The world's largest nuclear park is planned in Jaitapur, in Ratnagiri district on the coast of southern Maharashtra. The park would comprise up to six large nuclear reactors bought from the French nuclear giant- Areva. In addition to the inherent hazards of nuclear power, the project threatens the livelihoods of about 10 000 farmers and fishermen and their families.
Today, more than a thousand local people have taken action against the project, voluntarily risking lengthy arrest and further legal consequences. The message is clear – they want their land and their fisheries, not paltry compensation offered by the nuclear company. 600 people have already been loaded into police buses and hauled into jails. About 700 more still continue the peaceful protest, risking arrest.
Several prominent figures, including a former Supreme Court judge, Justice P B Sawant, former Magsaysay award winner Admiral Ramdas were intending to join the protests, but are reported to have been arrested on the highway, about 20km from the site.
The Jaitapur project is characterized by shocking neglect – from the choice of an earthquake-prone and ecologically valuable site, to a timetable that leaves insufficient time to review the risks of the nuclear reactor design, not yet in operation anywhere in the world. Because of these and many other flaws the reactors would entail unacceptable hazards.
The local people are against forced acquisition of their land by the government. They consider their land to be of much more value than a job at NPCIL and some money in lieu of the land. The local people have unanimously rejected the compensation package offered by the government. Satyajit Chavan, an activist protesting in Jaitapur, said: “It seemed more like a police state, where emergency measures are evoked to apparently maintain law and order. The state seems to act against wishes of its own citizens.”
A joint report by Greenpeace and European solar panel manufacturers showed earlier this week that solar power can deliver electricity at a competitive cost by 2015. This is 3 years before the first planned reactor could be in operation in Jaitapur. Wind power and biomass can do that already now. There is no need to import dangerous and destructive nuclear reactors.
(This post is by Karuna Raina, Nuclear and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace India)