Haryana village protests nuclear power plant

Official at public hearing tells residents that radiation is human friendly and used for cancer treatment 

NPCIL and district officials at the public hearing glossed over concerns raised by residents and activists

A public hearing organised by the Haryana pollution control board to push through the proposed 2,800 MW nuclear power plant in Fatehabad district ended abruptly following public protests. As soon as the hearing started in Gorakhpur village on July 17 amid heavy police security, people stood up on the chairs and started shouting, booing and thrusting their fists in the air in protest.

The officials tried their best to address concerns raised by residents of Gorakhpur and nearby villages where the four nuclear power plants of 700 MW each are to be built. The executive director of the public sector undertaking which is developing the project, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), went to the extent of suggesting that radiation is good for people.

“Radiation is all over the world. Therefore, a nuclear power plant should not raise additional concern. It is actually our friend in many ways because it helps in cancer treatment,” said Nalinish Nagaich, while addressing the gathered public. Mounting evidence presented in scientific reports talk about the risks of radiation-induced health hazards, but Nagaich, other NPCIL officials and hired health expert S N Jain brushed aside concerns over health impacts and long-term risks of radiation exposure. They presented the proposed project as a “win-win” project for the public.

A total of 608.5 hectares (ha) of land is to be acquired for the project, primarily in Gorakhpur (533.5 hectares) and in the adjoining villages of Badopal and Kajal Heri. According to area residents, almost the entire land of Gorakhpur village is being acquired for the project. Residents have been opposing the project by holding sit-in demonstrations and protests outside the district collector's office from the time it was first proposed in 2009.

Detailed EIA not made available

Village residents attending the public hearing said they would not part with their land at any costAt the public hearing, hundreds of villagers turned up to voice their protest. Even women from the village joined the crowd. The residents expressed outrage about the fact that the detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project was never put in the public domain for review; only an executive summary of it was made available just five days before the public hearing. Sahib Gotarar, the district information officer, failed to pacify the crowd.

As per the EIA Notification of 2006, the EIA report is supposed to be kept for public review (both in the regional language and in English) at prominent venues in the locality where the project is proposed.  The public also raised concerns about three major issues: land acquisition, water and health hazards of radiation.

T R Arora, chief project manager of NPCIL for the Haryana Atomic Power Project, insisted that questions that were raised by the public were clearly answered. But the team from Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment was witness to the fact that many contentious issues, such as number of people to be displaced, their employment and hot water disposal from the plant, were glossed over by the authorities.

Anti-nuclear activists raised questions relating to availability of water at the plant in case an accident occurs—the only source of water in the area being a canal of the Bhakra Nangal dam—and the security of the power plant in case of low water availability or drought. These questions went unheeded. When Banwarilal Sharma, an activist, asked questions relating to the number of people who would be displaced—he indicated that it was more than 30,000, far above the number mentioned by NPCIL officials—the microphone was snatched from him. The incident led to an uproar in the crowd that was already agitated. Soon, the public hearing ended abruptly with the officials leaving the venue in haste. The summary of the public hearing was not read out at he end of the meeting which is a mandatory requirement.

Fear of losing land haunts residents

Hansraj Siwach, president of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, a farmers' front, called the public hearing a farce and accused NPCIL of lying. He along with other activists and protesting village residents objected to heavy barricading of the venue.

Gorakhpur primarily comprises a thriving farming community of land-holding farmers, shared croppers and migrant labourers. Typically, the yield is three crops a year, consisting of wheat, cotton and paddy.  The area is lush and fertile, supporting more than 500 families in Gorakhpur itself.

Besides health concerns, there is something more farmers are worried about—losing their ancestral land and livelihood. The fear of losing losing land prompted Badluram of Gorakhpur to consume pesticide a few days before the public hearing. He was in the hospital on the day of the public hearing. “He was worried about the uncertain future of the family because for generations they have lived on this land and their only skill is cultivation,” said Kashmir, Badluram’s uncle. Thus, even when Badluram’s family is being offered Rs 25 lakh per acre (0.4 ha) as compensation for their 10.52 ha land to be acquired, they prefer their substantial yearly yield of 30 quintals of wheat, 12 quintals of cotton and 40 quintals of paddy per acre. Narendra and his family, whose 36.42 ha land is at stake, vows to go through any ordeal to retain his ancestral land.

Photo Gallery: Nuclear power at the cost of livelihood

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  • 30000 persons displacement in

    30000 persons displacement in an area of 600 Ha (6 sq kms) would imply a population density of 5000 persons per square kms, whuich surely is not the case.The district population density 2011 census is 371 persons per Sq Kms (http://www.census2011.co.in/census/district/217-fatehabad.html). the displacement is 2000 persons at most. the area is said to be suppoting more than 500 families.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Dear Mr Thakur The figure was

    Dear Mr Thakur

    The figure was quoted by an activist and the story attributes the information to him.  Moreover, the project area mainly consists of agricultural fields. As informed by the local people, once these fields are acquired, more than 500 families dependent on them will be displaced. In fact the NPCIL officials at the public hearing themselves conceded that the displaced population is about 20,000.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • within 20,000 is population

    within 20,000 is population within 5 kms radius which is neither affected by the plant not displaced. There is no significant population needing displacement. There are, however, temporary structures "dhanis" in the land being acquired for the project.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Mr. Thankur How can we say

    Mr. Thankur

    How can we say that population within 5 km wont be affected by the plant? There are ample studies to refute that.

    For example, a caseÔÇôcontrol study of cancer among children < 5 years of age found that residence within 5 km of a nuclear facility was associated with a 61% increased incidence of all cancer and a 119% excess risk of leukemia. Also, the USEPA issues potassium iodide tablets to people living as far as 16 km of the nuclear power plant to prevent radioactive iodine from concentrating in thyroid. Just an example to say how far they think the effect can be.

    Also, if these people loose their livelihoods they are getting affected in some way or the other. The idea is only to say that people are not happy with the land situation at the project site.


    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • The increase in population

    The increase in population around the nuclear plants in US in last ten years has been much more than areas far off from the plant. Full report at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/27/us-nuclear-plants-population-evacuation_n_884958.html. The iodine tablets are given to the population just in case required but have never been consumed by any one so far.
    There is natural background radiation at any place and it varies from place to place and time as well. The average exposure in India being 2400 micro sieverts. The increase in vicinity of a nuclear plant is within ten. one can read report at http://npcil.nic.in/pdf/Radiation_in_NPP_environs.pdf. one reason for unhappiness lies in the fact that neighbors get much much higher money for their land from acquisition. So the feeling is mixed.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
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