(June 21, 2007) Students organisations joined with the environmental movement in their protest against the public hearing (June 12) of the Domisiat Uranium Mining project. The opposition groups were determined to even stop the hearing by saying that "allowing or attending the hearing will tantamount to accepting the mining".
(657.5807) WISE Amsterdam - The struggle against the mine has a 15-year old history. The Khasi people of Meghalaya have been fighting against the proposed Domisiat Uranium Mining (now re-named Kylleng-Pyndengsohiong Uranium Ore Mining and Processing Project) by the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) since the beginning of the 1990's.
The proposed mine is situated in Meghalaya, in the North East of India. Citizens from all over India have started to again support the struggle recently by sending in petitions to the central and local authorities stating that "the people have rightfully pointed out the hazards of uranium mining and the uprooting of tribals and their habitats by such large projects. The recent announcement of a Public Hearing by the government of India (through the Meghalaya Pollution Control Board) is not only insensitive to the long-standing struggle of the Khasi people but also conveys the Indian government's manipulative and rather deceptive procedural process and severe lack of concern for the health of local communities and for this ecologically fragile region".
The hearings are now increasingly seen as a backdoor method to legitimise the project rather than giving democratic voice to the deep concerns and fears of the affected people and those concerned about the short and long-term impacts of radioactivity and of the nuclear option itself.
The petition also stated "we fully support the community members and civil society groups in Meghalaya that the Public Hearing must not be held as it will just be a ploy to go ahead with the project in contravention to the legitimate concerns of a majority of people of the area. We also support the local groups because we feel that going ahead in the current climate represents a violation of the democratic rights of tribal and indigenous peoples and a serious breach of faith in the democratic process".
On June 10 the Supreme Court gave notice to the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB, the organiser of the hearing), that it failed to fulfil the legal requirement of informing the public about the actual impact of mining uranium ore under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2006. Supreme Court lawyer Rahul Choudhary stated "Without the public being informed about the contents of the EIA report of the project, the public hearing will be illegal." Choudhary further argued that to seek the views, comments and objections without disclosing the actual impact of the project itself would render the idea of public hearing meaningless.
On June 11, the Khasi Students Union (KSU) called for a 36-hours general strike and organised road blocks in the Meghalaya capital. Despite all the protests the hearing took place. Besides representatives of environmental and student-groups hundreds of citizens attended. According to the authorities more than 700 people attended the three-hour-long public hearing. "A majority of the people from the area opposed the proposed uranium mining on the ground of health hazard while those who supported the project constitute only 25 percent," said a local district officer.
According to the Australian High Commissioner to India, Mr. McCarthy, Australia is said to be keen to invest in the Meghalaya project and "willing to share the technologies for safe mining".
Sources: The Shillong Times, 11 June 2007; The Telegraph, 8 June 2007; Zee News Limited, 21 May 2007; Email 10 (June) from South Asians Against Nukes (SAAN):
Contact: WISE India or South Asians Against Nukes (SAAN):http://perso.orange.fr/sacw/saan/