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Uranium mining proposed within the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, Telangana, India


Description:

TThe Amrabad Tiger Reserve (ATR) is one of the bigger Tiger Reserve (TR) in India spreading over the Nallamala hills for 2,800 sq km, in the state of Telangana. This forest is very rich in bio-diversity, with lofty hills, numerous rivers and thick forest areas. It became a TR in 1983 (part of the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary, before the bifurcation of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh state). Beside the rich-biodiversity, this forest is also home of the Chenchus, one of the most vulnerable scheduled tribes in India. 

The conflict emerging in this area is related both to the conservationist rules which have become more restrictive in India after 1972 (Wildlife Protection Act), and for the demand for exploration of uranium in the reserved and protected forest. While the Chenchus community, who have been living in this forest for millennia are continuously threatened by eviction in the name of conservation, the government grants uranium mining concessions in the same area. The move has angered campaigners and local people who accuse the authorities of hypocrisy.

The process of displacement of the Chechus from the Reserve forest started in the early decades of the 20th century by the British. It became a normalized process in the 1980 after the declaration of the Nallamala forest as a Tiger Reserve (at that time united under Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Wildlife Sanctuary) which led to the displacement of many Chenchus’ habitations. Today it is estimated that about 200 villages are situated in and around the reserve, out of which 120 are within the sanctuary limits. However, the Chenchus have always fought back and had never accepted the Tiger reserve in their territory [2]. According to the Integrated Tribal Development Agency data in 2015 there are 10,671 families comprising 41,780 people belonging to Chenchu adivasi community, who are living in six districts across Nallamalla forest. These districts include undivided Mahaboobnagar, Nalgonda and Rangareddy in Telangana, and Guntur, Prakasam and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh [14]

Besides the tiger project, since 2003 the Chenchus have been fighting against the proposed Uranium mining within and around the TR, when the Uranium Corporation from Indian Limited (UCIL) applied for a mining lease for their Lambapur-Peddagattu project [3]. Since then the Chenchus together with NGOs and environmentalist groups have campaigned against the exploration of uranium in Nalgonda district [3]. At that time it was proposed a mining activity just6 km away from the reservoir, which would affect both the lives of people and wildlife. Moreover, the chosen site was just 4 km away from the dam water supply used to provide water to the Hyderabad city. While in 2003, the Union forest and environment ministry approved the denotification of 1,000 hectares of the Tiger Reserve to allow the Uranium exploration, in 2004 the State Pollution Control Board rejected the project in the Mallapuram area as too close to the Tiger Reserve[3]. Although this was considered a first victory for the environmentalist group and the locals, the company continued to explore new areas to drill for uranium. 

The new proposed site for uranium was Seripally, in Devarkonda Mandal, situated 28 km from Nagarjunasagar reservoir and hence less affected by the wildlife policies [3; 4]. Environmentalists, people's representatives, political leaders and local tribes also opposed the proposal to construct the uranium processing unit at Seripally. At an environment public hearing held by the Pollution Control Board on March 3, 2005, the majority said a firm "no " to the Uranium Corporation of India Limited's proposal [3-5]. Violence and oppression was also part of the protest. In a public hearing in 2006 in Hyderabad, K. Saraswathi, the joint secretary of city-based Forum for Sustainable Development, an NGO that opposes uranium mining said:  “There was strong police presence at the public hearing (at Kadapa) and several activists were beaten up". “Those opposed to mining were not even allowed to take part in the hearing." “One of our activists in Kadapa even received death threats from the police," says Ravi Rebbapragada, chairman of Mines, Minerals and People, another NGO [3; 5]. 

However, all this did not stop the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) to give the site clearance and permission for the setting up of mines [3].

Since then the tribal people and the environmentalist group have continued protesting and advocating against the project; many researchers also assessed the high contamination of groundwater in and around Nalgonda area as well as the violation of indigenous tribe which were never consulted for the proposed site [6;3;7]. Indeed according to the Forest Rights Act, 2006, no projects can be developed without the free informed consent of the local and indigenous communities.

