Monday, May 29, 2006

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing!

In response to the articles that came out on the Meghalaya Guardian and Nongsainhima on May 20, 2006 and on Mawphor on May 22, 2006, I would like to clearly clarify to my dear fellow citizens that I have not violated any law or ruling of any court and therefore I cannot face Contempt of Court proceedings. With respect to our Honorable Mr. H. S. Shylla, who is neither a qualified Environmental Lawyer nor a Nuclear Scientist, I firmly disagree with his opinion that “There is no harm done should UCIL undertake the uranium mining project.” I must remind him that there is a saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Secondly he must understand that he is neither my Academic Supervisor nor the Head of my Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and therefore he has no right to interfere with my independent research and findings. So for the benefit of our simple people especially those living in the villages, I would like to kindly request Mr. Hispreaching Son Shylla to please STOP preaching the wrong message to us all and leading our people astray. I really wonder who is advising him and misleading him with such incomplete and incorrect information. I have found Mr. Shylla to be very passionate about what he believes in, but I only wish that he would see that Renewable Energy is more sustainable than Nuclear Energy in the long run. If he could only channel his thoughts on renewable energy in the right direction then I strongly believe that our people would be really happy and satisfied with his leadership.

Now let me clarify what the ruling is all about. In response to the Writ Petition (C) No. 188 of 1999 filed by Dr. B. L. Wahdera against the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), the Supreme Court order that came out on April 15, 2004 states “In view of the affidavit, filed on behalf of respondent No. 3-Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, that adequate steps have been taken to check and contain the radiation arising out of the uranium waste, we do not find any merit in the petition. It is, accordingly dismissed.” Well, any layman can see that there is no mention at all in the ruling, which guarantees that uranium mining is safe. As a matter of fact it is clear that the Apex Court has taken into consideration that there are indeed dangers arising out of the uranium waste. However, it seems that the adequate steps that have been taken by the DAE and UCIL to check and contain such radiation have satisfied the Apex Court. All the supporting documents are loaded on my website at for further reference.

I have consulted with my lawyers at the Supreme Court of India and also got feedback from my colleagues who are International Environmental Lawyers in the United States and the United Kingdom and they have all confirmed to me that it is not possible for any Court in any Land, let alone the Supreme Court of India, to rule that uranium mining is 100% safe. Going by science, it is known whether the technique used for extracting uranium is open cast or ordinary mining, exposure to radiation poses a serious threat to miners and the people living around the mines, because radioactive materials are absorbed from the dust into their bodies. Surveys at uranium mines in New Mexico have shown, as long as there is uranium in the dust, the internal exposure of the miners will progress to increasingly harmful levels. Radon, a radioactive gas, is produced from the decay of Uranium-238 or Thorium-232. The gas is released during mining, and radioactive particles attach themselves to the dust. When the dust is inhaled those particles are absorbed through the lung leading to an increased risk of lung cancer. Therefore no court can ignore these facts to say that uranium mining is safe. Our Supreme Court has recognised the 'Right to Health' as part of our Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Everyone therefore has the right to a clean and safe environment.

Again I want to stress that based on the findings of Dr. Gordon Edwards from Canada, when we extract uranium from the ground, we dig up the ore, we crush it and we leave behind this finely pulverized material of radioactive waste, called uranium tailings. As Dr. Marie Curie observed, 85 percent of the radioactivity in the ore remains behind in that crushed rock. How long will it be there? Well, it turns out that the effective half-life of this radioactivity is 80,000 years. That means in 80,000 years there will be half as much radioactivity in these tailings as there is today. And as these tailings are left on the surface of the earth, they are blown by the wind, they are washed by the rain into the water systems, and they inevitably spread. In addition, as the tailings are sitting there on the surface, they are continually generating radon gas. Radon gas is about eight times heavier than air, so it stays close to the ground. It can travel 1,000 miles in just a few days in a light breeze. So how far is Shillong from the proposed mines? And as it drifts along, it deposits on the vegetation below the radon daughters, which are the radioactive byproducts, including polonium. So that you actually get radon daughters in animals, fish and plants thousands of miles away from where the uranium mining is done. It's a mechanism for pumping radioactivity into the environment for millennia to come, and this is one of the hidden dangers of uranium mining.

