Hyderabad: A complete change in plans by Atomic Minerals Directorate from its 2015 plans on how it wanted to go about exploratory mining for uranium in Nallamala forests that was revealed at a June 19 Forests Advisory Committee meeting this year, was immediately rejected by the State Forest Department that sent the entire proposal back to the drawing board.
It was this stand by the State that resulted in Forest Advisory Committee of the Union Ministry of Forests, Environment & Climate Change to include the phrase in its letter to the State Forest Department that despite “certain deficiencies” in DAE’s proposal, it was recommending an “in-principle” approval of the project “subject to submission of all required document/information in due format.”
It is learnt that the 2015 DAE proposal had stated that its personnel would walk on foot into the forest and use light portable drilling equipment that would not affect even a single tree or wildlife in the forest. However, when the new proposals for using heavy truck mounted drilling equipment along with figure of 4,000 bores to be drilled as part of the exploratory process came up at the June 19 meeting, the State was quick to point out that these were simply not acceptable as they deviated completely from the original plans submitted to it in 2015.
It was based on the 2015 proposals that talked of no disturbance to the forest and its wildlife that the Telangana State Wildlife Board, the same year, gave conditional approval for exploratory mining. However, the Board’s decision on the DAE proposal, along with the ‘in-principle’ FAC approval to allow drilling for uranium ore in the Nallamala forests, have been misinterpreted as the State fully agreeing to allow the mining activity. Once the State rejected the June 2019 revised mining activity proposal, any previous documentation effectively became null and void, it is learnt.
The fallout from the near frenzy created by opposition parties among people living in villages in Nallamala forests falling in the Amrabad Tiger Reserve where 83 sq km of forest was sought for the exploratory drilling, also had an unintended impact on the Forest Department’s day-to-day activities with rumours of Government of India officials visiting the forest in their jeeps as part of uranium mining activities.
The fact was that it was scientists from the Institute of Forest Biodiversity based at Dullapally near Hyderabad and functioning under Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education who willy-nilly became targets of suspicion as they began to prepare the working plan for the Nallamala forests in Nagarkurnool district and the Amrabad Tiger Reserve.
It was learnt that the vehicles that the IFB scientists travelled in to reach the forest and go in to conduct biodiversity, tree cover and other studies as part of the exercise to prepare the working plan carried ‘Government of India’ stickers on them as the IFB is part of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education that is a GOI institution. They were mistook for people from DAE and are now said to be very wary of returning to the forest fearing for their safety.