The state government and the Uranium Corporation India Ltd (UCIL) have conveniently kept silent even as hue and cry is raised over the proposed 68-km-long road from Nongstoin to uranium-rich Mawthabah in West Khasi Hills district. Different groups from West Khasi Hills region have raised their voices in favour and against the road. The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) is yet to give clearance to the project sanctioned way back in 2010 under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North East (SARDP-NE). While the groups supporting the road are not clear on the issue of uranium mining, those opposing have demanded a clear assurance that the road will not facilitate mining in the region. The latter even said the people of those areas better remain underdeveloped than the whole region get exposed to health hazard! The government has also not made any significant effort to push the road project that might accelerate development in the region.
The Nongstoin-Mawthabah road was not the only road sanctioned by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways under the SARDP-NE “to facilitate uranium mining”, but there are three other road projects with a total length of 325 km sanctioned around the same region for the same purpose. The ministry’s website clearly states these proposed roads’ objective as “to facilitate mining of uranium in Meghalaya”. So, the debate should no more be on whether purpose of this road is to facilitate uranium mining or not. The debate should go back once again whether the state should allow uranium mining or not. But, unfortunately, the government has so far maintained a safe distance from the issue.
Chief minister Mukul Sangma last year said the government has no intention to allow uranium mining in the state. However, he did not clearly say if his government is going to oppose any move by the Government of India to mine uranium in the state. The government, if opposed to uranium mining, should also reject all the four road projects including Nongstoin-Mawthabah road. At least, the government can tell the Centre that it wants the “objective” of these roads be changed from “to facilitate uranium mining” to “to connect to district headquarters Nongstoin” or something else. This suspense over the road projects should stop once and for all. It should be made clear to the people whether they have any chance of seeing the 325-km roads in their lifetime or they have to manage without them.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on April 22, 2016)