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Uranium mining: Road to disaster

india Updated: Jul 21, 2008 01:27 IST

India lives in multiple avatars at the same time. If one of them is Incredible India, the other is a vast landscape of human suffering after an environmental disaster. Think Jaduguda, notorious for what uranium mining did to the people there. It’s the land of the radioactively ill, suffering from cancers to freak birth defects. Such disasters don’t get remedied in the long term. We know it from the 24-year-old struggle of the living victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. Unfortunately, some people are willing to repeat history despite its frightening lessons. We saw that in Friday’s decision in Meghalaya, where the government decided to form three expert groups on uranium mining. These groups will determine whether it is safe for the Uranium Corporation of India Limited to mine for uranium here.

The problem is, uranium has always been a highly dangerous material that poisons people and landscapes. In the hills, it will be even harder to handle. On the other hand, should the current government remain in power tomorrow, it is likely to sign the nuclear deal. That takes care of fuel for civilian purposes. It’s the weapons programme that needs fuel. India has always said it has the bomb as a tool of deference. For that, you don’t need an arsenal of bombs or uranium. Meghalaya’s committees should be able to see that uranium mining is against the interest of the people and the environment, and make firm recommendations against it. Safeguarding the country shouldn’t be at the cost of defenceless, poor citizens.

Let’s get back to the car issue. I did buy one, finally. But it was based on very few choices. A proposed green audit of cars is not even going to be a drop in the ocean. It won’t reduce the number of private vehicles on the road, which is the real challenge. The stumbling block is that there is no decent public transport outside a few big cities in India, not including Delhi. Here, there is nothing I could use, even in just the daytime.

The Metro was poorly connected and there seem to be hardly any efficient bus services on the road.

Obviously, there is no time table to help plan one’s journey. My car did not come fitted with the option of a CNG kit. But had I invested in it, my warranty would have been null and void. However, I could easily have bought a car with a diesel engine, although it is more polluting. Between the car manufacturer and the government, they are making sure we are forced to increase, not decrease, pollution.

If you feel for planet Earth, write to bharati.earthwatch@gmail.com