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Tamil Nadu: Union Ministry of Environment now allowing mining of thorium, uranium, in ecologically sensitive CRZ areas

Greed for atomic minerals to leave Tamil Nadu in peril, INDIAN EXPRESS, By Sv Krishna Chaitanya & Sushmitha Ramakrishnan  |  Express News Service   13th October 2017  CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has been the biggest victim of illegal beach sand mining in the country. As per the report submitted recently by senior lawyer and rights activist V Suresh, appointed as amicus curiae by Madras High Court in the case relating to illegalities in mining of beach sand minerals in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari, out of 1.5 crore  tonnes of raw sand mined between 2000 and 2017, 57 per cent had been mined illegally.

Now, the latest “horrific” amendment, as activists call it, to Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2011 by Union Ministry of Environment, allowing mining of atomic minerals like uranium, thorium or titanium in ecologically sensitive CRZ areas, irrespective of whether they are available in non-CRZ areas or not, is only going to deliver a telling blow on the already under-stress Tamil Nadu coast.

As per the study titled “Coastal Mineral Mapping” done by researchers in Institute of Ocean Management (IOM) in Anna University, it is revealed that Tamil Nadu arguably has highest concentration of Monazite deposits in the country along its coastline that spans over 1,076 km. Monazite, an atomic mineral, contains 8-10 percent thorium, which is a nuclear fuel. This was India’s first exhaustive attempt to map and record all the natural minerals available, done is tandem with Atomic Mineral Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) of Department of Atomic Energy and funded by Environment Ministry. The beach sands of India — especially in Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh — are rich in several heavy minerals such as ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene, garnet, sillimanite, zircon and monazite.

Supreme Court lawyer Ritwick Dutta, who is also the managing trustee of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, said the latest notification will compromise the integrity of the coast. “I can’t make sense of this notification. There is no consultation, there is no fixation on extraction of minerals. This will give a free run for miners to plunder India’s natural treasure. There is a pattern in what the Centre is doing. It is systematically weakening all the laws coming under Environment (Protection) Act, 1972. Firstly, construction projects were exempted from preparing EIA, later Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority was replaced with ‘toothless’ Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, where state authorities call the shots. Now, this mindless amendment to CRZ Notification, 2011.”………

Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman says that Tamil Nadu has already been plundered violating CRZ norms. The intertidal, CRZ-1 areas were not spared even when there were laws. “Now, this is legitimising some of the wrongdoing done in the past and people have also lost their right to question the illegality.”

Environmental dangers

It’s not just the loss of precious minerals that should worry the States. Tampering of fragile coastline would also invite disasters like salt water intrusion,  qualitative and quantitative degradation of ground water……..

Health effects

While social and environmental consequences seem inevitable, Konstantine claimed that atomic mining has brought serious health complications to residents around the mines. “Since 1965, mining for radioactive minerals has been prominent in Kanniyakumari, particularly in Manavalakruchi. Studies in the neighbouring mines in Kollam have revealed that the effect of radiation has had a far reaching effect, up to 85 km,” he rued.

 He added that no comprehensive study has been brought to public forum about the health effects of these radiations. “The incidences of cancer has been rising over the decades and most victims from Manavalakuruchi and Midalam, approach the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram or the International Cancer Centre , by CSI Medical Mission at Neyyoor. “These cases are however are not mapped back to radioactivity,” he said claiming that the incidence of the disease is relatively lower the farther one lives from atomic mining areas……..

Alarm bells ringing

  • Activists say the resources could end up in foreign soil owing to lack of state-run companies’ expertise in handling such rare-earth minerals
  • Mining for radioactive minerals can contribute to cancer among those in the vicinity of the project
  • Tampering of fragile coastline would also invite disasters like salt water intrusion, leading to degradation of ground water. They say there are many areas in the State already battling such issues due to unscientific construction
  • Activities like coral mining, beach sand mining and other dredging activities are highly harmful and contribute to sea erosion http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2017/oct/13/greed-for-atomic-minerals-to-leave-tamil-nadu-in-peril-1672778.html
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October 14, 2017 - Posted by | environment, India, thorium

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