Uranium Mining in the Second largest Tiger Reserve in India | Where are we headed?
The State Government of Telangana, Forest Department in a letter forwarded a proposal to obtain approval of the Central Government for seeking permission for survey and exploration of Uranium over 83 km2 in Amrabad Tiger Reserve.
However, considering the proposal is of "critical importance from a national perspective" therefore the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), will be considering their proposal. This proposal includes digging deep borehole for Uranium mining, as well as setting up roads and tracks to make the mining efficient.
The current status of the project is that the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has requested the state government to submit a detailed plan identifying the location of the boreholes.
Before the separation of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, huge boards would suggest that you were in India’s largest tiger reserve. Despite the division, it still happens to be India’s second-largest tiger reserve, next only to its sibling, the original Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve.
Together they form India's largest protected dry forest.
Inhabiting the wild forest landscape are 23 mesmerising tigers. In this region there 70 species of mammals, more than 300 species of birds and above 60 species of reptiles all supported and nourished by more than 600 different plant species.
It's a diverse, yet fragile ecosystem.
How does it matter if Mining is done in the Reserve?
Well, Uranium is radioactive. The most dangerous aspects of uranium mining involve radon gas, radiation and toxicity hazards. Radon gas, a direct product of radium-226, which stems from uranium-238 decay, is known to cause lung cancer.
The uranium ore in India is generally of low grade, which requires production and processing of large quantity of ore. This results in the generation of a large volume of solid waste and effluent. 21% of the country's diseases are water-related, we will be adding more toxic substance to the rivers and groundwater.
The miners are aware of the hazards. A great deal of efforts has already been made to implement precipitation of uranium peroxide (UO4.2H2O) using hydrogen peroxide in place of magnesium di-uranate. This will prevent co-precipitation of other metals, will try and curb environment-related problems.
Simply said, the miners will try and curb environmental hazards. However, a portion of the toxic or radioactive substance will make it into its surroundings. Acid Rain will be inevitable.
The toxic and radioactive materials will affect the flora and fauna.
Let's shed some light of the water crisis being faced in South India. This region was lush green with perennial rivers following. Over the last few decades, urbanization has led to clearing large forest thus reducing rainfall.
In Chennai, 11 million people are facing acute water shortage. As a temporary solution, a train sets out on a four-hour, 216-kilometre journey, its 50 tank cars carrying 2.5 million litres of water drawn from a dam on the Cauvery River.
7 million people in Hyderabad and Secunderabad are at a bring off a major water crisis. The annual rainfall in 2019 was 29% lower than its normal rainfall, said Telangana State Development Planning Society.
Where are we headed?
With large cities like Banglore and Chennai unable to have enough water, we are in a phase that in a couple of years the lush green south India will be a dry arid dust bowl.
Water will be corporatized within the next decade. The corporatization of water will seem like an inevitable answer to the climate crisis. This will start with a competitive market, however it will only be the large corporates that survive and thrive.
I believe that water is not a commodity, it's a right of all humans and animals on this planet. By letting the state-owned private water giants we will be at their mercy. Our Ministry (MoEFC) uses its power to aid the corporate agenda. During this lockdown, they have been on a spree processing many sensitive issues.
By taking a stance against the mining of uranium in Telangana's tiger reserve we can not only protect tigers but also show what we stand for as a nation.
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