, apart from being home to rare and endemic plants.