Konkan thumbs down nuclear plant

Public hearing for 9,900 MW Jaitapur power project held under protest  

By Reshma Jathar
Published: Tuesday 15 June 2010

imageKonkan villagers waved black flags and shouted protests at the public hearing for the Jaitapur nuclear power plant on May 16. Over 1,000 villagers who turned up for the hearing in Madban village in Ratnagiri district stalled the proceedings saying it was illegal. They said the environmental impact assessment (eia) report for the project was made available in their language, Marathi, just four days before the hearing and they did not get time to study it. Three villages did not receive the report at all. The district officials accepted their mistake and the public hearing was allowed to proceed under protest.

The 9,900 MW plant is to be built by the National Power Corporation of India (npcil) with technology provided by French company areva. Villagers are against the project saying it would endanger their lives. The government had forcibly acquired 938 hectares for the project from five villages, including Madban, in Rajapur tehsil. The villagers did not accept compensation. Activists who attended the hearing said the eia report prepared by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (neeri) in Pune was flawed. The report was made public on April 16. Adwait Pedekar of Konkan Bachao Samiti presented a compiled report on the shortcomings in the eia pointed out by experts across the country.

The report shows cashew and mango orchards and paddy fields at the project site as wasteland, said Aparna Watve of Biome Consultancy in Pune, an organization working in the field of biodiversity. In her written submission, Watve said the Konkan laterite plateau on which the plant is proposed is a rock outcrop that supports special vegetation and provides grazing ground for cattle and laterite bricks to the villagers. Activists also objected in writing the use of European pressurized reactor (epr) technology in the project by areva saying it is unproven.

The report overlooks the impact of the project on fishers and marine ecology. Sakri Nate and Tulsunde are important fishing ports 4 km from the project site. About 11,000 fishers use these ports for fishing. The power plant would be using sea water as coolant and releasing warm water back into the sea. The temperature rise would affect the marine food chain and fish catch, said fishers. Amjed Borkar of Maharashtra Macchi-mar Kruti Samiti, the fishers’ association in Ratnagiri, said neeri did not contact fishers. npcil spokesperson Ranjit Raj Kakde said there was no question of the eia report being flawed as neeri is a professional organization of repute and prepared its report based on detailed ground surveys. He said the project land was acquired by the government according to laid down procedure.

With inputs from Sujit Kumar Singh

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