Protests over nuclear land in West Bengal

By Maureen Nandini Mitra
Published: Sunday 31 December 2006

the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (npci) on November 20, named a site in east Midnapore district, close to West Bengal's Sunderbans region as a possible location for eastern India's first nuclear power plant, triggering protests by villagers in the area.

The proposed Rs 10,000 crore plant in Haripur would be part of five nuclear power plants the Centre plans to build in West Bengal, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. The plants would have an initial capacity of 1,000-1,500 mw each, with the potential to increase their capacity to up to 8,000 mw.

npci's announcement has revived the much debated proposal for a nuclear plant, which the state's Left Front government had floated in 2000 but had put on hold following protests. Like before, opposition has already begun.Villagers and environmentalists are concerned about the effects of radiation and forced displacement of thousands of fisherfolk, besides the marine fish population in the Contai region in the Sunderbans, that stands to be affected. Contai region is an important fish-catch centre that supplies around 50,000 tonnes of fish.

While npci chairman S K Jain made the announcement, agitating villagers prevented a 12-member selection committee under the Department of Atomic Energy (that's currently scouting around for possible sites) from completing a site survey in Haripur. About 4,000 families in Majlapur, Rangmalapur, Samraibari and Mankaraipur villages, mostly from the fishing community, could face eviction if the plant comes up.

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