Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park: chronology of a disaster

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s India visit early December 2010 has materialized in signing of General Framework Agreement for building the European Pressure Reactors (EPRs) for Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park (JNPP) which is being set up in Konkan region of Maharashtra, in Ratnagiri district.. However, many issues remain unresolved as admitted by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who reportedly said “there are issues of pricing ..these are matters of negotiations” which is linked to insurance cost and which, in turn, is linked with nuclear liability concerns.

But there are many other issues which the officials don’t seem to be much concerned about. There are environmental concerns and safety risks besides displacing people and ruining their livelihood. The Madban plateau, green forests along the hill slopes, wetland habitat and thick mangroves along the creek, the Arjuna river and the creek waters rich in marine life together form an integrated and unique ecosystem supporting wide variety of flora and fauna. The NEERI-KVV study has not considered the essential part i.e. the plant animal interactions, ethnobotanical and anthropological studies” highlights an appeal for signature campaign by the Janhit Sewa Samiti. Parallel studies by the Bombay Natural History Society have shown that the project will cause substantial environmental damage. According to National Oceanography Goa, Jaitapur comes under earthquake-prone zone and hence a nuclear power plant is not advisable.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh admitted to the deficiencies in this NEERI’s EIA, when a delegation met him in May 2010 to bring to his notice the facts about Madban and ecological disastrous impact of a nuclear power plant there. But political compulsions seem to have driven Ramesh to give green signal to the project just before Sarkozy’s India visit.

The people's opposition to the project has also been ignored. A public hearing on proposed project by the NPCIL on May 16, 2010 at Madban was a mere farce. Around 1000 people attended. The mandatory requirement of providing EIA report in local language to affected villagers a month in advance was not met. Only Madban Gram Panchayat received a copy a month ago in English and just four days before the public hearing in Marathi, thus violating the Environment Protection Act 1986 and Environment Protection Rules 2006 & 2009.

This despite the fact that on January 22, 2010, 2335 farmers from four villages - Madban, Karel, Niveli and Mithgavane from Ratnagiri district of Konkan region of Maharashtra, refused to accept cheques of compensation for their 938 hectares of land forcibly acquired by the government through the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. This was for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park (JNPP). Only 56 landowners, most of who are settled in Mumbai-Pune for decades, accepted this compensation and got rid of their land. Last October, the state government established a committee to revise the compensation and announced a rehabilitation package that includes Rs 2 crore with a recurring amount of Rs 25 lakh for each of the four villages; permanent job for farmer’s kin or Rs 5 lakh; and an amount equivalent to 375 to 750 days of agricultural wages for lifetime to compensate for the loss of livelihood.

The villagers burnt the copies of this package shouting slogans ‘we don’t sell our mother’ and ‘beggars accept money (for their motherland)’. On October 29, 2010 more than 2000 farmers and fisher folk assembled despite prohibitory orders, to court arrest to protest against the proposed nuclear power project on their fertile land.

We don't sell our mother

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