Shillong, April 20 (IANS) The Meghalaya government Friday denied a report that fish in the state's Ranikor river had died due to exploratory drilling for uranium ore and said the water had turned toxic from substances used by local people to catch fish.
"The fish have died not due to exploratory drilling for uranium ore but due to the toxicity of the river where local people use toxic substances for catching fish," Meghalaya Deputy Chief Minister Bindo M. Lanong said.
"If uranium radiation was the cause of the deaths, all other aquatic life forms there would have also been affected and there would have been lesions on the fish," Lanong, who looks after the mining and geology department, said following an interim report submitted by two geologists.
K.B. Surong and E. Nongbri submitted their findings after studying the Kynshi and Rilang rivers, the two tributaries of the Ranikor. Water flowing from the Rilang was crystal clear whereas of Kynshi was muddy, reddish-brown with lot of impurities, the scientists said. The dead fish were found floating on water coming from Kynshi river and not from Rilang.
Thousands of fish have been found floating in the Ranikor since April 13, prompting the government to conduct an inquiry.
The Kolkata-based Maheshwari Mining Private Limited is currently conducting exploratory drilling for uranium ore near one of the streams that joins the Kynshi river.
The Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) has found an estimated 9,500 tonnes of uranium oxide reserves in Meghalaya.
The proposed open-cast uranium mining in Meghalaya's West Khasi Hills district has been hanging fire since 1992 after several groups cited the ill-effects of radiation on human health and environment.
Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) proposes to set up an open-cast uranium mining and processing plant in Meghalaya. The state is estimated to have 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.
It has also plans to produce 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore a year and process 1,500 tonnes a day.
The union ministry of environment and forests has given clearance to the UCIL to start mining in the state.
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