Nuclear Power Projects in India and Displacement of People

P K Sundaram

What the residents of Tarapur say:

  • “We felt a pride in sacrificing our interests out of patriotism and hope that along with our countrymen our lives will also improve, but….” — A local leader of the struggle
  • “In 2005 we were thrown out of our homes from Pofaran village brutally by the police and paramilitary. To date all of us have not received compensation. During the monsoon when we cannot do fishing around Dandi, we used to spend 4 to 5 months in Pofaran but now that source of livelihood has vanished……”. — an activist of Dandi, an affected village with a population of more than 15000.
  • “Some of us get work in TAPS but only as contract workers where we are paid a pittance of Rs. 200 to 250/- per day. And the job is very risky and not for the full year. From fishing we could easily earn Rs. 400 to 500/- per day before the power plant came up …..” — youth of Dandi
  • “Before the project phases started in 1967, we used to get a large catch of fish, crabs, prawns etc. But that drastically reduced after the first 2 phases. After 3rd and 4th Phases commissioned in 2005, the yield has further plummeted. In our village there used to be more than 450 mechanised trawlers but now there are less than 150 left. Earlier we had to go out to the distance of a few km into the sea, but now we have to go in many times further for fishing, making it much more expensive and risky. …” — fishermen of Dhandi and Ghiwali
  • “In my own house we are treating a very close relative for cancer. Every year I must be cremating at least 10 to 15 people who died due to cancer….” — local resident, responsible for cremation of the dead
  • “I, like many of my friends, work in the areas where radiation is pretty high. After having worked for a few years we all experience severe body and joint pain after we get up in the morning. Our medical check-up is done regularly but the result is not given to us. . . Everything connected with atomic projects is guarded under a very tight veil of secrecy.” — educated youth working as a contract worker in the plant
  • “Even though we are living in this area for generations, Ghiwali does not exist as per Revenue department records! Hence our fight starts with proving our existence!” — local leader fighting for compensation

Source: Experience of people of Tarapur in Maharashtra

After Koodankulam challenge, India’s nuclear establishment has gone for a media offensive claiming the protests are misguided over-reaction to Fukushima. While the NPCIL has sought to ‘reach out to people‘, the DAE scientists are busy assuring about safety of the design that its manufacturers in Russia themselves have questioned in a post-Fukushima report to their President. While reinforcing the divide of ‘layman’ and ‘expert’ is central to such exercises, the government and the mainstream media have largely glossed over the comprehensive critique of the nuclear power projects put up by people’s movements. The protests in Koodankulam are neither naive nor sudden. Since 1989, people of the area have fought against the project questioning its rationale on economic, safety, environmental and developmental grounds.

One of the key questions in Koodankulam has been displacement. Displacement is an immediate consequence which the population around most of the power plants are going to face and is becoming a rallying point for protests against these plants.

“The Tamil Nadu Government G.O. 828 (29.4.1991 – Public Works Department) establishes clearly that “area between 2 to 5 km radius around the plant site, [would be] called the sterilization zone.” This means that people in this area could be displaced. But the KKNPP authorities promise orally and on a purely adhoc basis that nobody from the neighboring villages would be displaced. This kind of ad hoc-ism and doublespeak causes suspicion and fears of displacement”

(S P Udayakumar- Thirteen Reasons Why We Do Not Want the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project)

The fear of displacement is not unfounded. Last month, the Bombay High Court harshly rebuked the Maharashtra government for its failure to rehabilitate the displacees of Tarapur – India’s first commercial nuclear reactor commissioned in 1969 !

It took four decades for the displaced fishing community – of 53 families –  to see the ray of justice when the court acted on their request. Rehabilitating these families 10 kms away from the coast was NPCIL’s idea of caring for project affected people (PAP). In their observation, Justice Ranjana Desai and Justice RG Ketkar noted – “They should be given necessary facilities because that (fishing) is their only livelihood and they are not trained in any other skills….So the state should consider the matter seriously.” In July, the National Disaster management Authority (NDMA) had questioned the rehabilitation package in Tarapur. Importantly, this came during NDMA’s post-Fukushima exercise of setting up response forces in areas surrounding nuclear power plants in India.

Displacement in the upcoming nuclear power projects

While affected people in Tarapur admit that initially they felt pride in sacrificing for nation’s technological advancement, people living today around the proposed and planned nuclear reactors have no such illusions.  People have experiences callous attitude of the policy-makers when it comes to displacement in general. The nuclear power projects are also going to cause large scale destruction of livelihood and displacement.

In Jaitapur, the proposed would be spread over 968 hectares of land, displacing five villages—Madban, Niveli, Karel, Mithgavane and Varliwada where a population of 4,000 lives. People in the Jaitapur area received land acquisition orders in 2007, and by January 2010, the government of Maharashtra had completed the acquisition of 938.026 hectares. The NPCIL, as in Koodankulam, insists that the Jaitapur nuclear power park will cause any displacement. It has labelled 65 percent of the land as barren. People find this claim outrageous because the land is highly fertile and produces rice, other cereals, the world’s most famous mango (the Alphonso), cashew, coconut, kokum, betel nut, pineapple and other fruits in abundance.  The fishing population will be worst affected as the plant will daily release a huge 52,000 million litres of hot water into the Arabian Sea. Besides the rise in seawater temperature, tighter security in the coastal region would also restrict fishing severely. Altogether, the Jaitapur project would jeopardise the livelihoods of 40,000 people, including 15,000 dependent on fishing.

In Haryana’s Fatehabad, a total of over 1500 Acres of land is being acquired from Gorakhpur, Badopal and Kajal Heri villages. Notification for this acquisition was issued last year the land – under ‘urgency clause’ (Section IV) of the archaic & colonial Land Acquisition Act 1894. The agitation in the area started soon after the villagers received this acquisition notice. Far from heeding to the farmers’ demand, the government sent another notice last month under Section 6 of the Act which is a step further and only asks if anyone has any objection to the compulsory land acquisition.

In Chutka, (Jabalpur district, Madhya Pradesh), the planned nuclear power project will result in second round of displacement for the people. Due to Barghi dam on Narmada river, the Chutka village was displaced in 1980s. Located next to the reservoir of the dam, and still facing consequences of their first displacement and running around authorities for compensation, the people are threatened with second displacement. Decades after the Barghi dam started, people are still waiting for electricity to arrive to their village and now they are being promised nuclear energy lighting their homes. But they must be homeless for that to happen first.

In Andhra Pradesh’s Kovada, the proposed nuclear power park will affect 20
villages. It will swallow 2,400 hectares of land, which could eventually go up to 30,000 acres, where people grow rice and culture fish.

When 10% of India is under risk, the nuclear pipe-dream of our elite cannot go unchallenged. Shrugging it all off as emotional over-reaction to Fukushima must not be allowed.


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