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Rediff News  All News  » News » Kakodkar urges Meghalaya government to allow uranium mining

Kakodkar urges Meghalaya government to allow uranium mining

August 23, 2008 19:43 IST

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar on Saturday met representatives from various NGOs in Meghalaya, in an attempt to acquire their consent for uranium mining in the state.

Kakodkar told the NGOs that the Centre was waiting for a nod from them and the Meghalaya government to start mining activities, which was vital to achieve the goal of 20,000 MW nuclear power production.

However, no consensus was reached after day-long deliberations, though Kakodkar and a team of officials led by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar tried to address all the issues raised by the NGOs.

'India has enough uranium'

The team held discussions with various NGOs including the Khasi Students Union and the Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo People to seek their cooperation for the Rs 1000-crore mining project.

"We have explained our point of view about the issue and also listened to what different groups of people in Meghalaya have to say about uranium mining. We have met diverse groups of people today – some are opposed to the mining while there were others in favour of it. It is now up to the people of Meghalaya to decide, " Chandrasekhar told newsmen after the discussions.

In view of the opposition to uranium mining by various NGOs and at least two political parties – the Hill State People's Democratic Party and Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement  – the state government had earlier constituted two expert committees to study the possible impact of uranium mining on the people in the surrounding areas as well as on the environment.

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The state government pledged to take a decision only after analysing the reports of these expert groups.

While the anti-mining groups apprehended health and environmental hazards due to uranium mining, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest gave its nod to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited in December last year, allowing them to go ahead with the mining project.

However, the UCIL has faced stiff opposition from various people's groups.

Meghalaya uranium mining: Govt plans

While the Environment Ministry has given its nod for an annual production of 3,75,000 tonnees of uranium ore by open-cast method and processing of 1,500 tones per day of ore. The processing plant, at Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills district, requires 351 hectares of land.

Meghalaya's uranium ore deposit is estimated to have the potential to meet up to 16 per cent of the total demand in the country.  The significant aspect of the deposit in Meghalaya is that it has been found to be of high grade.

The existing nuclear power plants in the country generate only three per cent of the total power produced in the country.  The Meghalaya government had earlier demanded that a nuclear plant be set up in the state or elsewhere in the North East if uranium mining is undertaken in the state.

K Anurag in Guwahati