As regards to the Jaduguda minefields are concerned, the facts cannot be ignored. Pushing the truth under the carpet will not serve public interest. In the first paragraph of my article “Uranium Project: To mine or not to mine” I have clearly stated that my analysis is purely based on the existing scientific data and the research done by other world famous scientists and scholars. The particular quote “Around 30,000 people live in 15 villages within 5 km of the Jadugoda complex and they are paying for India's nuclear capabilities with their lives” that Mr. H. S. Shylla has taken out from my article to accuse me of undermining the Supreme Court is in fact the direct opinion of Dr. Buddhi Kota Subbarao, a famous Nuclear Technology Scientist, who is a former Indian Navy Captain and now a Supreme Court advocate himself. So is this celebrated Supreme Court advocate in Contempt of Court? When I spoke to him about being threatened of Contempt of Court, he told me “If you have written something in the public’s interest and exposed the false claims of the Department of Atomic Energy, I do not see how it can constitute to Contempt of Court.” I have also consulted with Captain J. Rama Rao, a retired naval office in the Indian Navy who is leading the Movement Against Uranium Project (MAUP) in Andhra Pradesh and he told me that even the Chairman of the Planning Commission of India and the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna have both stated that uranium mining has health implications on the people in and around the mines. Captain Rama Rao also stated that if Mr. Shylla threatens me with Contempt of Court then he should also charge all the people who spoke about the direct links between radiation and health hazards mentioned above including himself and Dr. Subbarao. If so be the case then the BBC, NDTV, Greenpeace International, South Asians Against Nukes, Movement Against Uranium Mining, Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation among hundreds of other organisations should also be charged with Contempt of Court for speaking the truth about the health hazards of uranium mining in Jaduguda. It may be mentioned here that my mentor Late Mr. B. B. Lyngdoh the former Chief Minister of our Uranium–Rich Meghalaya, told UCIL, “KEEP OFF” as he did not want to jeopardize public health by rushing into hasty decisions. Therefore Captain Rama Rao also told his people in Andhra Pradesh and those living in Nalgonda district in particular, to tell UCIL, to “KEEP OFF” the Nagarjuna Sagar Reservoir. Like my mentor, I also want UCIL to “KEEP OFF” our land. If they want to dig our uranium by force then they can do so over my dead body. What really worries me is why our present government is cold and silent about this hot and loud uranium issue. There is a saying that “Evil thrives when the Good do nothing.” So are we all going to be silent spectators? What do our church leaders have to say on this matter?

I have seen that Mr. Shylla has been showing off his ‘Yellow Cake’ pictures from his visit to Jaduguda. If it was really so safe then I wonder why UCIL did not pack it for him with some raw uranium ore as a souvenir which he can place on his dining table. That way he will always remember his great trip to the mines when he eats his meals every day while being exposed to radiating uranium. Then if he thinks that Radon gas is safe to breath then maybe he could consider using Radon gas for cooking in his kitchen instead of LPG. Nothing may happen to him immediately, but I wonder how he would feel if one fine day he were to become a victim of radiation and a father of deformed children. Look at the picture of these little deformed Khasi boy and girl who were victims of the uranium mining and radon gas living in Phlangdiloin. They have huge heads but their feet are so small so they cannot walk until now. So would you dare to look into the eyes of the father and mother and say to them that uranium mining is safe for their kids? How would you feel if the all mothers in the villages near the proposed uranium mines also gave birth to these kinds of deformed babies?

Mr. H. S. Shylla keeps mentioning about the Indo-US nuclear deal even though he has no clue about US foreign policy and global politics. After living 5 years in the US and after having studied International Law and Politics at Ive-league Columbia University in the City of New York, I know for a fact that in America, business interests dictate foreign policy in almost all fields including the civilian nuclear technology. In India, foreign policy assiduously builds the image of Indian nuclear establishment. The latest proof of this fact is the ongoing debate before and after Indo-US joint agreement of July 18, 2005 between President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington DC, and the separation agreement on March 2, 2006 in New Delhi to separate civilian and military nuclear pursuits in India. The truth is that the US wants to make money by selling the disposable enriched uranium and weapon grade plutonium derived from the dismantling of some of their nuclear weapons, as nuclear fuel for power plants. Such is the case with Russia also. While supplying oil, the seller can at the most dictate its price and nothing more. But while supplying the nuclear fuel, the seller not only dictates its price but also can demand many more commitments from the buyers. As an environmental economist, I would say that the cost benefit analysis in Indian context does not show justification for building more nuclear power plants. They are expensive to run and build, and the decommissioning is also an expensive business. The present generation has no right to pile up for the future generations, the financial burden arising from decommissioning and the multiple dangers from the unsolved problem of nuclear waste disposal. My dear fellow citizens the opportunity cost is just too high for our unborn kids to pay. They would be cursing over our tombstone when we are dead and gone.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do respect the ruling of the Supreme Court of India even though the precautionary measures taken by the DAE and UCIL are debatable. But I really disrespect the misuse of power and misguidance of our people by the CEM of the KHADC by hiding under this ruling. My strong recommendation is that Mr. H. S. Shylla should complete his further studies first, before he can be qualified to judge and classify other hard working people’s research as baseless allegations which can only lead to utter confusion. Only then he will be able to have the wisdom and courage to say NO to the people who are misleading him and using him as a scapegoat while they hide themselves from the public eye. I think that maybe some people high up there with a remote control are making ‘Simple Shylla’ dance to their music for their own selfish benefits. However, I am glad that he has woken up and agreed to finance the filing of the review petition for the anti-uranium mining lobbies at the seminar organized by the Meghalaya Tribal Teachers Association (MeTTA) on May 27, 2006.

