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Chavan visits Jaitapur site

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Meena Menon in The Hindu

Feb 27, 2011

Attacks protesters for their lack of awareness about science

If Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had any doubt about people’s opposition to the Jaitapur nuclear power project, it was set at rest at a public meeting on Saturday. However, Mr. Chavan took an aggressive stance, attacking the protesters for their lack of awareness of science and warning them not to be misled by outsiders and their propaganda.

The Chief Minister came to visit the Jaitapur project site, address the public meeting and hear those opposing the plant. He promised to discuss the issue in future to clear all doubts.

Even before the meeting began, the police went about asking the men and women, who had assembled in strength, to remove their black badges, which while welcoming the Chief Minister, also said ‘no’ to nuclear energy. The police also dissuaded people from carrying banners.

Mr. Chavan, who spoke after listening to the opponents and supporters of the project, said memorandums submitted to him did not have names or signatures and the issues they raised were misleading. Some foreign powers did not want to see India progress, but he was confident that India would overcome the challenge. He warned people not to be swayed by propaganda and said he was ready to hear their side of the story.

Not a single point raised by the opponents was true, Mr. Chavan countered, adding it was 100 per cent false propaganda. He said he had heard everyone’s opinions, some of which were harsh, but this is bound to happen in a thriving democracy and he was proud of that. The Jaitapur project was cleared as per law, there was a public hearing last year and over 900 grievances submitted were addressed. Yet unscientific information about cancer, and project’s impact on pregnant women were being spread. As the project had all clearances there was no need to even have this discussion since everything was legal. He said as Chief Minister he too was worried about the citizens. He expressed disappointment that despite being invited for the open house in Mumbai, people they did not turn up. He said he was even willing to send a vehicle for them.

He said compensation could go up to Rs. 400 crore. However, it was not an issue of money, it’s a question of misunderstandings that were being aired, he said.

There is a feeling that fishing will be impacted, so deep is the level of misunderstanding, he pointed out. He said the concerns raised in the memorandums were so wrong, especially regarding water temperatures. “If there is a one per cent truth in your allegations I will solve them,” he said. Touching on the outsider aspect to the agitation, he said he was keen on hearing local people in Mumbai, but some political forces have kept them back. He said while he did not want to dwell on technical issues, such a huge investment would not come to India again.

Defending nuclear energy, Mr. Chavan said while solar energy was offered as an alternative, if one had to build a plant of the same capacity as Jaitapur, about 20,000 hectares will be needed. Who is going to give this land? he said. He said, solar energy was heavily subsidized and coal energy was highly polluting. As far as hydel power was concerned, he said it led to submerging forest land. In this country 50 per cent did not have electricity and increasing capacity is important, Mr. Chavan said.

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