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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jaitapur nuclear project in India - Environmental and human cost

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BBC, 27 April 2011: Praveen Gavhankar, a farmer and fruit transporter, said he and thousands of villagers in western Maharashtra, had become totally frustrated over the government's determination to allow the construction of six large reactors at Jaitapur, in an active earthquake zone. 

“And so,” said Mr. Gavhankar, “the people have decided that, rather than letting a Fukushima happen in Jaitapur 15 years later, it's better to die today and stop the plant.” The site is on productive, agricultural land, which will deprive some 1,000 families of their farming land and 6,000 people who depend on fisheries will also be affected. Between December 2009 and January 2010, Nuclear Power Corporation of India officials seized 938 hectares of land from local villagers, offering as little as 3 INR (5 euro cents) per square metre, which villagers unanimously rejected. An impact assessment by the extremely reputable ‘Tata Institute of Social Sciences’ came to the conclusion that the Jaitapur Nuclear Project will have a “huge negative impact on social and environmental development”.

Studies by the Bombay Natural History Society show that the project will also cause extensive environmental damage, for example to threatened mangrove ecosystems on which local fisher folk depend. The environmental licensing process for Jaitapur has violated both Indian law and the Equator Principles by denying affected communities access to the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and beginning forced acquisition of land without prior community hearings.

Accordingly, the project has already led to massive social conflicts as over 1,000 families will lose their farms and many more will lose their fishing grounds. In the past months, the local opposition to the project - which has been peacefully protesting against the project for the last four years - has grown massively and now includes numerous academics, unions, social justice and environmental groups, political parties, workers’ associations and former government, High Court judges and military officials. 

As recently as April 2011, one person has been killed by the police and more than 1,500 people have been detained during protests against Jaitapur. Human rights activists, including the former High Court judge B.G. Kolse-Patil, have criticised the government for using violence and false criminal charges against peaceful protestors.

Key Words: Jaitapur nuclear project, BBC, Bombay Natural History Society, Human rights activists
Original Text: GREENPEACE

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