Opposition to the proposed mining of uranium in the pristine Nallamala forests got a boost on Saturday as Telangana minister K T Rama Rao said that he would take up the issue with his father and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.
K T Rama Rao said that he was aware of the concerns raised by the people. “I assure you I will personally take it up with the CM,” he said.
Actress A Samantha, TV star Anasuya Bharadwaj, film director Sekhar Kammula, and badminton player Jwala Gutta have also backed the campaign and signed a petition addressed to President Ram Nath Kovind.
On May 22, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had granted in-principle approval to the Department of Atomic Energy to survey and explore for uranium in 83 sq km of the Amrabad Tiger Reserve. The Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD), Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), had submitted a proposal to carry out surveys and drilling of boreholes in four blocks in Amrabad Tiger Reserve, spread over Mahbubnagar and Nalgonda districts. Three of the four blocks are inside the core tiger protection area, known as the Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located within the Amrabad Tiger Reserve.
The DAE wants to survey and explore for uranium over 83 sq km. The survey would be conducted by AMD, South Central Region, Hyderabad.
About 63 organisations, including political parties, several environment activists, birders, and wildlife enthusiasts have come together to form the ‘Struggle Committee against Uranium Mining’, a group which aims to strengthen and take forward the campaign ‘Save Nallamalla Forest’ to stop mining in the tiger reserve. This grouping also supports Chenchu tribals, who live in the Amrabad forests spread over Telangana’s Mahbubnagar and Nalgonda districts, and have united to demonstrate against the project at the Amrabad Tiger Reserve.
On Saturday, a Government of India vehicle with New Delhi registration plates was stopped by tribals at Mannanoor. “The officials in the vehicle said that they had come to inspect the tree plantation work taken up by Telangana government. We did not believe their story and prevented them from going into the forest and they left. We believe they were from Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),” C Mallikarjun, a tribal leader said.
Members of the Struggle Committee have set up road blocks and have started checking all vehicles. “Only after a complete inspection of the vehicles and verifying the identity of occupants we are allowing them to proceed. We won’t allow anyone related to the uranium mining project to go in,” Mallikarjun said.
Tribals also blocked the forest road and held a massive protest against the proposed mining of uranium.
Additional police forces were deployed to maintain peace in the area.
A Ambanna, a member of the Struggle Committee, said Chenchus fear that even experimental drilling will cause water and land contamination. “They are right. The places where the officials propose to drill are very close to the Nallavagu and Dindi, tributaries which join the Krishna River. Some of the places earmarked for exploration are with 15-20 km of the rivers and there are fears that it would cause contamination. Apart from that, our concern is the disturbance to wildlife and destruction of the pristine forest due to the mining activity. This tiger reserve, sanctuary and reserve forest has been protected very well and it took years of dedicated hard work by forest officials to keep it intact. All that hard work would be undone if mining is allowed to take place here. We have to intensify our opposition and stop it,”Ambanna said.
The campaign is supported by Tollywood actor Vijay Devarakonda and actor-turned-politician K Pawan Kalyan.