In 2011, in the name of tiger protection, a number of 40.000 Chenchus were planned to be relocated from the Nallamala Forest. An amount of 10 lakh rupees was offered to the tribals as part of the relocation plan set up by the MoEF in 2009, which has packaged this as voluntary resettlement [8; 17]. So far, a number of 200 families have been resettled by the authorities in Shanti Nagar and Gandhi Nagar near Yerragondapalem in Prakasam district [2]. The others are fighting against the relocation. According to a report of the NTCA there is a plan to relocate about 1100 families from the tiger core area.   

In the meantime, the state board of wildlife approved uranium exploration inside the Amrabad Tiger Reserve [9]. The controversy of the conservation policies and the approval by the same wildlife board for uranium mining within the Tiger Reserve has left the Chenchus in the middle of a conflict that has gained momentum from 2017[10]. The resistance against the project has united the local communities, the conservationist and the state authorities against the Central Government [11]. Indeed according to The Hindu, the proposed Uranium mining will both severely impact biodiversity and will result in the displacement of over 70,000 people living in 42 villages. In opposition to this , the left parties have organised protests across the State in support of the demand to stop the mining project  [12;16]. A signature campaign has also been organized by the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HyTCS) against the proposed mining project [20].

On Sept. 9, 2019 a huge protest entitled ‘Nallamala Bandh’ (general strike) was observed by people’s organization and political parties against the central government. Shops, banks and educational institutions remained closed on the strike day, and people took out rallies and raised slogans against the proposed Uranium exploration. Revolutionary songs were sung to which women danced forming a human chain. After filling the air with the spirit of defiance, hundreds made a sit-in at the Ambedkar Chowrastha, blocking the traffic heading towards Srisailam and Nagarkurnool for a couple of hours. The message was clear. People were not going to allow the Centre to carry out its plan to explore uranium in the forests which people have always considered their mother [13;14]. In continuation, the Telangana State Legislative Assembly on Sept. 16, unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Central government not to permit or allow mining operations of uranium in Nallamala forest area of the State [15]. Dharnas (non-violent sit-in protest were also organized. 

Despite assurance by the Telangana state government to prevent the mine, there is no guarantee that mining won’t begin in the future. India has a plan to increase its uranium production tenfold over the next 15 years. If UCIL discovers significant uranium deposits, the Telegana state authorities may be very tempted to change their stance and allow for further environmental exploitation[19]. Protest and opposition continues [18].

According to information shared on the Nagarkurnool website, the process of claiming the forest rights under the legal Forest Rights Act has started in the Nallamala Forest. It is reported that 2030 individual claims covering an area of 6561.48 acres were received, out of which 944 claims (2125.71 acres) have been granted and 1086 claims (4427.31 acres) were rejected. Only 5 community rights claims were filed for an area of 4,21 acres of which all of 5 were granted.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Uranium mining proposed within the Amrabad Tiger Reserve, Telangana, India
Country:India
State or province:Telangana
Location of conflict:Nalgonda
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Uranium extraction
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Live Animals
Fruits and Vegetables
Uranium
Water

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Amrabad Tiger Reserve was part of 'Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger reserve' but post-bifurcation, the northern part of the reserve is vested with Telangana state and renamed as 'Amrabad Tiger Reserve'. The southern portion continues to be 'NSTR' is with Andhra Pradesh.

The Lambapur Uranium in Nalgonda district was set up by the Uranium Corporation of Indian Limited (UCIL). The UCIL applied for grant of a mining lease on February 2003 to set up a 1,250 tonnes a day capacity uranium ore mining unit and a processing unit. For this, he had to acquire 526.65 hectares in the Peddagattu and Yellapur villages for mining and 318.25 hectares for the processing plant, which was proposed in Dugyal and Mallapuram. The budget for this project was set up to 450 rupees crores.

After the rejection of the first mining lease, the company applied for a new grant lease in another close area in Nalgonda district, to acquires 278 hectares of area (173 ha for processing plant, 80 ha for tailings disposal and 25 ha for township). The projected cost for the processing plant was set up at Rs. 3.72 billion (US$ 85.3 million). In 2005, the UCIL was granted the lease for the setting up of a uranium processing plant in Seripally village in Deverkonda Mandal in Andhra Pradesh at an estimated cost of Rs 5,584.2 million (US$ 124 million).

Now the company is proposing for survey and exploration of uranium over 83 square kilometres in Telangana's Amrabad Tiger Reserve.

