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UCIL faces group's ire

A women's pressure group today threatened to file a "criminal case" against the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) if the public sector enterprise pursues to put pressure on mining of uranium ore from Meghalaya.

By Our correspondent in Shilong
  • Published 21.09.15
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Shillong, Sept. 20: A women's pressure group today threatened to file a "criminal case" against the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) if the public sector enterprise pursues to put pressure on mining of uranium ore from Meghalaya.

It was in 1984 that sandstone-type uranium deposit was discovered at Domiasiat in Meghalaya's South West Khasi Hills district.

The UCIL, a public sector enterprise under the Department of Atomic Energy, has been exploring possibilities to mine uranium at Kylleng-Pyndensohiong, the uranium-rich area near Mawthabah in the South West Khasi Hills.

However, the project has been hanging fire because of stiff opposition from anti-uranium groups, as they fear that uranium mining would bring about health hazards. The current estimated amount of uranium ore reserves in Meghalaya is nearly 17,252 tonnes.

In a statement issued here today, Civil Society Women's Organisation president Agnes Kharshiing said, "Uranium mining is the most hazardous form of extractive activity related to mining and the organisation vehemently opposes the destruction of the lives of the people. We urge the traditional institutions not to allow such destruction for greed."

Kharshiing said it was surprising that the public sector undertaking was providing roads, healthcare, and schools to these uranium-rich areas.

"The representatives and the government should be accountable for the backwardness in these regions and take it upon itself the burden to develop these areas, but not by a bargain to be able to mine this hazardous component. If UCIL pursues to put pressure on mining and discreetly mines, we shall file a criminal case against them for trying to kill the people of the state knowingly. People in these areas and in the state should be told and made aware of the dangers of uranium mining and its waste, which will cause rise in cancer," she said.

Recently, there were media reports, which indicated that UCIL had called a meeting of landowners of those areas located in the uranium-mining site. But the proposed meeting was reportedly called off and was rescheduled sometime this month.

In March, the state government had asserted that providing road connectivity to the uranium-mining sites in South West Khasi hills region "should not be perceived" as a forerunner to mining the mineral from the area.

One of the road projects includes the upgrade of the 68km-Nongstoin-Pambriew-Wahkaji-Mawthabah road to a two-lane one, at a cost of around Rs 470 crore.

This project falls under phase A of the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme in North-East under the Union ministry of road transport and highways.

In May, DoNER minister Jitendra Singh who is also the minister of state (department of atomic energy), had said in Shillong that certain uranium projects have to be carried forward with caution.

"The Centre is always cautious while moving ahead with projects relating to nuclear and atomic energy. They carry a lot of sensitivity along with them, a lot of security and a huge budget. It has to be thoroughly worked out. We will follow it up and decide if we can push forward," Singh had said.