My challenge for him now is that, if he really wants to be the hero of our people who will be remembered as a legend who dug up the real truth about the dark hidden secrets of uranium mining in India, he himself should be the petitioner on behalf of the people he represents. In return I will recommend the best Supreme Court lawyers who are experts on this issue to work with him. But in order for this to happen we need an independent and unbiased body of experts representing different stakeholders to do the transparent investigation in Jaduguda and other mining sites. My next challenge for Mr. Shylla is to organise a surprise and unrestricted visit for a fresh team of experts to go to Jaduguda on a fact-finding mission. If he can accomplish both these challenges then he will certainly make history in India, the largest free and democratic country on earth!

Last but not the least, I demand that Mr. Shylla gives clarification on his unscrupulous allegations in the Shillong Times and other local papers on May 30, 2006 accusing me of working as a CIA & MI6 agent who is trying to destabilize the country. He has no clue about my contribution for my country and the world in the past 31 years of my existence. Does Mr. Shylla have his own double agents who send him classified information from the CIA & MI6? I really feel disgusted by such false and misleading information from a leader who prides himself by bringing a bad name to the institution he represents. My dear fellow citizens isn’t this an ultimate betrayal of our way of life, our people and our land?


Anonymous said...

Aww brems, you got your hands full dont you? anyway, keep up the good fight :)


Schizoid said...

I was just browsing through when i came across your blog!! I am from Assam and it makes me feel extremely proud that a fellow North-Easterner has been able to achieve so much in such a short span of time. Keep up the good work...

the_man said...

I'm always proud of u my Big Bro. Well, ur clarification to the subject matter will surely dictate the false claim of the ignorant people, regarding the adverse effect of uranium mining at Domiasiat and its adjoining area in west khasi hills.
Cheer up Bro
Your bro Lam

Benny said...

Good going.

salvador lyngdoh said...

The really striking thing is that many people in the NE don't even know the potenial of safer technologies that could involve and employ community develpment. Why not invest on markets that are untapped and have more cultural and ethical significance rather that diging your own grave. The people who run the show probably have a clueless idea of the hazards which come along, the naive way in which people object to such projects also could be termed as ignorance but there has to be much thought into the matter.

Soma said...

I really appreciate the good work that u r doing to save the inhabitants of Meghalaya. No matter what, once the exploration of uranium starts it is not going to stop as UCIL is determined this time. Please educate the villagers who are willing to sell their land to the Govt. at Rs.18 per sq meter(thats not what the land worth) is more precious than money, though i understand their dire need of money. Let UCIL not brain wash these poor villagers and let not the Meghalaya turn Jaduguda.

Mukesh K said...

I feel Uranium mining should be allowed. More people are dying of chewing tobacco. If we do not produce enough electricity more people will go hungry and there will be more deaths due to unemployment. 1250 lung cancers among 1,00,000 miners is a small price to pay. France produces 78% of its power from nuclear reactors. That is why french are a super power. India will never be if we keep opposing this way.

The miners will risk their life but they will be martyrs trying to achieve self sufficiency for india in energy. Uranium ore will be radio active but if awareness is created and people do not go to places where such waste is dumped underground then i think it is safe. The point is people should be literate enough to understand the danger sign--"Radiation Hazard"

I myself am ready to mine. I don't mind dying by a struggle.

Dear Brembley W. B.

Plz don't censor my comment. A coin always has two sides.

Mahesh S said...

Mukesh I must say I disagree with you here...even from an energy security standpoint nuclear will not be the answer as supply of uranium (or thorium) is finite besides being highly dangerous and toxic. India is certainly not going to resolve its energy needs and meet the climate challenge by going in the case of conflict or a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant, you can imagine the consequences in a country of a billion people..

What we need are technologies including storage that can tap into sun, wind and ocean energy which is pure and clean…and mini-hydro..and scale them up massively...there is already lots of work going on in energy storage and some are proven use of molten salts to absorb solar thermal energy so plants can even generate electricity during the night..

The smoking analogy is rather lame..the side-effects of radiation have a deeper impact and are not person-specific but affects whole communities and environment in its vicinity. The effects last over generations through genetic disorders. In chernobyl a 17 mile exclusion zone exists and no agriculture will be possible there for possibly 200 years...the actual site will be fully safe only after 20,000 years! Is it all really worth such risk!