The Centre has given in-principle permission for uranium exploration, alarming environmentalists and human rights activists.
Hyderabad: Locals are agitating against a proposed move to mine uranium near Achampet in the Nallamala forests. Officials of the atomic minerals directorate for exploration and research (AMD) are digging wells for uranium mining, and tribals who live in the forests have started agitations.
Along with environmentalists, tribals are questioning the Centre for giving preliminary clearance for uranium mining near Achampet and a few other areas in Telangana state.
A panel under the Union ministry of forests has recommended giving "in-principle" permission for exploration of uranium in the Amrabad tiger reserve. The ministry’s forest advisory committee made the recommendation at its meeting on May 22.
The AMD had sought permission to carry out survey and drilling of boreholes around Amrabad-Udimalla-Narayanpur. At that time, TS principal chief conservator of forests P.K. Jha said the committee had given only "in principle" permission to the AMD while "full and necessary permissions" are required for the department to allow exploration in the tiger reserve.
The Centre says that no permission has been granted for mining but the AMD was given the mandate in 2014 to identify and evaluate uranium mineral resources and send requisitions.
With AMD staff continuing their activities, environmentalists, Left parties and locals have formed a joint action committee against uranium mining in the thickly wooded Nallamala forests, which houses Chenchu tribal families and India’s largest Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam tiger reserve.
Local resident Madhus-udhan said, "Eighteen wells have been dug in Thirumalapur BK village of Amrabad mandal where villagers have been taking out rallies and agitating for more than two weeks but there is no one to hear them."
Nagarkurnool MP Ramulu Pothuganti raised the issue in Parliament and said that the Centre’s move to mine uranium is a matter of concern for the Eastern Ghats and will be hazardous to wildlife and the tribals.
The Council for Green Revolution which is doing a study of the Eastern Ghats has opposed the clearance for uranium mining. According to them, the Eastern Ghats will become history soon if mining is not stopped.
Environmentalist Prof. K. Purushotham Reddy said, "We object to uranium mining by the Centre because the region has the finest herbs and medicinal plants, and Chenchu tribals who are already on the edge of extinction. The largest tiger reserve will also be affected."
He said that uranium mining would not only bring a misbalance in the ecological system but will pollute the Nagarjunasagar and Srisailam reservoirs.
The proposed area is adjacent to the Krishna river. If mining is allowed, Nagarjunasa-gar, which is the primary source of drinking water for Hyderabad will get contaminated and lakhs of lives will be in danger, he added.
He said they will explore options including legal recourse and moving the National Green Tribunal and the National Human Rights Commission besides building up public opinion with the help of political parties.