MAC: Mines and Communities

India Update

Published by MAC on 2006-02-13

India Update

13th February 2006

Environmentalists slam uranium project in AP

by NDTV Correspondent

9th February 2006

An NDTV report on the potential ill-effects of a Uranium Corporation of India mining project has prompted strong protests from environment experts.

The project located near the Nagarjunsagar Reservoir and the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh poses a serious hazard for the residents of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

Sanctuary Asia Editor Bittu Sehgal has strongly criticised the central government, saying he had been opposed to the mining project when it came up before the Indian Board for Wildlife, of which he was earlier a member.

Sehgal claimed he was ousted from the board because of his protests, and reiterated that okaying the project would be a huge mistake.

He added that the future generations would never forgive the country if a decision was taken to go ahead with the project.

Concerns raised over uranium mining project

by NDTV Correspondent

6th February 2006

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has cleared a Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) mining project at the Nagarjunasagar reservoir in Andhra Pradesh.

UCIL will be mining for U3O8, enriched uranium ore or yellow cake. U3O8 is the fuel driving India's civil and defence nuclear ambitions.

The government run UCIL began explorations in Lambapur for the nuclear fuel in 1994. It now plans to mine an extensive 1300 acres, 85 per cent of which is currently forest land.

Environmental scientists like Dr Jeevanand Reddy, who's also a member of the clearance committee of the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, say the project cannot go ahead at any cost.

However, it's not only the Nagarjunasagar that's under threat. India's largest tiger sanctuary the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve, three kilometres from the open cast mining site, will also be hit hard.

Flouting norms

Even legal experts say the project violates the Supreme Court ruling preventing polluting industrial activity within 10 kilometres of a water body.

In fact, it was this very ruling that forced UCIL to shift their processing plant to Seripally from Mallapur as it was next to the Akampally reservoir that is part of the water supply system for Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

But apparently for UCIL, this same ruling does not apply to the Nagarjunasagar reservoir.

"The mining activity in the vicinity of the Nagarjunasagar reservoir and the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve is illegal and the government should rethink its stand," said Lakshmana Rao, former chief justice, Allahabad High Court.

Villagers, mostly Lambadas, backed by a Naxal diktat, are determined to stop the open cast mining.

They say it will devastate the Nagarjunasagar reservoir which is their lifeline too.

"I'm pregnant like a lot of women in the village and I'm afraid for my child's future," said a woman.

Awaiting clearance

The project now has to be cleared by the state government.

Just three years ago, as leader of the opposition, Rajashekhara Reddy lashed out against the project:

"This Rs 500 crore project is frightening. UCIL will be mining 1250 tons of uranium every day. This means that there will be huge amount of radioactive waste. The total disaster it has created at one of the mines at Jaduguda raises doubts about UCIL's credentials to be responsible...

"The fruits there have abnormal seeds... People are developing illnesses resistant to known forms of cure... The deformities I cannot describe for fear of hurting readers' sensibilities. Yet UCIL is claiming that there would be no danger... It would be foolish and criminal to take this at face value."

Clearly, some things have changed over the past three years for Reddy to change his mind.

Though the dangers haven't receded and nor have the concerns over radioactive wastes, what has changed for real is that from the leader of the opposition, Rajashekhara Reddy is now Chief Minister.

JB Pattnaik asks Naveen Patnaik to step down

by UNI, Bhubaneswar

19th February 2006

Leader of opposition and former Chief Minister J B Pattnaik today asked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to step down from his post in the interest of the state, owning moral responsibility for the 12 tribals killed in police firing.

Participating in the opposition motion on Kalinga Nagar issue in the Orissa Assembly which remained inconclusive even after four days of debate, suspending four days of the house, Mr Pattnaik said the government would not collapse with the Chief Minister's resignation.

He said he had also tendered his resignation owning moral responsibility in the Staines murder case which was endorsed by the All India Congress Committee and asked the Chief Minister to step down from his post considering the gravity of the situation and for the greater interest of the state.

The leader of opposition said the Chief Minister directed the police to use force against the tribals during the construction of boundary wall of the Tata project.

He said Mr Naveen Patnaik always projected himself as clean and transparent man, adding that his resignation would not affect his clean image. He refuted charges that the opposition was against industrialisation.

New mining policy in three months: Minister


19th February 2006

Visakhapatnam: A new mining policy to streamline exports and meet the needs of the local would be launched within three months, Minister of State for Mines T Subbirami Reddy said today.

Expressing concern over the inability to properly exploit the natural resources that was available in the country, he said the existing mining policy needed amendments to benefit the country as a whole by making proper use of resources like bauxite, iron ore,gold and alumina.

Talking to newspersons here, Mr Reddy said the country stood fifth in the world in terms of mines resources, but was placed 100 in terms of generating revenue from the mines.

He said, though, priority would be given to Indian companies, Multinational companies would also be invited to explore the mines in our country, especially in Andhra Pradesh.

The Minister stressed the need to adapt modern technologies that are being used in Australia, UK, Russia, USA and Germany.

He said the objective of the new policy would be to explore maximum mine resources in the country and preference would be given to local industries in the utilisation of the resources.

Mr Reddy said development of the industrial sector would create more employment opportunities for the youth.

Explaining the necessity for each ministry to contribute for the growth of GDP, he said the MNCs should be given the task of surveying, investing and exploring the mineral resources on a sharing basis.

He said this would have retrospective effect on the generation of employment, alleviation of poverty and illiteracy.

He said industrial investment of Rs 10,000 crore would be brought to Visakhapatnam in three years.

He said he would try to get the captive iron ore mine for Visakhapatnam Steel Plant soon.

Bauxite mining in Araku valley in the district, which had raised serious ecological concerns, would be done in such a way that ecology and natural resources in the area were not affected, he added.

Posco pot hots up

by Statesman News Service, JAGATSINGHPUR

8th February 2006

After the displacement related crisis at Kalinga Nagar, the focus is now on the proposed Posco plant area here with protest movements organised by the Rastriya Yuva Sangathan and Navnirman Samiti making elaborate plans for the impending visit of Ms Medha Patekar and several social activists of national stature.

The RYS and NNS are leading the movement against displacement by Posco plant and are demanding cancellation of the MoU between the state government and the South Korean company. On 12 February, Ms Patekar and others will hold a meeting here to strengthen the peoples movement against the proposed plant.

Already, activists of RYS and NNS are on a mass dharna in front of the revenue inspector's office at Nuagan. They alleged that the project will destroy rich agricultural economy of the area particularly at Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gdakujang. The proposed dedicated port to be set up by Posco will render the Paradip Port sick, they alleged. The RYS and NNS have threatened that they will not allow Posco representatives to enter the affected villages and will not give an inch of land for the project.

Mr Biswajit Ray, convener of RYS and NNS informed that besides Ms Patekar, the head of Akhil Bhartiya Sarvodya Mandal, Mr Amarnath, national leader of Rastriya Yuba Sangathan, Mr Avinash Kakade, chief of Uttar Pradesh farmers movement Mr Rakesh Rafique and several other eminent social activists will address the meeting at Naugaon lending support to the movement on 12 February.

4,000 acres for project

The state government has agreed to provide 4000 acres of land for the proposed steel plant to be established by the South Korea's Pohang Steel Company (Posco) near Paradip, SNS adds from Bhubaneswar.

Responding to the queries of BJD member, Mr Ranendra Pratap Swain and Congress member Mr Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra, industries minister Mr Biswa Bhusan Harichandan informed the Assembly that out of the 4000 acre land identified for the purpose, 3566.56 acres were government land while the rest of 437.68 acres were owned by private individuals.

The price of government land has been fixed at Rs 25,000 per acre as per the provisions of Industrial Policy Resolution-2001, rate of the private land will be determined according to the law, he said.

As many as 20 private companies including Posco have signed MoUs with the state government during the current financial year for establishment of steel plants.The first phase of Posco is expected to be commissioned by 2010. Other steel plant projects will commence production within 3 years, said Mr Harichandan in response to queries of Mr Sudhir Kumar Samal and Mr Utkal Keshari Parida.

An estimated 47018.05 acres of land are required for the establishment of all the proposed steel and other plants, informed the minister while replying to a related question by Congress member Mr Gajadhar Majhi.

The Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) has acquired 12999.67 acres of land in Kalinga Nagar for industrial purposes at the end of December, 2005. Out of it, 2400 acres of land have been allotted to the Tata Steel for the establishment of its proposed mega steel plant.

So far, 1970.903 acres of land have been leased out for 84 years while the process is on for leasing out rest of the land, said Mr Harichandan in response to queries of OGP member, Mr Arun Dey and BJD member Mr Ananta Das.

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