With the Centre granting “in-principle” clearance for uranium exploration in Amrabad Tiger Reserve in Telangana, despite objections by forest officers, Telangana’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests P K Jha has said they won’t allow anyone inside to drill unless full approval is given by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. “We did not allow it till now though the proposal is two-three years old,” Jha told The Indian Express.
The Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), had submitted a proposal to carry out survey and drilling of boreholes in four blocks of the reserve, of which three are located inside its core tiger protection area known as Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary. “The aim is to establish uranium deposits in these areas,” the DAE had said.
The Centre gave the clearance at a May 22 meeting, with a Forest Advisory Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change noting that, “… considering the fact that the proposal is of critical importance from national perspective, it is recommended for in-principle approval, subject to submission of all required document/information in due format. After receipt of the same, the complete proposal may be placed before the Competent Authority for approval.”
The Telangana government is yet to take a stand on the matter.
The tiger reserve, which also holds leopards, sloth bears, wild dogs, spotted deer, sambar and wild boars, is spread over 2,800 sq km in Mahbubnagar and Nalgonda districts of Telangana. The DAE is seeking permission for survey and exploration of uranium over 83 sq km, though the AMD has not specified the exact locations of the drilling. Forest officials point out that this further makes it difficult for them to determine the possible damage due to the drilling.
In an inspection report submitted in response to the DAE proposal, ahead of the May 22 meeting, the Field Director, Amrabad Tiger Reserve (who didn’t want to be named), warned against the danger posed to “one of the biggest tiger reserves in the country” and said, “The disturbance to the habitat will be immense even for exploration purpose… The flora and fauna will be adversely affected and a lot of disturbance will be caused for wildlife.”
The field director also questioned how the exploration agency was giving an undertaking that no trees would be cut, when there is no road or path leading to the blocks to be surveyed. “How will the agency transport machinery for drilling into the areas? The agency has not clearly spelt out,” the report states.
Pointing out that efforts were on to create a tiger corridor in Blocks 3 and 4, the report says, “The environmental impact of mining will include erosion, formation of sinkholes, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water by chemicals from mining processes… The contamination resulting from leakage of chemicals will also affect the health of the native wildlife.”