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Report silent on spent fuel, say activists

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Hindu

December 1, 2010

Members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti and Janahit Seva Samiti on Tuesday questioned the scientific validity of the environmental clearance given to the Jaitapur nuclear power project slated to come up at Madban in Ratnagiri district.

“Jairam Ramesh has ignored the elephant in the room,” Dr. Vivek Monteiro, president of the Mumbai Shramik Sangh, told journalists here on Tuesday. He pointed out that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report was silent on the question of spent fuel. “That is the largest question and the report does not answer any queries regarding it.”

The members also pointed to the long-standing battle against the project. “The war has just begun. We’ll fight this project at all levels. We want to question the scientific and non-scientific aspects of the project. It is not and it was never about higher compensation,” Vaishali Patil, Convenor, Konkan Bachao Samiti, said.

“The project has not been scrutinised scientifically,” Mr. Monteiro said. “Maximum radioactivity occurs from solid waste and spent fuel. The report is silent on both. Spent fuel is highly inflammable. Why is there no study of radioactive hazard? Is the ecological damage caused by radiation not the concern of the Environment Ministry?”

He said the project would have a significant environmental impact on the area. The Bombay Natural History Society’s preliminary report had clearly said that a nuclear plant in Jaitapur would have a negative impact on places near Madban. Ambolgad, one of the villages near Madban that would be affected by the project, was known for its species diversity. The sea adjoining Ambolgad was a rich source of fishes, the BNHS report had stated.

Incidentally, the press note issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests about the project had relied heavily on the BNHS study and mentioned it more than once. “When we pointed out to Mr. Ramesh the lacunae in the EIA report submitted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), he promised us an opportunity to put forth our grievances and queries in front of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC). But he later retracted saying he did not want to set a precedent,” Mr. Monteiro said. When Mr. Ramesh was told about the glaring faults in the EIA report, he said those were the kinds of assessment reports he always received.

“At our first meeting itself, Mr. Ramesh greeted us saying, ‘I can’t stop the project. It is going to come up because it is not just about energy but also about strategic and foreign policy. Now you can put forth your grievances.’ If the project is anyway going to get clearances without proper scrutiny, is it right?” Mr. Monteiro said.

Ms. Patil pointed out that the land was being forcibly acquired and there was no transparency about the project. She also said criminal cases had been registered against all protesting villagers. “The State has curtailed our right to expression. Even during the public hearing, two of the three villages were not given copies of the EIA, which is a clear violation of Supreme Court directives.”

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