“ A person standing on tailing dam for a period of one year would still not be affected by any radiation” (Translated from hindi)
This remark came on the concluding day of the much hyped International seminar, first of its kind hosted by UCIL in its long history of its operation in Jadugoda and surrounding areas.
In Collaboration with International Atomic Energy Agency **(1), UCIL held a hyped five day Seminar cum Training so called “ Uranium Exploration Strategy, Mining and Processing Techniques in India ” in a Posh hotel in Jamshedpur between 8-12 April. According to Media coverage, this Seminar saw attendance of close to 50 delegates from 25 countries and also 9 scientists from India.
This Seminar was quite contrary to the way it was promoted as it turned out to be a covert event conducted under high security and no one was allowed to enter the premises without the pass. When students and members of the JOAR tried to attend the seminar, they were prohibited and even became target of threat by the Intelligence Officials. This raises question on choosing a posh hotel in Jamshedpur, when this could have been conducted in their own compound in Jadugoda. This programme actually turned nothing but just a propaganda to counter JOAR’s claim of severe health and environment catastrophe due to uranium mining in the region based on community experience, supported by studies conducted by reputed International organization and Universities** (2). U.C.I.L reiterated the old rhetoric that Jadugoda had low radiation, it had low grade ore here, no harmful impact of radiation, and radiation level was similar in Jaduoda and Jamshedpur…! U.C.I.L once again came aggressively that myths regarding radiation were part of an International conspiracy which was creating those misconceptions among the local People through their agents working in this region. These agents lifestyle has suddenly improved during the last few years and they even go for a foreign trip once a year. In fact CMD of U.C.I.L even said that PMO was aware of the protest happening here and other parts of country and it was keeping a close eye on it. UCIL believes unemployment is one of the main reasons for the protest and not impact of uranium mining on culture and environment.
This high voltage drama took place for five days. On one of the days, all the delegates were taken for a visit to the Jadugoda Mines. A Foreign delegate was so overwhelmed by the visit to the mines that he later spoke to the media that this was the first time any country had given such open access to the mines. This raises a big question when the UCIL didn’t allow even media enter the public hearing in Bhatin (May 26, 2011), forget about members and activists of JOAR and others.
. Why this kindness and whole heartedness of the government has come up after 40 years? On one hand, UCIL uses crores of taxpayers money to host this lavish seminar inviting foreign delegates whose credibility is unknown, but had it announced an independent study done by independent experts who have good acceptance among the all, this would have gained trust of the people and it could have washed some of its old sins.
What seems bizarre is UCIL blowing the same tune regarding health in this so called International seminar which It has been doing for the last few years. It once again rejected any claim of health hazard prevalent in the region and said that it had done health check up of 3000 people during the last one year and still no cases of female sterility or cancer was detected in anyone and there were few cases only related to malnutrition and Malaria ( Weekly test are done and sent to environment ministry), on the other hand IDPD studies have clearly shown that these health hazards have increased in the area compared to distant villages. (ippnw.org/pdf/jadugoda-health-survey.pdf) U.C.I.L claimed that there is increase in the number of children in schools every year, that Jadugoda had one of the lowest drop out rate of students and that U.C.I.L has even built four marriage halls in the past one year.
In the seminar, a statement by a UCIL official which has raised alarm bell is that there are plans to not have a separate tailing pond and looking for solution to store the radioactive waste in the mines itself. They will be cautious about the amount of acid leaching and alkali leaching being used, proper care would be taken to ensure that the rocks beneath don’t melt. With no current remedy for the three tailing dams which will have radioactive waste for thousands of years, this plan may be disastrous for the entire ecology as the dangerous toxic chemicals may pollute the underground aquifers, affecting ground water which will impact the entire region. In fact in newspapers(Prabhat Khabar and Hindustan dated 12th April , 2013 ), It has been reported by one of the Expert who participated in the conference that they are ready with a technology where the uranium tailings can be mixed with sand and chemicals which would be ready for cultivation of diverse plants and also an already mentioned remark that even if a person stood on tailing dam for a period of one year, one would still be not affected by radiation, on the other hand the research by Kyoto university professor Koide (http://www.jca.apc.org/~misatoya/jadugoda/english/koide.html ) says that the bank of tailing pond contains 10 to 100 times higher amount of gamma radiation above normal permissible levels.
All throughout the seminar when U.C.I.L repeatedly said that Uranium mining is safe and there is no harm due to radiation, why couldn’t it proceed with mining in Nalgonda ( Andhra Pradesh ) in the recent past . Why couldn’t they convince the educated people of Hyderabad who have immense pride for the nation compared to Jaduogoda ? These well- off people may not have any vested interest in going for foreign trip once a year. U.C.I.L would not have to invest on building public schools or four marriage halls in the region.
In a democratic country like ours, U.C.I.L and DAE can’t just ignore the long suppressed voices calling them anti-national, backward etc. The children in Jadugoda will one day raise these questions and the nation have to answer those queries and it can’t just pull things under the carpet as it did in the just concluded so called international seminar. We want to say that truth can’t be hidden for long especially during these times when people can access information from any part of the world and know the truth. U.C.I.L can do a concrete programme showing concern and being accountable to the people rather than wasting common man’s tax to do these kind of event which is just to boast about its achievements
JOAR has the following demands :
1. UCIL should follow the international safety standards like other countries like USA (Like Church Rock clean up –( health, soil and water), Wismut Uranium mine clean up ( Former East Germany Uranium mine)
2. Stop Uranium mining in new regions and in the existing mines. Follow the latest regulations and safety standards of health and environment.
3. A new law should be passed in the Indian parliament to compensate the workers and community members affected by uranium mining (similar to one like RECA of USA.) Form a high level constitutional committee to investigate the death/sickness of the people in the region.
4. Do base line studies in the recently opened uranium mine sites and comprehensive health and environment study by independent groups of specialist.
5. Give justice to the demands all displaced people by UCIL mining in East Singbhum and West Singhbhum
6. UCIL should declare the future plans, as after few years when mining will cease, People would be left to face the hazardous radioactive waste. How does it plan to clean up the waste and reclaim it to same condition as it existed before mining. What about the Plans regarding economy as prior to mines there was an agrarian economy where people were dependent on land, water for survival. Will it abandon the mines? In that situation people would be left with no choice of livelihood .
Tilai Tand, Jadugoda Jharkhand (India)
- Australia gives environmental OK to uranium mine (chinapost.com.tw)
- Uranium Film Festival an eye- opener for Indian audiences (nuclear-news.net)