Hyderabad, Sep 17: An approval given by the central government to start exploratory Uranium mining in the treasured Nallamala forest, including part of a nature reserve, has sparked protests the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Resolution passed against uranium mining:
Recently the Telangana Legislative assembly passed a unanimous resolution, urging the Centre not to allow uranium mining operations in the Nallamala forest region of the state.
State Municipal Administration Minister KT Rama Rao, who moved the resolution, said the Nallamala forest is home to the 'Chenchu' people and also rich biodiversity, including animals like tigers and Nilgai and rare varieties of plants.
"This House unanimously resolves to request the Government of India not to permit or allow uranium mining operations in Nallamala forest area of Telangana state," the resolution adopted by the House said.
Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had also asserted that the government was against uranium mining in Amrabad Tiger Reserve (ATR) and that an appropriate resolution would be passed in the assembly and Council, expressing the opinions of both houses.
The proposed exploration may contaminate river Krishna on which Hyderabad depends for drinking water he said and clarified that the state government had never accorded permission for uranium mining post June 2014. Rao said that even if the Centre insisted on going ahead with the exploration, the state would fight it unitedly.
Centre allowed uranium mining operations
In May this year,the AMD (Atomic Minerals Directorate) was given in-principle approval by the Forest Advisory Committee under the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change to conduct the survey for the radioactive mineral in Amrabad, one of the largest tiger reserves in the country.
The AMD sought to drill 4,000 boreholes in the Tiger Reserve as part of survey for uranium deposits.
Although the Telangana government initially agreed with the central government's decision, opposition from environmentalists, concerned citizens, and Chenchu indigenous people led state authorities to change their stance.
Chenchus stand guard to save the forests of Nallamala
The Chenchus are Adivasi, a designated Scheduled Tribe in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana that calls the Nallamala forest range their 'home'. The indigenous community traditionally gathers forest produce including honey. In case the uranium mining process begins, Chenchus would be forced evacuation from their homelands. They fear loss of their livelihoods and also the destruction of the fragile ecosystem. Ever since Centre approved the uranium exploration, Chenchus started to patrol the area more diligently to ward off miners.
Will it be a threat to the Tiger Population?
The proposed approval given by Centre for Uranium mining has been given to UCIL in about 83 sq. km area inside the Amrabad and Nudigal Reserve forests located in Nallamala. At a time when there is a concern over population of tigers, this in itself has raised red flags.
It should be noted that 'The Amrabad Tiger Reserve' is the second-largest in India and is home to about 22 tigers and about 100 leopards along with hundreds of other mammals, birds, reptiles and insect species.
Protests held against uranium mining
The proposed uranium exploration has caused frenzy among locals. People have been taking out rallies and raising slogans against the proposed Uranium exploration. 'Jai Nallamala' slogans have been echoing over the past few days as people gathered in large numbers to organise a road blockade as part of 'Nallamala Bandh'. On September 9, revolutionary songs were sung to which women danced forming a human chain.
Call for #SaveNallamala
There are also many online campaigns that have initiated a petition on change.org to stop uranium mining in the area and save Nallamala Forest. Apart from that several NGOs and environmental activists, celebrities and public figures have also lent their support to the campaign. #SaveNallamala and #StopUraniumMining have been trending on social media and garnering further support for the campaign.