“On the basis of detailed scientific studies, no significant anomaly has been reported,” the company said.

Tummalapalle uranium plant UCIL officials meet Andhra farmers deny contamination
news Environment Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - 08:22

In the midst of a protest held by more than 200 farmers against the Tummalapalle Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) plant, the UCIL management held discussions with elected representatives from the villages of these farmers.

The farmers, who belong to the neighbouring villages of Mabbuchintalapalli, Bhumayagaripalli and Kanumalavaripalli of Vemula mandal in Andhra Pradesh’s Kadapa district protested against the impact the plant has had on their lives, which they allege is the reason for their loss of livelihood.

In February, TNM visited KK Kotala, one of the villages that have been affected the most ever since the UCIL mining and processing plant was set up in the region. Farmers from the village alleged that the chemical sludge from the plant has been contaminating the groundwater, causing serious health problems and has also led to their crop failing.

A few days later, in the last week of February, scientists from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) visited several fields in the region and collected soil and water samples.

Read: Ground report: The lost livelihoods and displacement at AP’s Tummalapalle uranium mine

UCIL denies allegations

Earlier last week, the UCIL management issued a public statement, where they claimed that no significant anomaly was found.

“On the basis of detailed scientific studies, no significant anomaly has been reported on the quality of groundwater collected from monitoring wells constructed around the tailing ponds in line with the international practices." The management further said that the higher salinity and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) content in groundwater samples from the region cannot be linked to the operations of UCIL.

On Monday, the management decided to hold a meeting with sarpanches and other representatives from the affected villages. UCIL, after delaying the meeting for long despite protests and complaints, finally arranged it.

Three activists — K Babu Rao, a retired scientist and Human Rights Forum (HRF) activist, Jayashree and Rajesh Serupally of NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movement) — who are aiding the farmers in their agitations — were allegedly detained at the police station in Vemula till late evening on Monday when they were on their way to attend the meeting. The police allowed Babu Rao to attend the meeting on the farmers’ insistence, and then later released the other two.

Babu Rao speaks at the meet

Farmers not satisfied with the meeting

The meeting was attended by district revenue authorities and UCIL officials, along with BARC scientists who conducted the study. RM Tripathi, the scientist who headed the study reportedly claimed that according to the water and soil samples study, the soil and groundwater were being contaminated naturally because of the presence of uranium and sodium bicarbonate in the soil.

Speaking to TNM, Ragava Reddy, the sarpanch of Bhumayagaripalli village who attended the meeting, said, “They (UCIL) are saying their company is not responsible for the damage to our crops and soil. If there was nothing wrong, why would our lands be affected in such a strange manner?”

“The groundwater is becoming contaminated and drying up. 350 bores have failed. Who is responsible for this?" he asked.

"They just want to claim that their company is not responsible for the damage by citing studies, but they are not showing us their reports," he said.

Babu Rao, a retired scientist of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) also disagreed with the UCIL version of the story. Speaking to TNM, Babu Rao said, “UCIL is not revealing the actual reports. Instead, it is trying to twist the facts with a 2014-15 report by the Ground Water Board."

"If at all there is no contamination of groundwater due to the processing plant's tailing pond, the onus to prove it is on UCIL," he said.

Babu Rao alleged that the guidelines were the construction of the tailing pond were not followed with care. Demanding justice for the farmers, he said, "Farmers must be given a written assurance securing their livelihood, and a permanent solution for their problems."

“It is also unfair on UCIL’s part to expect farmers to communicate with a scientist who doesn’t speak their language,” he said.

The meeting, however, did not yield any result. The farmers remained unconvinced and demanded reports of the BARC scientists’ study. UCIL has allegedly agreed to give the reports to Babu Rao, who will represent the farmers’ interests. A follow-up meeting is likely to happen soon.

"Regardless of what their reports say, it is all happening because of the plant. This time we went in small numbers. Next time all the families from our villages will go there to protest,” said G Mahesh Reddy, one of the protesting farmers.


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