The majority of people from the Rajapur taluka of Ratnagiri district (Maharashtra), along with a very large number of engineers, scientists, environmentalists and thousands of democratic people are vehemently opposing the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Energy project and demanding that it be cancelled, as it is very dangerous from the point of environment as well as threatening the livelihood of the people staying in its vicinity. Lok Raj Sangathan fully supports their just fight.
The opponents are demanding that the government should answer all the issues they have raised impartially in an open meeting, without resorting to terror tactics. The government has not dared to take up their challenge, because it cannot turn falsehood into truth in an open forum. Lok Raj Sangathan denounces the government which has violated every democratic norm, declared that the project will go on irrespective of people’s opposition, and then resorted to brutal tactics against its opponents.
Let us take a look at the proposed Nuclear Power Project in Jaitapur. The Central Government has decided to multiply the nuclear power generating capacity and announced that it would reach 63,000 MW by the year 2032. The Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC) has been charged with implementing one of these mega projects of 9900 MW in the village of Maadban near Jaitapur port. The NPC has started forced acquisition of land for this purpose. The process of signing a contract with the French company Areva for buying two nuclear reactors of 1650 MW each, for supplying nuclear fuel and related items is going on. The cost of the first stage is estimated to be Rs.60,000 crore, and of the entire project, Rs.180,000 crore.
The project site is totally unsuitable! It is an earthquake prone region. In 1972, the Vengurlekar Committee appointed by the Central Government had laid down criteria for selecting a site for nuclear projects. According to those, only seismic zones 1 or 2 should be chosen, otherwise in case of a big earthquake, lakhs of square kilometers would be adversely affected by nuclear radiation. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia has made lakhs of square kilometers not only unfit for human beings, but totally devoid of any kind of life. However, as per the government’s information, the Jaitapur project will come in a zone 4 of seismic activity. From 1985 to 2005, this region suffered 82 earthquakes of intensity 3 – 5 on the Richter scale’ two were of 5.2, one of 5.4 and one of even 6.3!
The havoc caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is well known. Radiation levels have risen not only in Tokyo, which is 240 km away, but also in California as well as Eastern parts of Russia. As a consequence China has already declared a freeze on its nuclear expansion program. Developed countries had stopped setting up nuclear power plants years ago.
Despite this, our leaders are not ready to rethink about the Jaitapur project. If something similar to Japan happens in Jaitapur, the companies selling nuclear power plants will not be endangered. Those who call the shots in our country will also flee the country at the slightest hint of danger. The consequences however will have to be borne by crores of toilers like us and our future generations!
The proposed Jaitapur project, which is only 255 km from Mumbai, will be the biggest in the world. Villages in that area have already been affected in the last 10 years by land masses sinking, the earth being torn apart and fissures (some of a few km length, some 70 feet broad and 50 feet deep) being formed. No technology can guard against a very high intensity earthquake. The Jaitapur region is totally unsuitable for a nuclear project, and will endanger the whole of Maharashtra as well as Karnataka.
Due to nuclear projects, the environment is destroyed for future generations. Apart from the Jaitapur project, the government is forcibly moving ahead with 7-8 projects granted to private companies of 20,000MW capacity in the narrow Konkan coastal belt. All this is going to cause grievous harm to the environment. Our experience in our country as well as all over the world tells us that in their greed for immediate profits, private companies and the governments at their service are least bothered about the harm caused to the environment and go about destroying it and endangering the whole of humanity.
Development for whom? In trying to justify the Jaitapur project as well as others, the government says that if Maharashtra has to be developed, the shortfall in electric power has to be wiped out. Those who oppose these projects are labelled anti-development. But the real question is – development for whom? For Tata- Birla-Ambani and others of their ilk, or for ordinary people? Whether it is various SEZ, building national highways, laying gas pipelines, building new airports or power generating projects like the Sardar Sarovar, all these projects had been pushed through by running roughshod over popular opposition, in the name of the country’s development. People have been forcibly evicted. But they are not the ones who have benefitted. To this day, those displaced have been leading insufferable lives. Those in the vicinity of power projects do not get power; dams do not irrigate the farms of small farmers. But all such projects have undoubtedly tremendously enriched the big capitalists of our country. Opponents of the Jaitapur project are raising the legitimate question: Why should ordinary people pay the price for the development of a handful of ultra-rich?
People are being fooled and brutalized! Various people’s representatives, government officers as well as ministers have tried to fool the people. They were claiming that the project is of thermal energy and that there is no proposal for a nuclear power project with the government. The truth came out on June 21, 2005 through the Right to Information.
The government has systematically violated each and every step in the legal procedure that is required before a project can be sanctioned. The opponents have placed before it a huge list of lies and shortcomings, to which the government has till date not given a scientifically satisfactory answer. It did not accept the challenge of an open debate. Moving ahead without the sanction of the Environment Ministry is illegal, but from 2006, people have been handed land acquisition notices! The people’s committee has opposed this in many applications, all the project affected Gram Sabhas have passed resolutions opposing the project many times and informed the government accordingly. When the rehabilitation notices were given, the opponents raised more than 470 objections. The Maharashtra Revenue Minister had given a written answer to the Legislative Assembly that these would be considered before further action was taken. Nothing of the sort happened. Between October and December 2009, the government forcibly acquired land. But the people were determined to oppose the project and get it cancelled. Land owners refused monetary compensation. The government raised the compensation amount considerably, but only 30-40 out of thousands of people accepted the offer.
The people there as well as other opponents continue to use legal means of opposition. The government, however has resorted to police terror, ban orders, jailing on basis of fraudulent charges, etc. On 26th January, many sarpanchas of the region refused to hoist the national flag and tendered their resignations. School children also remained absent. “Why should we celebrate the Democratic Republic Day when there is no democracy?”, was their question.
Come, let us firmly denounce the government’s terror tactics!
Let us oppose the Jaitapur project that is being forcibly implemented!
Let us unitedly demand that no project having wide ranging impact on people can be implemented without a referendum!
Let us demand that those leaders who try to fool the people should be given a fitting punishment!
Lok Raj Sangathan, C/O 59, Dr. Ambedkar Sadan, NM Joshi Marg, Mumbai 400013.
9821410105; 23082008; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.lokrajsangathan.org.in