Skip to main content

Uranium mining: Andhra activists denied permission, detained for protesting against rising pollution levels

By Our Representative
In what is being described as violation of their democratic rights, activists of two well-known advocacy groups, the Human Rights Forum and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (HRF-NAPM), were denied access to the venue of a public meet in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh and detained when they tried to protest against pollution caused by "excessive mining" of uranium from the Tummalapalle mine.
Estimated to hold one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world, and catering to fuel requirements of nuclear power plants, according to HRF-NAPM, the mining has adversely affected the villagers of Mabbuchintilapalli, KK Kotala, Bhumayagaripalli and Kanumalavaripalem, residing barely 6 kms away from the mine and processing plant at Tummalapalle.
The protest was organized against the backdrop of local people of the area pleading about high pollution levels to the Government of India-owned Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), which operates under the Department of Atomic Energy, headed by the Prime Minister, complaining of plummeting underground water levels due to relentless pumping and drastic increase in sodium and uranium, leading to air, soil, ground and surface water contamination.
Reportedly, this pollution has been happening due to poor lining for the tailing pond, causing seepage. The cumulative impacts of the plant operations in the form of damage to agriculture and standing crop, water, health of local population (skin allergies, ulcers and kidney problems) and livestock (illnesses ad pre-mature deaths).
Quite a few villagers have had to ‘vacate’ their houses, due to these impacts. There is also the widespread fear in the region of the long-terms implications of radiation.
In an email alert, HRF-NAPM says, it has "learnt that water samples collected by local farmers from their tube wells and tested at the labs of Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET), an autonomous scientific body under the Government of India, produced results indicating significant increase in uranium and sodium levels, much higher than the permissible and standard level."
"Besides", says the top advocacy groups, "In December 2016, researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Anantapur, analysed samples of water and soil and noted increased levels of barium, arsenic, cobalt, chromium, copper, molybdenum, lead, vanadium and yttrium, which could impact crop productivity and local environment."
Pointing out that this study has been published in the "International Journal of Advanced Research", HRF-NAPM says, "It is now well-established that heavy metals, if consumed in large quantities, may lead to severe health issues, including cancers, respiratory and kidney complications."
HRF-NAPM says, "Instead of addressing all these concerns, the UCIL recently issued an advertisement in newspapers claiming that a 'few individuals and NGOs are spreading wrong information against the organization', in a way indicating that all is not well with its operations."
Pointing out that despite all this the activists were denied permission and detained for hours when they tried to protest, HRF-NAPM underlines, "Clearly, such a public announcement, detention and denial of access to civil society activists, is more a measure to discredit and muzzle voices that are raising uncomfortable and important questions, in public interest."
The team that was detained on their way to the UCIL (where the meeting was called) was taken to Vemula police station included septuagenarian Dr Babu Rao, eminent scientist and environmentalist (HRF-NAPM), Adv Jayasree Kakumani of Human Rights Forum and Rajesh Serupally, NAPM.
Following intense protest by the activists and villagers and an immediate letter by EAS Sarma, former secretary, Government of India to the district collector, Kadapa, and Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, that Dr Babu Rao was allowed to participate in meeting with nuclear scientists and officials from UCIL and BARC.
However, other activists were kept in detention and released only late into the night at around 9 pm. All of them were made to sign papers stating that they would not indulge in such 'anti-social activities that disturb peace', which they did, under protest signatures. Media entry to the meeting site was also restricted.
While UCIL obtained clearance from the Centre for uranium mining in 2006, mine operations began around 2012. Locals allege, land acquisition for the plant was done in a coercive manner and public hearings before the environmental clearance witnessed protests and police action against villagers.
HRF-NAPM says, UCIL’s operations in Kadapa, is yet another classic case of weak post-clearance monitoring by the authorities, especially the Pollution Control Board (PCB) and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
The advocacy groups have demanded that UCIL must ensure full disclosure of all necessary information in the public domain and in a manner discernable to the local population. It must immediately comply with all conditions stipulated at the time of project clearance including payment of full and fair compensation for all forms of losses and impacts incurred by the local population due to UCIL operations.
It adds, PCB and MoEF must undertake an immediate visit, comprehensive assessment and rigorous monitoring of the present status of environmental compliance (or lack of it) and conduct a post-clearance public audit and hearing. These monitoring authorities should also be ready to issue and impose orders of cessation of operations, if violations are found.

Comments

TRENDING

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

JP advised RSS to give up Hindu Rashtra, disband itself: Ex-IAS officer tells Modi

Counterview Desk
Major MG Devasahayam IAS (Retd), chairman, People-First, in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of Jayprakash Narain’s (JP’s) death anniversary (October 11) has wondered whether he remembers “a patriot called Jayaprakash Narayan”. Recalling what JP thought on issues such as communalism, freedom, democracy, Hindutva etc., Devasahayam says, Modi has been been doing “the very opposite of the principles and values for which JP lived and died.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

UP chief secretary, DGP have 'surrendered' to political diktat: 92 retired IAS, IPS officials

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, 92 retired IAS, IFS and IPS bureaucrats, commenting on “blatant violations of the rule law” following the Hathras incident, have blamed that the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police for abjectly failing to exercise control over a “highly compromised” administration the state.

Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).

Hathras reflects Manu's mindset dominates: 'Women are false, it's in their nature to seduce'

By Parijat Ghosh, Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
The woman died and then we woke up to protest. She was alive for two weeks after the heinous incident. Many of us even didn’t notice what had happened at Hathras, how she fought during the next 15 days. Those who noticed, many of them were not sure what actually had happened. So much so, we as a nation were more busy in finding out who among the Bollywood actresses were taking drugs, who smoked weed, who had ‘inappropriate’ or more than one relationship, what kind of private conversations they had in their chat boxes and what not!

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Atrocities against Dalits: Why don't MPs, MLAs from the community ever speak up?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
In Gujarat, a young Dalit activist lawyer Devji Maheshwari, belonging to the Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMSCEF) was killed in Surat, allegedly by a goon who was warning him against his Facebook posts not to speak up against Brahmanism. Facts have come to light suggesting there are other issues also which led to the murder, mostly related to land disputes, many a time ignored by activists.

Delhi riots: Even British didn't accuse Bhagat Singh of reading Lenin, Jack London

By Vikash Narain Rai*
After the #BlackLifeMatters movement seriously tested the credibility of police across America, the Houston police chief Art Acevado talked of ending “lawful but awful” policing. No comparison, but in India, a citizens’ committee comprising former top judges and bureaucrats is now set to inquire into the role of the state machinery and media in handling the February 2020 Delhi violence, which followed protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), “as the investigation by the Delhi Police has evoked extensive critical commentary in recent times.”