UCIL plans expansion of Uranium extraction in Jadugoda: EIA/EMP reports unavailable

May 17, 2009. A report received from JOAR, the Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation.

Click here for a previous article on UCIL’s track record in the area.

There are seven mines near Jadugoda. Except one open cast mine in Banduhurag all are underground. Two are ore processing plants (Jadugoda and Turamdih) and four tailing dams (three in Jadugoda, one in Turamdih).

Since the uranium deposits in the oldest mine of Jadugoda will be exhausted in the coming year, UCIL already has Baghjanta mine in the pipeline for ore extraction.

This mine is 35 K.M. east of Jadugoda, hence it would be economical for them to run the ore processing plant in Jadugoda itself. The Bhatin and Narwa Pahar mines are also closer to Jadugoda than the newly constructed Turamdih mill; hence the idea of continuing the Jadugoda mill is more for their cost benefit. Besides one mill and three tailing dams, Jadugoda has its office complex and its colony. These were built in the sixties covering a total area of 531.21ha. with manpower strength of 1806.

People smelt something fishy when they found UCIL officials visiting their villages and threatening, “if the local people would continue to oppose us then we would close down our mines and related activities”. But what they really implied with such vague statements could not be initially understood. We then started digging into the matter and came to know that some sort of expansion was in the offing.

UCIL has a lot of tribal workforce, from the families that had lost their land to UCIL. Their job today is the only source of income and sustenance for the family. So, UCIL has resorted to unabashed arm-twisting of the villagers, asking them not to participate in the JOAR meetings. But strangely, it has not so far produced any related documents before them or even summary of the EIA EMP reports. Rumors are already around that public hearing would be held on May 26 2009 but what would be its ultimate purpose in the interests of the villagers—we do not know!

Meanwhile, JOAR has finally succeeded in getting access to the documents that elaborate UCIL’s plans for a public hearing for the renewal of the lease of Jadugoda mines and obtaining forestry clearance for an additional area of 6.37 ha for the expansions of the tailing dam III (MoEF Letter No. J-15012/5/2005- IA II (M), saying that additional uranium is required for enhancing nuclear power generation capacity from the present capacity of 4120 MW to 10180MW by the end of the XI plan period. There are also proposals for augmenting the ore processing capacity of plant from 2090 TDP to 2500 TPD.

It is worthy to note that as per the EIA/EMP document, – there would be a significant impact on the socio economic environment of the area, after the establishment of mine and ore plants. The following physical and infrastructural facilities are said to have improved due to the project and significantly contributing for the economic development of the area

1. Road transport facility: construction of 19 km road between Jadugoda – Sunder Nagar (Turamdih)

2. Market

3. Housing facility

4. Water supply

5. Health: rural medical centre of UCIL proves free medical facility to the people below poverty

On the issue of occupational Health and Safety the EIA and EMP report states that a health survey of inhabitants has been conducted around the tailing pond by a team of doctors and a specialist. It has concluded that the disease pattern cannot be ascribed to be due to radiation in any case.

After so many years of operation UCIL has not provided even the basic facilities to the local villagers as schools, hospitals etc. It is surprising as to how they are making such tall claims.

It was only after the tailing pipe burst (three times) in Dungridih in last two year and following the strong protests by the local villagers that UCIL for the first time gave water supply to the village. Believe it or not, this was happening after 40 years of its operation.

Today, as the situation stands for the current expansion, the EIA/EMP reports are not available to villagers. They are being left completely in the dark. No one knows when exactly there will be public hearing and for what purpose. On the contrary UCIL officials are visiting villages saying that if people do not support UCIL then they will close down the project. The villagers are not clear as to what they are really implying. Nonetheless, they are obviously wary of such surreptitious moves of the company, as many of these villagers are working there, in lieu of their traditional land, taken over by the company. .

There are about 30-40 families, that continue to languish, since the 60’s, as they all they got was very meager compensation against their land and no jobs.

For the construction of the third tailing dam in 1996 land was once again taken from the local tribals and even after thirteen years, some families are still in queue for jobs. There was even a written agreement to the effect that these displaced families from the third tailing dam would be rehabilitated in a safe place, but till date they continue to live within a radius of barely 10 meters away from the tailing dam III.

Same is the case with the Dugridih village where there have been three instances of pipe burst. UCIL had once again entered into an agreement saying that it would rehabilitate the village. But what really happened thereafter is anybody’s guess as the villagers continue to live an imperiled existence, in the same place of radioactive waste spill.

In the face of such precedence, it is not difficult to see through the hype of UCIL. Its claim on the development of the area is a complete eyewash. Since the company is in need of roads for the transportation of the ore and other materials they need to make these roads. But they are simply making these false claims that these roads would contribute towards local development. It is worthwhile to point out that there was already a PWD road in the area.

Since the UCIL employees are drawing salary, they need market besides facilities as banks, post office, educational facilities etc so the company folks are circulating facts as

i. The project has a strong positive employment and income generating effect both directly as well as indirectly.

ii. The project has a strong positive impact on consumption behavior by way of raising average consumption and income through multiplier effect.

iii. The project would bring changes in the pattern of demand from food to non food items with the generation of sufficient income.

But in reality, what have been the achievements of UCIL during the last 40 years in Jadugoda? The villages in the vicinity of the mines continue to be deprived of even the basic infrastructure as power, water, road and health. The water table has virtually been lost, compelling the villagers to depend on rain water for agriculture. So when UCIL says that they will close down their activities, the villagers are at a loss. The quality of life of those working in the company is better than the rest. But for the others, it is simply living on the false promises of the UCIL. This is further complicating the situation in the villages.

As UCIL is not accruing any new land for the proposed expansion project (what ever they are planning is on forest land) these villagers have been left with no options. The company is constantly coercing its local village employees, to withdraw their support from JOAR or else face the threat of losing their jobs. This has put our JOAR members in a very critical situation, who are facing pressure from the families and their neighbours to quit the organization.

However, JOAR is trying hard to make conscious efforts, to overcome such problems, but nonetheless it seems very difficult.

As mentioned earlier, May 26th has been scheduled for public hearing, by UCIL— we need your advice, help and support for our future course of action in this regard.

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JOAR

Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation
Village – Tilaitand
PO- Jadugoda
District- East Singhbhum.
Jharkahnd