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PM: No force over uranium

Shillong, May 7: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has “assured” Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma that all “necessary instructions” will be given to relevant ministries for building a “consensus” in the state on the contentious issue of uranium mining.

Briefing the media here, Sangma said during a meeting with Singh in New Delhi on Wednesday, he had submitted his views on uranium mining emphasising the “new approach”.

“New approach includes complete engagement of all sections of society, including civil society and NGOs through discussions, interactions, seminars involving experts to find out whether there is a solution to the people’s concern over issues pertaining to health and environment vis-à-vis uranium mining,” Sangma said.

The chief minister said he had impressed upon Singh the need for complete engagement of all people for evolving a “consensus”.

Sangma said he had also discussed how the state can reap maximum benefits if, through proper approach, the resources can be tapped.

Singh had assured that all necessary instructions would be given to the relevant ministries for building a consensus on the issue of uranium mining, he said.

When asked what the government would do on the issue in the absence of a consensus, Sangma said: “I would not like to presume anything at this juncture, but we should have optimism.”

The meeting between the chief minister and the Prime Minister comes days after the Meghalaya government decided to keep “in abeyance“ the proposed “exploratory drilling” of uranium in Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills district.

When asked about the fate of the Joint Committee on Uranium Mining in Meghalaya (JCUMM) formed last November under the D.D. Lapang administration, Sangma said: “Whenever a new government assumes office, it is taken for granted that all political appointments and bodies made by the preceding government get automatically dissolved.”

Sangma hinted that his government would reconstitute the JCUMM, a body comprising NGOs for and against uranium mining and other government officials, to look into various issues including the health and environment aspects of the proposed uranium project in West Khasi Hills district.

On May 5, Union minister of state for science and technology and earth sciences, Prithviraj Chavan, stated in the Lok Sabha that the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research had identified 17,252 tonnes of high grade in situ uranium resources in Meghalaya.

Chavan had said full-capacity production from the proposed uranium project at Kylleng Pyndensohiong Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills district could meet about 20 per cent of the indigenous requirement.

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