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

Nirma varsity demand for higher fees 'illegal', violates Article 14: Letter to Gujarat HC

Counterview Desk
Students of Gujarat’s top private institute, Nirma University, situated in the outskirts of Ahmedabad, in a letter to the Chief Justice the state High Court, have complained that the authorities are demanding “full fees” from students, without taking into account the “disproportionate impact” the lockdown has on the livelihood of students and families.

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".

Vulnerable to Covid-19, sharp rise in murder of Indian journalists during pandemic

By Nava Thakuria*
Vulnerability of working journalists in India is no way an alien issue as the populous country loses a number of working journalists to assailants as also medical emergencies. Even though there was only one casualty in the Indian media fraternity during the first half of 2020, who was targeted for journalistic work, India has begun witnessing an alarming number of media casualties during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Govt 'assures' Gujarat HC no action against MBBS students defying corona sahayak order

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has assured the High Court that no action would be taken against Part-I and Part-II MBBS students of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC)-controlled NHL Medical College and LG Hospital and Medical College. The assurance follows the direction by Justice SH Vora to the State government not to prosecute or initiate action against the students who were defying the college authorities’ order to work as corona sahayaks (helpers).

Renounced US citizenship to serve workers, tribals, Sudha Bharadwaj 'odiously' in jail

By Atul, Sandeep Pandey*
Professor Sudha Bharadwaj has been in jail since August 2018. She was taken into police custody on August 26, 2018 on suspicion of being involved in Maoist terror activities after Republic TV claimed that she had allegedly written a letter to Maoists and was conspiring to create public disorder and unrest in India.

Cruel legacy of Green Revolution? Covid-19 underscores 'risky, fragile' food system

By Moin Qazi*  The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of an unhealthy diet and the extreme fragility of food systems. The economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic is the perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health to all. The pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed ourselves, and agricultural research can play a vital role in making our food systems more sustainable and resilient.

Plant organic, eat fresh: Emlen Bage's journey from migrant labour to agri-entrepreneur

By Chandrashekar and Kriti*
Who is a farmer? Type this question in the google search and check out the images? You can see men thronging the screen. This is the popular perception around the globe. Well one can understand how difficult it would be for a woman to defy this perception.

High youth unemployment: India 'fails' to take advantage of demographic dividend

By Varun Kumar
As coronavirus pandemic continues amplifying challenges among youth with regard to employment opportunities, government policies have further resulted in economic slowdown, leading to mass unemployment and loss jobs. According to the International Labour Organisation report “Covid-19 and the World of Work” (May 27, 2020), around 94 percent of the world’s workers are living in countries with some sort of workplace closure measures in place.

Dichotomy? US Hindutva groups oppose racism, mum on Modi's 'anti-minority' stance

By Our Representative
The Hindus for Human Rights (HHR), a US-based advocacy group, has noticed a major dichotomy between the stance taken by RSS’ US arm, Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh (HSS), expressing “shock” at the “painful killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others”, all of which suggest “the tragic tale of racial injustice” in US, and HSS’ “hatred” for India’s religious minorities and Dalits.