Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Fishermen join the antinuclear protest at Jaitapur

The narrow roads in this fishing village wind down to a crisp blue creek full of frenetic activity. Across the creek is the location of the proposed Jaitapur project being built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

There is a primary fishing school run by the government and trainees can be seen in the campus repairing bright red nets. Near the creek, Kamal and Abdul Rashid repair their old nets. “Yes, we have heard about the nuclear project. I think it will finish fishing in our area,” Kamal says. The first reactor of the nearly 10,000 MWe nuclear project will be set up by 2017.

It is evening and Liyakat Solkar is all set to go on a fishing trip. He has a steel tiffin box and a small plastic bag with some belongings. “Sometimes I feel, what is the use of opposing this project? It is a big project; the government has sanctioned it. But on the other side, it will wipe us out. Today we are self-sufficient. At the worst, we can walk down to the creek and grab a handful of fish and eat it with rice,” Mr. Solkar says as he sets off into the dusk.

Already, there are examples of the fish catch reducing in the sea as a result of projects in the Dabhol and Pawas creeks nearby. There are about 4500 fisherfolk in this village. Mr. Solkar supplies fish to a major exporter. “People make about Rs.1 lakh to Rs.5 lakh per trip,” he adds.

The 10 to 12 villages in the vicinity of the project will be affected, according to Amjad Abdul Latif Borkar, former chairperson of the Sakhri Nate Machchimar Society. The annual turnover for fishing in these villages is about Rs.15 crore. In Nate alone there are 200 big trawlers and 250 small boats. Nearly 6,000 people depend on fishing in the area and more than 10,000 are indirectly benefited.

“The used water from the nuclear plant will be dumped into the sea through a pipe, and while its temperature should be about five degrees Celsius, who will ensure that it is maintained?” Mr. Borkar says. “Government officials come here and tempt people with contracts and jobs, but how many people can the plant really employ?”

At a recent protest meeting in Sakhri Nate, activists managed to gather the entire village, including the women who rarely speak up. Hamid Abdur Rehman says: “We don’t want this project. Our future generations will be affected.”

Compensation issues

The residential complex for the project will be spread over Karel, Niveli and Mithgavane. Dattaram Narayan Dalvi and his wife Darshana stand to lose two acres to the project in Karel. “We refuse to accept the compensation cheques. We are dependent on the land and we don’t have anyone working in Mumbai to help us,” Ms. Dalvi says.

In Niveli village, Anil Tirlotkar’s father Jagannath has received a letter saying he will get Rs.1.78 lakh for his land. “We have to divide this money among so many claimants in the family. I will get about Rs.16,000,” Mr. Anil Tirlotkar says. “We got a notice in 2007 for a survey of the land. Later we were asked to be present for a joint survey, but they did not let us anywhere near the survey,” he adds.

According to the official note, about 185 landowners from the village will get Rs.55.91 lakh. The NPCIL has deposited Rs.16 crore with the government for compensation to all those affected, but there are no takers yet.

“Is this how projects are done? Are we living in a democracy? This is worse than the British,” Keru Katkar says.


In Mithgavane, Dr. Milind Desai, who is spearheading the protest, says: “Background radiation from this massive project is a concern. We feel water, air, everything will be polluted. Why is this lovely coastline chosen for a dangerous project? They can’t give us simple processing units for our fruit crop. We would have given land free for any other project but not this one.”

The villagers have filed two writ petitions against the project, but the Bombay High Court did not give them any relief. The first case was withdrawn and in the second, Justices Ranjana Desai and A.A. Sayed dismissed the petition on August 13, 2009.

The project will use 100 cubic metres of sea water per second per unit, says C.B. Jain, project director of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the limit of the temperature of water should not exceed seven degrees Celsius.

The NPCIL will build a pipeline extending 1.5 km long and 40 metres below the sea bed to dispose of used water for the first two reactors. The NPCIL has said fishing will not be affected as it has commissioned a study which indicates that the released water temperatures will be a maximum of three to four degrees Celsius and that too for two months in a year.

The College of Fisheries in Ratnagiri has also submitted a report as part of the Environment Impact Assessment saying that fishing will not be affected.

Studies have ruled out any adverse impact on the biodiversity of the area as well, Mr. Jain said.

The villagers, however, will continue to fear the worst.

News » National  SAKHRI NATE, Ratnagiri district, January 18, 2010

Opponents to huge nuclear power project in India arrested

Opponents of the N-plant court arrest during the first jail bharo andolan in Madban village on 29 October.

PHOTO: Greenpeace

Activists and residents in Jaitapur are up in arms after Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh gave the environmental clearance to the proposed 9,900 MW nuclear power plant in the port town located in Maharashtra. The general consensus on the ground is that the project has been cleared in haste without analysing the environmental fallout.

According to activists, the 35 safeguards/conditions, of which 23 are specific to the Jaitapur project, neither highlight the main issues pertaining to radiation concerns, nor offer a solution to the loss of biodiversity and marine biota. They say the conditions just scratch the surface of these issues without dealing with the relevant problems. One of them (No. 10) states, “The existing Alphonso mango trees shall be protected to the extent possible. In case they need to be removed, efforts will be made to replant the same within the project site.” Points like these, the activists say, are hardly grave concerns compared to radiation worries.

Ramesh’s statement that his ministry has no jurisdiction over radiology emission has baffled environmentalists. “It is surprising that the environment minister has no clarity on hazardous stuff because environmentally, radiation eventually affects the ecology and thus becomes the responsibility of the environment ministry,” says Adwait Pednekar of Lok Vidnyan Sangathana, a Mumbai-based organization promoting public debate on scientific issues. Pednekar added that the Environmental Impact Assessment is unscientific and amateurish and does not resemble the work of experts.

The environmental clearance paves way for the Atomic Energy Regulatory Body (AERB) to go ahead with its technological assessments of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR). When AERB Chairman SS Bajaj was asked about French energy company Areva’s patchy track record with respect to environmental pollution, he remarked, “I don’t recall anything about Areva polluting the environment and I am not concerned about what they do in their country.”

This ambiguity on safety issues is the main bone of contention among activists and people living near the nuclear plant site.

“Officially, the AERB has no clue about the kind of accidents that can occur in an EPR reactor. It will be difficult for the AERB to ask Areva to furnish all details regarding this technology. Besides, how will the AERB determine the radiation doses (the level above which radiation is harmful) emitted?” asks former AERB chairman A Gopalkrishan.

Meanwhile, local residents are planning to stage a dharna. They believe that the environmental clearance was hastily given to speed up formalities before the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will ink the final deal for the Jaitapur power plant on behalf of the French government and energy giant Areva.

A day-long protest will be held on 2 December at Azad Maidan while residents of Madban village, the plant site, are planning to organise a second jail bharo andolan. The first was held on 29 October 29, when nearly 1,000 people courted arrest for a day.