Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel on Sunday categorically opposed uranium mining in his state in a move that may have resonance in India’s Northeast.
Meghalaya has witnessed sustained pressure from the Centre to facilitate mining and processing of its considerable uranium deposits for the country’s ambitious nuclear power and weapons programme.
Some other states also reportedly have uranium deposits like Chattisgarh.
But substantial resistance by local groups worried over the adverse fallout of radioactivity in environment as a result of uranium mining blocked the move in Meghalaya for nearly three decades.
Baghel echoed similar concerns as the anti-uranium groups in Meghalaya as he delivered a special lecture at an event organised to attract investment to Chhattisgarh organised by the Delhi-based Society for Policy Studies and the Raipur-based Group of Thinkers.
Responding to a question by Northeast Now, Baghel said he was not interested in any more projects that would involve massive mining including that of uranium.
“Pura rajyr ko khod diya hai, aur kitna khodenge” (they have dug up the whole state, how much more of that), said Baghel in presence of many foreign diplomats exploring investment potential in the mineral rich state.
Elaborating on why he was opposed to large scale mining specially of uranium, Baghel said, “I am very keen to preserve the pristine environment of my state and I am worried that will be badly affected by large scale mining specially of uranium.”
The chief minister also said that his government was more keen on projects that benefitted local people, specially impoverished tribals.
“I prefer investments in agro processing and small and medium industries based on locally available raw materials. Because this will boost local incomes,” said Baghel.
“Unfortunately large scale mining has not benefitted our people and it has only added to pollution.”
Baghel said he was aware of the adverse fallout of uranium mining in some other parts of India without referring to Jadugoda in Jharkhand, where villagers have suffered heavily due to radioactive uranium wastes.
But the chief minister made it clear that atomic energy was a Central subject and it was ultimately the Centre which would take a call on uranium mining not only in Chhattisgarh but anywhere else in India.
“But the state government and the local people were entitled to their views,” he added.