Project area:261,139
Level of Investment:85,300,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:70,000
Start of the conflict:01/02/2003
Company names or state enterprises:Uranium Corporation of India Limited from India
Relevant government actors:Andhra Pradesh State Pollution Control Board
State Minister for Mines and Geology
Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF)
State Board for Wildlife
State Congress party
National Board for Wildlife
Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)
Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Mines, Minerals and People, http://mmpindia.in/
Samriti
Environment Protection Council
Citizens Against Pollution
Movement Against Uranium Project
Jana Vignana Vedika http://jvvtelangana.in/jvvt/profile/
Human Rights Forum
Centre for Resource and Education
Survival International
Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HyTiCoS) https://www.hyticos.org/
Telangana Vidyavanthula Vedika's [Telangana Education Forum]

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Chenchus indigenous community
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Strikes
Refusal of compensation

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Infectious diseases, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Land dispossession
Potential: Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women

Outcome

Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Despite the high mobilization against the uranium mining in the Nallamalai reserve forest area, the mining lease was granted to the company. Moreover, in contradiction with the conservation and tiger protection policies, that have played an important place in Indian Government, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has recommended in-principle approval for a proposal by the central government’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) for survey and exploration of uranium over 83 square kilometres in Telangana’s Amrabad Tiger Reserve.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

ETHNIC IDENTITY: FORCES AND PROCESSES OF CHANGE
https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/105303/14/14_chapter%207.pdf

[5] Down To Earth "Up against uranium", Author: S. Ramakrishna, July 4, 2015
https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/up-against-uranium-7727

Times of India "State government to issue mining license for Lambapur-Peddagattu project", MAY 22, 2013 IN Wise Uranium Project
https://www.wise-uranium.org/upinap.html

[1] Survival international, 'India: Tribe faces eviction from tiger reserve – but uranium exploration approved' , June 15, 2017
https://www.survivalinternational.nl/news/11711

[2] The Hindu, 'Forced out f the Forest', Author: K. Venkateshwarlu & S. Murali, May 06, 2017
https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/forced-out-of-the-forest/article18396401.ece

[3] Info collected from Uranium Mining project website
https://www.wise-uranium.org/upinap.html

[4] Down to Earth "Amrabad Tiger Reserve: An Eden under threat", Author: Imran Siddiqui, August 10, 2019
https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/wildlife-biodiversity/amrabad-tiger-reserve-an-eden-under-threat-65524

Reuters, 'Enslaved for decades, indigenous Indians freed by land titles', Author: Anuradha Nagaraj, May 30, 2019
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-land-migration/enslaved-for-decades-indigenous-indians-freed-by-land-titles-idUSKCN1T000L

The Hindu ' No Uranium mining in Amrabad Tiger Reserve forest: Telangana CM' Sept. 15, 2019
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/no-uranium-mining-in-amrabad-tiger-reserve-forest-telangana-cm/article29423784.ece

[8] The Sunday Guardian, 'Chenchus to get Rs 10 lack each to leave Nallamala', Author: S. Rama Krishna, January 30, 2011
file:///Volumes/BIOX/FRA%20and%20PA%20report/INFO%20PAs/NAGARJUNA%20SRISAILAM/Chenchus%20to%20get%20Rs%2010%20lakh%20each%20to%20leave%20Nallamala.htm

[10] Hindustan Times 'Anger simmers in Andhra Pradesh after Centre clears uranium project in Nallamala forest' Author: Arinavasa Rao Apparasu, April 21, 2017
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/anger-simmers-in-andhra-pradesh-after-centre-clears-uranium-project-in-nallamala-forest/story-gc3Y163prDgzvwtpZqXgWI.html

[13] The Hindu ' No Uranium mining in Amrabad Tiger Reserve forest: Telangana CM' Sept. 15, 2019
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/no-uranium-mining-in-amrabad-tiger-reserve-forest-telangana-cm/article29423784.ece

[15] News 18 'Telangana Assembly Passes Unanimous Resolution against Uranium Mining in Nallamala Forest' Sept 16, 2019
https://www.news18.com/news/politics/telangana-assembly-passes-unanimous-resolution-against-uranium-mining-in-nallamala-forest-2311445.html

[16] Down To Earth 'India's search for uranium could displace 4,000 in 13 tribal villages of Madhya Pradesh', Jitendra, Aug. 1, 2017
https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/mining/uranium-rush-58296

