Village meetings: in pictures

Gorakhpur village meeting2

Gorakhpur village meeting

Days after thousands of farmers boycotted the public hearing on environmental impact assessment in Gorakhpur, the government declared that it has acquired land from the farmers. While the government flaunted it as the local people’s approval, in reality it was just reflective of the fact that in absence of land reforms, few landlords can sell the village land as the entire village was protesting. The landless farmers of Gorakhpur and other two villages whose land has been taken for the project, people from surrounding villages who did not get any compensation but will face radiation risks, and the scores of villages in the downstream of the Bhakhra canal who stand to lose their irrigation water are regrouping against the nuclear project.

India’s former Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. V K Singh, visited 6 villages near Gorakhpur last week along with Shri M G devasahayam and other activists. The village meetings were attended by hundreds of people who experience water scarcity when the canal completely dried up in May this year. Here is the press release issued by Gen Singh and the local activists:

PRESS RELEASE

June 27, 2013

Gorakhpur Nuclear Power Project would deprive the districts’ farmers from irrigation water.

Water supply from Bhakhra canal is inadequate, and would have dangerous consequences in case of an accident.

A delegation consisting of Gen V K Singh, Former Chief of the Army Staff, Shri M G Devasahayam, Former IAS and sustainable development activist, and Kumar Sundaram, Researcher, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmaent and Peace(CNDP) visited Fatehabad district to meet people affected from the proposed nuclear power project in Gorakhpur. They addressed well-attended public meetings in Agroha and Khara Khedi, Badopal, Dhanger, Bisla, Jhalanya and Bhuthan Kalan villages.

The delegation raised the issue of inadequate supply of water to the reactor project, adverse impact on the black buck deers in the area revered by the Bishnoi community, insurmountable dangers of radiation and accidents inherent in nuclear power and vulnerabilities and unaccountability of nuclear sector in India. As per the original Bhakra water sharing agreement of 1959 between Punjab and Rajasthan water is meant only for irrigation and hydel power generation. Therefore diverting a huge quantity of 320 cusecs, meant to irrigate over 130,000 acres (allocation of 2.25 cusecs per 1000 acre) for a nuclear power plant is illegal and violative of Right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution. Some other significant questions concerning water in GNPP are listed below:

  • 2800 MW GNPP water requirement, to be supplied from the Fatehabad Branch is 320 cusecs. According to the allotment this quantum that can irrigate about 142, 000 acres. Even if we take into account 30% of water that would be returned to the canal after cooling the irrigated area lost would be about 99,000 acres.
  • Can such a huge quantum of water be diverted for generating nuclear power, which is not provided for in the Agreement, at the cost of irrigation.
  • In the alternative can Haryana get extra allocation to provide water for nuclear power generation? Even if Haryana gets extra water can it be conveyed to the project site?
  • There is contradiction in the claims of NPCIL. Passage marked in red talks of returning 50% of water to the canal while the actual quantum mentioned in the passage marked in green is only 30%. Is this not deliberate misleading?
  • As per nuclear experts residual water after cooling the reactor will have radiation and therefore unfit for irrigation and drinking water downstream.
  • Water is the most critical, but most constrained input for the nuclear plant with several adverse ramifications and effects. While other issues have been dealt with in great detail in the EIA, water issue has been dealt with in less than two pages in an almost arbitrary and dismissive manner.
  • Commitment letter from Government of Haryana looks abrupt and signed by an Executive Engineer referring to some decision by CM. Is it tenable and legally valid?
  • Haryana letter is not sure about the dependability of Fatehabad Branch supply and talks of alternative supply through Sirsa Canal. This has not been dealt with properly in the EIA, leaving the critical water issue high and dry.
  • This is for the normal operation/reactor cooling. In case of any accident during operation huge quantum of water on a continuous basis would be required as it happened in the Fukishima case. From where will this water come.
  • EIA talks of 15 day closure of Fatehabad Branch once in 10 years. But as per media reports there have been frequent closures. This canal was lying closed almost for the entire month of April.
  • There are reports that Gobindsagar dam itself is facing water storage problems due to sedimentation and poor rains and there have been frequent reductions in water release. Agriculture at least can adjust. But it will be disaster for a 2800 MW nuclear plant in operation. This has not been addressed at all.
  • Radiation and other impacts on downstream land, farming, drinking water for human and animals have not been addressed. This is serious flaw.

The local people are going to bear the brunt of such dangerously misplaced policies of the government. The nuclear power project poses serious threat to their livelihoods and safety. People must unite and be resolute to fight against this ill-conceived project.

There is a global re-thinking on nuclear power after the Fukushima accident in Japan, yet India is anachronistically pushing for this dangerous technology, chasing an elusive growth mirage which is contrary to the sustainable and equitable model of development which the large masses of this country actually require.

We urge the larger society and citizens of India to raise their voice in support of the people of Fatehabad and demand an immediate moratorium on this project. We demand a democratic national debate on desirability, viability and safety of nuclear power in India.

With best regards,

Gen V K Singh(Retd), Former Chief of Army Staff, India
M G Devasahayam, Retired IAS
Kumar Sundaram, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace