Rights body seeks justice for uranium project oustees

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The forum approached the National Green Tribunal’s principal bench in New Delhi on Monday with a petition against UCIL

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Ananthapur: The Human Rights Forum (HRF) of AP and TS has sought justice to the  villagers affected by the uranium mining and processing project of the UCIL at Tummalapalle in Kadapa district.

The forum approached the National Green Tribunal’s principal bench in New Delhi on Monday with a petition against UCIL, saying it was causing large-scale pollution, harming the people and milch animals in surrounding villages and agriculture lands were kept abandoned.

“UCIL is the culprit for groundwater contamination and legally liable for the environmental crime of poisoning the localities and agriculture fields as the people have lost their goats and sheep, and farmers had to abandon farming their land due to contaminated groundwater along with the health issues thereof,” the forum said based on their study in the affected villages.  

Even the compensation for the land taken was not paid. For instance, the tailings transfer pipe passing through a farmer’s land had breached, creating toxic puddles of hazardous waste. Several cattle entered these puddles, drank that liquid by mistaking it for water and were severely hurt with alkali burns. Some of the cattle died, it was noted.

It was also pointed out that an activist, the ate Jayasree, had fought in favour of the farmers and approached the AP high court for justice.

The forum said the AP Pollution Control Board, after several complaints and protests by the affected people, sponsored a groundwater study to determine the cause of contamination. It spent `51 lakh for this purpose on IIT, Madras. But the report contents were not disclosed. The forum requested the NGT to direct the APPCB to submit a copy and also upload it on the APPCB website.

    The forum also sought justice to the affected farmers and villagers and urged the NGT to issue directions to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Andhra Pradesh PCB for actions by APPCB that were not taken even after several show-cause notices were served on it.  

It sought other relief that the tribunal deems fit as activist Jayasree had taken several of the sick to hospitals for treatment and followed up on their health condition and a few of them died.

The banana orchards depended on the polluted groundwater tested at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kadapa, which declared the groundwater unfit for irrigation due to the tail pond of UCIL, the forum noted.

The forum general secretary K Sudha observed, “We are surprised at  NGT asking for the opinion of DAE, ignoring the severe conflict as UCIL is its constituent part. DAE cannot offer an independent opinion. It just repeated the same arguments made by BARC on behalf of UCIL.” 

Water balance presented in the EIA for the expansion project in 2011 showed the water content of 1630 m3/d going with the tailings to the pond. All that water contaminated with chemicals could end up in the groundwater as the potential to leak surpasses the quantity available. Without a properly designed barrier to prevent leakage, groundwater contamination is inevitable, she stated.

The AERB should provide the basis for stipulating 10-9 m/s permeability lining as protective of groundwater. They should present calculations showing negligible seepage at that permeability, it was pleaded.

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