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Meghalaya outfit suspends road blockade against uranium mining

Posted by Ramesh Khati on October 30, 2009

Shillong, Oct 29 (IANS) The Khasi Students Union (KSU), a dominant student-youth body, has temporarily suspended its road blockade against uranium mining in Meghalaya after the government invited it for talks, officials said here Thursday.
The KSU was to begin its third phase of a night road blockade Thursday to protest proposed uranium mining in the West Khasi Hills district of southern Meghalaya. But it has relented.

“We are ready to talk to the state government to solve the impasse over the uranium mining issue,” KSU secretary Augustine Jyrwa told reporters after a central body meeting of the organisation.

Chief Minister D.D. Lapang Wednesday said the government would hold discussions with protestors Nov 3.

The KSU’s three-phase road blockade started Oct 14 to protest a proposed uranium mining project. It affected vehicular movement at night, specially passenger buses and goods-laden trucks on the national highways between Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.

The road blockade had turned violent when many vehicles, including several government cars, were set ablaze by KSU activists.

The student-youth body has also demanded that seven KSU members, arrested on charges of instigating arson during road blockades, be freed unconditionally.

KSU and several local parties have been spearheading the movement against the Meghalaya government’s decision to allow the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to carry out pre-project development programmes in 422 hectares of the uranium-rich areas of West Khasi Hills in southern Meghalaya.

Chief Minister Lapang told reporters: “The uranium reserves in Meghalaya are a national property and no one can stop the government from using them.”

“The government has waited for 20 long years to persuade people to allow uranium mining at Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills district of southern Meghalaya,” he pointed out.

A senior Meghalaya government official said the union ministry of environment and forests has already allowed UCIL to start mining for the annual production of 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore and process 1,500 tonnes of the mineral ore per day in the district.

UCIL has proposed a Rs.1,046 crore open-cast uranium mining and processing plant. Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.

“The UCIL would invest Rs.2.09 billion to undertake pre-developmental project activities to build schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure,” the official said.


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