Hyderabad: The proposals for exploratory drilling for eventual possible mining of uranium in Nallamala forests in the State, in two blocks of forest covering 83 square kilometres, appear to be moving forward with field level officers of the Forest Department tasked with preparing reports on tree cover, existence of roads and presence of wild animals in the identified areas.
It may be recalled that an in-principle approval was given for exploratory drilling for uranium this past May by Union Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change in an area of seven square kilometres. in two blocks of 3 and 4 square kilometres. in Nidgul reserve forest of Nagarjunasagar Wildlife Management Division and 76 square kilometres in two blocks of 38 square kilometres of each in Amrabad Tiger Reserve. The entire region is part of the extensive Nallamala forests and hill ranges through which River Krishna flows.
However, the State Forest Department was also directed to submit a report to the Union Ministry based on responses from the Atomic Minerals Directorate and Uranium Corporation of India Limited on the ground conditions at the sites identified for exploratory drilling. These enumeration reports are expected to list landscape, vegetation details as well as presence of wildlife in the proposed mining areas and potential impact of mining activity on the immediate ecology of the forest blocks identified for the mining activity.
It is to comply with this requirement that Forest Department’s field level officials were asked a few days ago to submit these details, it is learnt. Once these reports are ready, they will be sent to the Union Ministry for appraisal and final approvals for exploratory drilling for uranium in the Nallamala forests.
Meanwhile, opposition to uranium mining in Amrabad Tiger Reserve has been gaining ground over the past few weeks with NGOs and some political parties demanding that the State government reject the application for uranium mining. Fears of pollution from the mining activity reaching Dindi river which empties into Krishna river as the latter flows into the Nagarjunasagar reservoir, in addition to impact on lives of Chenchu tribals, the traditional inhabitants of Nallamala forests, impact on the forest cover have been repeatedly voiced in opposition of the proposed mining activity.
Incidentally, Dindi river is barely a few kilometres from some of the proposed mining locations of Udmilla forest range in the tiger reserve. Of the 83 square kilometres of forest area in which the mining activity has been proposed, most of it falls in Amrabad Tiger Reserve’s core area. According to National Tiger Conservation Authority guidelines, core areas of tiger reserves are considered inviolable and are to be kept free of any human activity or disturbance.
In its letter to the State Forest Department on June 19 this year in which it sought the State government’s proposals on permitting drilling for uranium in the Nallamala forests, the Union Ministry had said that despite “certain deficiencies” in the proposal for exploratory drilling for uranium, it was recommended for an in-principle approval “considering the fact that the proposal is of critical importance from national perspective”.