Anuj Wankhede

Angry at the flawed and incorrect EIA report submitted by NPCIL in March and adamant that they will not allow this dangerous technology in their backyards, residents from Mithi Virdee, adjoining villages and from Bhavnagar city will hold a protest meet and a rally. The rally to be held at the Bhavnagar Town Hall will be held on April 26th and will coincide with the 26th Anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986. Thousands are still affected by the Chernobyl events and a large portion of the region is still uninhabitable.

Protesting farmers during the public hearing held earlier this year - Photo courtesy Indian Express

Protesting farmers during the public hearing held earlier this year – Photo courtesy Indian Express

Concerned people from the region do not want such a repetition of the events in their region and have called for a cancellation of the project. The project has envisaged the installation of 6000MW electricity generation by installing American made Wistinghouse-Toshiba AP 1000 reactors. The technology used in these reactors is suspect and many leading international nuclear experts have called it a “unsafe” and potentially dangerous technology.

The rally comes in the backdrop of various other factors such as the proximity of the site to the worls largest ship breaking complex at Alang. In fact Alang has had a long and chequered history of dangerous accidents involving hazardous chemicals. The coastal regions around the Alang costline extending for about 16kms is already highy pollued with toxic waste. On the other side of Mithi Virdee is another problem – coal mining and a thermal plant which results in hige pollution as well.

Hemmed in on both sides by these factors, the residents of the region are in no mood to surrender their land for this monstrous project which has the potential for wide spread destruction of land and the sea. The residents have pledged that they will not accept assurances from the NPCIL nor will they accept ANY amount of compensation for surrendering their lands. The land around the projected site is highly fertile (despite claims of NPCIL that the land is barren) and has huge orchids of mango, chickoo, coconuts among others. These provide with a substantial income to the local populace and they do not seem intent to listen to the claims being made about the site evaluation which they claim was never done.
Fishing is another activity which will be adversely affected (or maybe completely terminated) if the nuclear power project is set up. The catch for the fish from the Mithi-Virdee region are in great demand in regions as far as 100 km from the region and also provide a good source of income.

Another factor which has been largely ignored is the threat by foreign ships in the region due to the proximity to Alang. About 30-40 foreign flag ships sail into Alang ship breaking yard each month and there is a possibility of terrorists mounting an attack on a nuclear facility using the cover of one of these ships. Closeness to Pakistan is also another danger which cannot be discounted.

The Shatranju dam supplies drinking water to the huge bustling city of Bhavnagar is barely 5 km away from the proposed nuclear site. Any damage to the nuclear plant will cut off water supply to the city which will cause a huge human rights problem in the whole region.

All these factors have made the site selection itself highly questionable according to the local residents prompting the massive rally on April 26th at Bhavnagar. It remains to be seen if the officials will listen and address the concerns of the local residents or ignore them as they have done at the various sites where new nuclear projects are being planned.