[18] the Federal 'Protests against uranium exploration in Amrabad forest gains momentum', Suresh Dharur, Sept. 14, 2019
https://thefederal.com/states/south/telangana/2019/09/14/why-telugu-celebrities-are-pitching-in-for-anti-uranium-campaign-in-telangana/

[19] IntercontinentalCRy, "INDIA AUTHORITIES APPROVE URANIUM EXPLORATION IN NALLAMALA FOREST, SPARKING PROTESTS", Author: Anumeha Verma, Sept. 20, 2019
https://intercontinentalcry.org/india-authorities-approve-uranium-exploration-in-nallamala-forest-sparking-protests/

Protests against uranium exploration in Amrabad forest gains momentum
https://thefederal.com/states/south/telangana/2019/09/14/why-telugu-celebrities-are-pitching-in-for-anti-uranium-campaign-in-telangana/

[20] The Hindu ' Campaign launched to save Amrabad Tiger Reserve from uranium mining', July 28, 2019
https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/campaign-to-save-amrabad-tiger-reserve/article28736944.ece

[14] Telangana Today, 'Nallamala forest dwellers protest against uranium exploration' Sept. 9, 2019
https://telanganatoday.com/nallamala-forest-dwellers-protest-against-uranium-exploration

Mongabay 'India’s national animal loses to national interest', Author: Mayank Aggarwal, July 5, 2019
https://india.mongabay.com/2019/07/indias-national-animal-loses-to-national-interest/

The Times of India, 'Chenchus stand guard to save the forests of Nallamala', Author: Moulika.KV, Sept 8, 2019



Read more at:
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/chenchus-stand-guard-to-save-the-forests-of-nallamala/articleshow/71029790.cms

Independent, 'Digging for uranium in tiger country: Nuclear drive tests India’s commitment to protecting endangered species', Author: Adam Withnall, July 14, 2019
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/india-uranium-mining-amrabad-tiger-reserve-telangana-conservation-species-protect-a9004096.html

[9] Hindustan Times 'Anger simmers in Andhra Pradesh after Centre clears uranium project in Nallamala forest' Author: Arinavasa Rao Apparasu, April 21, 2017
https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/anger-simmers-in-andhra-pradesh-after-centre-clears-uranium-project-in-nallamala-forest/story-gc3Y163prDgzvwtpZqXgWI.html

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Plan To Start A Uranium Mine In Amrabad Tiger Reserve Must Be Resisted
https://www.change.org/p/uranium-corporation-limited-stop-uranium-mining-in-nallamala-forest-in-telangana/u/24883360

Save Nallamala Forest from Uranium Mining
https://www.change.org/p/president-of-india-save-nallamala-forest-from-uranium-mining-rashtrapatibhvn-telanganacmo

Local protest against Uranium mining in Nalgonda
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDO39j4cg3Q

Meta information

Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, ICTA (UAB), [email protected]
Last update03/10/2019

Images

 

Stop Uranium Mining in Nallamala Forest!

Retrieved from: https://www.dianuke.org/stop-uranium-mining-in-nallamala-forest/

Amrabad Tiger Reserve banner

Retrieved from: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwit6cO4tfvkAhVsShUIHa7-CcgQMwg9KAIwAg&url=https%3A%2F%2Fcountercurrents.org%2F2019%2F07%2Fplan-to-start-a-uranium-mine-in-amrabad-tiger-reserve-must-be-resisted&psig=AOvVaw29gmow8DfLqhq9wXELtqcy&ust=1570031551808719&ictx=3&uact=3

Chenchus people

Chenchus stay guard to protect the forest against the uranium mining activity. Retrieved from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/chenchus-stand-guard-to-save-the-forests-of-nallamala/articleshow/71029790.cms

Protest against Uranium Mining, August 2019

Congress MP A. Revanth Reddy addressing a gathering at Amrabad in Nagarkurnool district on Saturday. Retrieved from: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/revanth-opposes-uranium-mining-in-nallamalla/article29121688.ece

Protest in Nalamala forest

People are protesting against the uranium mining project in Nallamala Hills / Image: The Hindu, Retrieved from: http://www.planetcustodian.com/2019/08/31/10637/uranium-mining-in-nallamala-hills.html