KUDANKULAM: As protestors in Ratnagiri are being lathi-charged for opposing the idea of a nuclear power plant at Jaitapur , down south in Kudankulam, the villagers are stoically eyeing an uneasy future.

A few weeks from now, this Tamil Nadu village will witness the commissioning of perhaps the first nuclear plant in the world after the Fukushima catastrophe.

In Kudankulam, once a barren landscape, the villagers are huddled in conversation about what could be in store for them. The two gigantic nuclear reactors of 1,000 mw capacity each are awaiting their hot run, which will put the village on the nuclear map, a qualification that now seems more scary than satisfying.

The pros and cons of having a nuclear plant in their backyard are being discussed threadbare, but the villagers are caught in a Catch-22 situation — to allow the nuclear plant and enjoy economic prosperity along with the risk of a meltdown, or scrap it and enjoy safety but re-embrace the impoverished days of goat-herding and beedi-rolling.

It is a tough call, said Brahma Chellaney, senior research professor at the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research. “Nothing can be done at this stage when the commissioning of the plant is near. At least the plan to have a cluster of reactors should be avoided, keeping in mind the Japanese experience,” he said, pointing out the fact that there has been an in-principle clearance for the next two reactors at Kudankulam, which will lead to the unit being a nuclear reactor cluster.

Selva Kumar, a tailor who has caught the headwinds of the village’s development and invested 2 lakh in a tailoring shop, catering to the increasing demand for well-stitched clothes, said, “Business has been good for me. We discuss the developments in Japan and are worried. But death can happen anywhere anytime.”

From what was a desolate village where people were forced to migrate in search of jobs, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) has transformed the village’s economic profile. “In the past, people used to migrate to Mangalore, Mumbai and the Gulf countries in search of jobs. Now many are returning,” said Ezhil Arasu, president of the Kudankulam village panchayat. The upturn in fortunes is evident, with almost every family in the village and nearby Chettikulam having a kith or kin holding a job related to the project, either as one of the 940-odd permanent staffers, or as contract workers.

 

 

Courtesy ECONOMIC TIMES: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/kudankulam-villagers-in-catch-22-situation-over-nuclear-plant/articleshow/8042695.cms