Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal, Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya, Gujarat Vidyapith, Manviya Technology Forum and other organisations held a one-day conference on ‘Anti-nuclear struggles in India and Lessons from Fukushima’ on 27th August, 2011 in Ahmedabad. If lessons were not learnt and nuclear projects not re-thought about after Chernobyl, there was some hope that Fukushima would inspire the same. But the reactions of the nuclear establishments in Japan and India clearly show evidence to the contrary.TEPCO (the corporation running the Fukushima Nuclear power plant) and the powers-that-be have been very economical with the truth, and truth has come out in instalments ‘from other sources’. This is a sorry state of affairs in the information and technology driven 21st century. By the same token the Indian nuclear establishment has been arrogant in its approach to fears raised by both experts and affected people (such as those in Jaitapur). Their constant refrain has been ‘Indian experts are second to none’, and these technical matters better be left to experts.

Leaving matters of life and death to experts

If anyone thought that was reassuring consider the following (examples of leaving matters of life and death to experts):

  • we left the economy to economists and we have financial crashes worldwide every now and then and are not out of the most recent one since.
  • we leave justice to courts and we have any number of examples of problems hanging from Union Carbide, Bhopal to POSCO, Enron.
  • we leave health to doctors and hospitals (both private & public) we either get death or debt!
  • nuclear energy was left to experts and we had Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Kazue Suzuki of Japan is an activist with GreenPeace Japan. She addressed the conference over internet video, about how TEPCO misguided the people of Japan and the Government about the radiation releases. It took over a month for the company and the government to admit that there was a melt down at Fukushima. Even now the radiation level in many parts of Japan are at dangerous levels, however the citizens are kept in dark about that. Instead of trusting the company and the establishment people are themselves carrying radiation monitoring equipments to save themselves.

Leaving decisions about 8-10,000 MW nuclear power plants each in Jaitapur, Mithi Virdi, Haripura, Fatehabad, Kudankulam, Kovvada to NPCIL, DAE, AERB and their State advisors would indeed be very courageous. Suicidal actually!

While lay wisdom may be uncommon among experts it is the norm among common citizens. The conference brought together representatives of affected people from Tarapur, Jaitapur, Mithi Virdi, Fatehabad and Jadugoda (uranium mining). The common thread running through the presentations of the affected people – whether it is from sites where uranium mining takes place or where power plants are established – is that of lofty initial promises, the realisation of those promises being big black lies, targets not being met, employment not being generated, facts about health effects being hidden and sought to be covered up, and then excuses when the inevitable happens.

That was tragic story Ashish Birulee of Jadugoda area narrated about UCIL’s mining operations and their impact in his area. UCIL has only lied to, covered up and brow-beaten affected people. UCIL has worked in their area for over 30-35 years and evidence of wanton environmental destruction and health effects is unmistakable for everyone except UCIL.

Whether it is an old operation like Jadugoda or a newly initiated one like Jaitapur lies only become damn lies. Vaishali Patil narrated how State violence is used to foist the project on an unwilling populace. At least three people have become martyrs in the struggle to resist the 10 000 MW monster.

The Mithi Virdi facts related by Lakhanbhai and Fatehabad story by Yashvir Arya highlighted the secrecy & sleaze of NPCIL’s operations.

Dr Surendra Gadekar and Dr Sanghamitra demolished the nuclear establishments ‘do-not-worry’ assurances with their detailed analysis and exposes of the aftermath of both Chernobyl and the ‘tragedy-in-progress’ Fukushima.

Alternatives to our existing power systems would encompass not just electricity generation alternatives like wind, solar or other renewable sources but as a first priority efficiency, cutting down on transmission & distribution losses, stoppage of indiscriminate use, controlling wasteful & unsustainable demand, lifestyle changes, reducing consumption and substantial incentives to efficient users etc. It was also discussed that India being a vast country and the difficulty of installing the grid everywhere meant that decentralised electricity generation and distribution had to be integrated in the mainstream power system planning and appropriate importance be given to it. Similarly, sustainable planning for remote area electrification had to be planned so that it could be installed as well as maintained instead of the current attitude of install and forget in RGGVY and similar schemes. There are a number of small scale experiments and models exist which could show the direction in implementing this.

Foregoing indiscriminate consumption is definitely let troublesome than Chernobyl and Fukushima. That has to be the way forward as referenda and or public policy shifts in Italy, Switzerland and Germany have shown.

News coverage of conference-

DNA India
Times of India

Times of India
India Everyday
Congoo
Newspolitan
Ahmedabad Breaking NEws
Samachar.com