Memories of what happened in Japan are still fresh in our minds. Japan was devastated by an earthquake and a powerful tsunami which affected thousands of people. What followed was a meltdown at Fukushima nuclear plant, causing what has now been declared a level 7 nuclear accident (on par with Chernobyl) and a radiation leak, causing huge concern not just for Japan but for the entire world. Even after all this, our government has not learnt anything.
On 11th April, exactly a month after the tragic events in Japan, a group of almost 200 individuals - children, couples, families, students and working professionals gathered at India Gate in New Delhi for a candlelight vigil. The vigil was organised by Greenpeace to show solidarity with those suffering in Japan and at the same time, remind our government to say no to nuclear energy.
The vigil was peaceful and powerful. As it started getting darker, concerned citizens lit candles and held placards. The youngsters had anti-nuclear symbol stickers on their faces. Candles lit up India Gate with the NO NUKES message. There was no need to shout out slogans, the message was loud and clear. The government needs to move away from nuclear energy.
People at the vigil wanted to march around India Gate, but were stopped by the police. They however marched for a short while before assembling to discuss the issue. The policemen on duty said that they too supported the cause but could not join us as they were on duty. Children took the lead in the march as well as the candle-lighting. It was amazing to see how they grasped the seriousness of the situation so much better than the elders in the government!
The government is planning to establish nuclear plants in a lot of states. One of these is planned in Fatehabad in Haryana, which is close to Delhi. Recently I happened to be a part of a protest rally in Fatehabad where the government is acquiring about 1500 acres of agriculture land from the farmers to establish a nuclear plant. "Our fight is not for compensation, but we are worried about our future. If something like Japan happens here, then where will we go?" asks a worried Ram Charan of Gorakhpur village.
Fatehabad district also has a huge population of Bishnois - the world-famous tribe who treat all animals like family-members. For them, loss of this biodiversity.because of the nuclear plants is painful. I wonder when simple folk, like Ram Charan, have the common sense to be worried about what a nuclear disaster could do to their land (one of the most fertile in north India) and lives, what makes our government still want to continue with its ill-advised ambition to build more nuclear plants?
It’s time the people of this country came together and fought against the destructive policies of the government. Anna Hazare’s peaceful protest has shown us what can be achieved if everyone stands together. Nuclear energy threatens our life and the environment and is not a green energy solution. The government needs to invest more in safe and green renewable energy for a sustainable future.
Images: © Greenpeace / Sudhanshu Malhotra
The writer is a Greenpeace India volunteer and activist.