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Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Hyderabad, 29 August (AKI/Asian Age) - The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) will hold a crucial public hearing on 10 September to set up a uranium mine at Pulivendula, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. UCIL is going ahead with the project despite opposition from environmentalists. UCIL shifted the project to Pulivendula after it failed to secure permission to mine uranium at Peddagadda, also in Andhra Pradesh. That site was close to the Nagarjunasagar dam, one of the earliest hydroelectric projects in India and the Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Sanctuary.

UCIL has submitted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and environmental management plan (EMP) for the Pulivendula mines to the federal environment and forests ministry (MoEF) and the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB). If UCIL gets the go-ahead at the public hearing, it will forward the report for environmental clearance. Subsequently, a technical committee of the ministry will examine the proposal and give final approval.

Sources say that the meeting was only a formality as UCIL had obtained a firm assurance from the central government that it would go ahead with the mines. Pulivendula being the constituency of the state's chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, the company is getting all possible support from the state government.

"Officials of UCIL, with the support of local political leaders and officials, have already convinced the people to give their consent," political sources said. "The villagers are aware of the adverse impact of uranium mining, but they are afraid to go against the wishes of the chief minister's family, which is taking keen interest in getting the project to Pulivendula," the sources said.

The project involves extraction of uranium from underground mines in 879 hectares. UCIL expects to extract 3,000 tonnes of ore per day. The uranium concentration is very meagre at 0.039 per cent: 1,000 kg of ore will yield 390 gram of uranium. The mines require 17.85 MW of power for extraction. The lifespan of the project is stated to be 30 years and its employment potential is 934.

Environmentalists say the environmental assessments were shabbily and hurriedly done by the consultants. "The environmental hazards of the project is more at Pulivendula than at Peddagadda in Nalgonda district, where the project was originally proposed," Satya Lakshmi of the Movement Against Uranium Project told this correspondent. "There is no water available near the project, as such the residue cannot be converted into slush easily. There is every possibility of uranium dust spreading through the air."

Lakshmi said that the processing of uranium ore would generate heat. Farmers in the area grow cash crops like chilli, banana, sunflower and groundnut, which will get polluted by uranium residues, she said.

"The project will have a cascading effect on the people. All these aspects were ignored in the EIA (environmental impact assessment) study," she said.
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