The scandalous land acquisition process robbing people of their livelihoods, destroying the environment and benefiting corporations for setting up Special Economic Zones – SEZ’s (or Special Exploitation Zones?), is today being met by resistance everywhere throughout India. In the case of Jaitapur too, a mass movement of the people has emerged against a project that is much more destructive than an SEZ, a nuclear power plant.
The first public announcement of Jaitapur Nuclear Park was made on September, 2005 which triggered the protest movement that continues to this day in the 5 villages of Jaitapur in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district. People were merely given notices to evacuate their villages without even a proper assessment as to what impact this would have on the community and the environment.
The entire nuclear plant is to be set up in a total area of 968 hectares and more than 4000 people are to be displaced by the project. While the government agencies have declared that 65 % of the land as barren, which is hard to believe in this rich Konkan coastal region, declared by the Maharahtra government itself as ‘Horticultural District’ known for its rich variety of produce such as rice, cereals, mangoes, beetle nuts, cashew, coconut, and a host of others.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in collaboration with Areva (French nuclear reactor designing company) are to be involved in executing the entire nuclear power plant. They have planned to install six European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) with a capacity of producing 1650 MeV of electricity each.
The EPRs are untested reactors and these reactors have been installed only in some parts of the world. Areva, which is under severe litigation and currently undergoing a financial crisis is hoping for a bailout through lucrative deals such as Jaitapur nuclear plant.
It is also important to look into the unsafe technology behind the Nuclear fission process. Despite all its safeguards, nuclear technology has proven to be unsafe time and again through disasters such as Three Mile Island in the USA, Chernoboyl in the former Soviet Union or the latest Fukushima, Japan, a fact which has not registered in the brains of this government (both Maharashtra State led by Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Centre) which is more keen on the lucrative deals.
Even more outrageous is the cost to be borne by the Indian Public Exchequer which works out to about Rs. 2 00,000 crores! Even the cost of electricity per unit to the public will be double or triple times the cost of electricity produced using coal or hydroelectricity. Thus while the economics of project is upside down, the government is hell bent on going ahead.
The people of Jaitapur have constantly resisted this project, being promoted in the name of ‘growth’ and ‘development’, which has more destructive potential than anything useful in it. The villagers are not ready to give away their fertile land to this ill conceived, anti-people and anti- environment project (which crucially has been given a go ahead by the former Environmental Minister and fake environmentalist – Jairam Ramesh). People know about all the shady deals and inside information about the hidden cost and super-duper profit behind this project.
The protest against Jaitapur nuclear power project has been actively supported by many anti-nuclear activists, environmentalists, civil society groups and also the left parties. But what is more ironic this time around is the presence of the Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena (the rabid anti-Muslim and Marathi Chauvinist Party) in the protest, which was never known to be pro environment and more so anti-nuclear at that, which goes against the very philosophy of that grouping. If anything, Shiv Sena is more pro nuclear than the Congress-NCP combine and only trying to stoke the political tide in its favour, given its falling appeal especially in its stronghold around Mumbai region.
We are firmly opposed to all that is NUCLEAR (especially nuclear fission), whether nuclear weapons or nuclear power generation, as we believe that, neither is nuclear power the answer to the present unsustainable growth under capitalism nor is it a safe technology that can be relied upon as 100% foolproof.
No More Chernobyl, No More Three Mile Island, No more Fukushima! It is Better to Be Active now than to Being Radioactive tomorrow!
Azhar Khan (Student)