The Union Minister for Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Environment, Forests and Climate Change,
Dr Harsh Vardhan, said on Saturday while inaugurating the Institute of Bio-Resources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) at 6th Miles, Upper Shillong, that for any project, including uranium mining, the whole issue is first examined by the State which then sends information to the Centre.
Replying to a question over the Central Government’s plan to mine uranium from South West Khasi Hills district in Meghalaya, Vardhan said that the Centre has a “well-defined checking mechanisms to give clearances or refuse clearances to any project”.
“For any project, the whole issue is first examined by the State. The State then sends information to the Centre through the regional system which we further examine. There are clear environment protection laws and also in recent years, we have framed all sorts of waste management rules and have on board well-defined committee of experts that deals with the subject,” Vardhan said, adding that the very project is assessed based on merits.
IBSD is a National Institute under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, and its main mandate is conservation and sustainable utilisation of bio-resources for socio-economic development of the Northeastern region.
There has been apprehensions in Meghalaya that the Centre is pushing for mining of uranium at
Kylleng-Pyndengsohïong-Mawthabah in South West Khasi Hills district since exploratory drilling of uranium deposits in various places of the district was going on by the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD).
A few days back, officials including scientist of the AMD were attacked by miscreants at Wahkaji Village in South West Khasi Hills who also set on fire vehicles and machines belonging to the local AMD office.
The proposed mining of uranium in Meghalaya has been strongly opposed by anti-uranium groups especially the Khasi Students Union (KSU). Exploratory drilling of uranium deposits was also carried out for the past many years especially in areas under South West Khasi Hills district.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the South West Khasi Hills district edition of KSU asked the State Government including the Chief Minister, Conrad K Sangma, to come out clear on the issue since people from the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) and AMD have been travelling to South West Khasi Hills district for exploratory drilling of uranium without the knowledge of the State.
“The UCIL and AMD should immediately leave the district and take away all their machines they have brought to the district for exploratory drilling of uranium,” KSU South West Khasi Hills General Secretary, Jiedskhem Nongsiej, said. The KSU said that the district administration was also defending the UCIL and AMD on the drilling of uranium by claiming that the drilling was carried out for extracting underground water.
According to the KSU, exploratory drilling of uranium deposits was carried in many places in South West Khasi Hills district including Porkut, Weikut, Umtongkut, Kulang, Maweit, Riangmaw, Nonglang, Phodja-ut, Tynnai, Mawten, and other places. The KSU also condemned the district administration including the police for raiding the houses of KSU members in view of the incident.
“The district administration and the police should not try to provoke. The Government should take action against UCIL and AMD for carrying out the drilling of uranium deposits without the knowledge of the State Government,” Nongsiej demanded.
The KSU also said that the district administration should take the responsibility if there is breakdown of law and order in the district. The KSU also expressed surprise over the ongoing drilling of uranium deposits, though the Meghalaya Government had in August 2016 decided to revoke the Cabinet decision it took on August 24, 2009 to lease out a land measuring 422 hectares for 30 years to the UCIL to undertake pre-mining activities within Kylleng-Pyndengsohïong-Mawthabah area.