MoEF nod for uranium exploration threatens big cats in ATR

Approval comes despite contrary reports by forest officials after field inspections

After in-principle nod by the Forest Advisory Committee under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for the survey and exploration of uranium in Amrabad Tiger Reserve — albeit with the caveat of submission of all documents and information in due format — the revised proposals may not come back to the Telangana State Board of Wildlife, the State forest officials say.

Approval for exploration by the Atomic Minerals Directorate, which is invasive in nature, has come despite reports to the contrary by the forest officials after field inspections. The proposal seeks permission for exploration of uranium in 76 km in Amrabad and Udumilla regions, besides 7 km in the adjoining Nagarjunasagar Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh, for use in nuclear power generation.

Field Director, Project Tiger, after inspection of the Amrabad region, confirmed the presence of tigers in the area based on pug marks and cattle kills, besides evidence of fauna such as panther, sloth bear, wild dog, spotted deer, sambar and wild boar. There are no existing roads in the 3,800 hectares sought for exploration, and it would be difficult to transport the drilling machinery, the report said, besides making remarks that it would be difficult to say if tree growth needs to be sacrificed without blueprint of the locations where the bores will be drilled.

Near Udumilla too, there was evidence of occasional visit by tigers at Nallavagu locality of Tirumalapur beat. Similar issues of transportation and tree felling will prevail at this location too. Noting that the agency proposes to dig a total of 4,000 bores, the report noted that the environmental impact of mining included erosion, formation of sink holes, loss of biodiversity, and contamination of groundwater, surface water and soil, which could affect wildlife.

Ecosystem destruction

Mining for exploration may cause destruction and disturbance of ecosystems and habitat fragmentation, the report said, while not recommending any permission for the proposal. Divisional Forest Officer of the Nagarjunasagar Tiger Reserve too made similar recommendations, listing threat to several species in Schedule I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, besides others.

Despite the fact that the field inspection was conducted in 2016, and reports submitted thereof, the State Wildlife Board had accorded approval for the proposal in early 2017. Later, it was cleared by the National Wildlife Board too. In view of the latest conditional nod given by the advisory panel of the MoEF, the Directorate will have to submit proposals in required format, with exact locations of the bores, which will be forwarded to the field level officials again for more nuanced inspections.

The revised proposals, however, will not need approval from the State Board of Wildlife again, clarifies the PCCF P.K. Jha. They will be sent directly to the advisory panel for final approval, after which the State government will need to issue permission through formal orders, he says.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 4:10:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/moef-nod-for-uranium-exploration-threatens-big-cats-in-atr/article28336947.ece

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