I am IGNATIUS. I belong to the village Idinthikarai in Thirunelveli district in southern Tamil Nadu. Since a few years my family lives in the Casa Nagar Colony that was built as part of the Tsunami rehabilitation program. From this you would have understood that the Tsunami waves struck my village too. Though not many human lives were taken away, it gave us all a taste of what a natural disaster is. It took us all some time to get over the fear of living so close to the sea which behaved so strangely that day.
But now the memory of that day is faded out by the new knowledge of a disaster that is looming over us and is going to be there every day 24 x7 x365 . Our village and region are now famous for the upcoming Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Now 2 events loom loud in my mind. Let me share it with you all. Last year, one quiet peaceful windy night we were woken up by a loud unfamiliar sound that pierced our ears and shocked us out of bed. We ran out in fear and saw that many others had got out of their houses searching for the source of the sound. All eyes turned towards the Plant area which is just 1.5 km from where I stay. The numerous lights that mark that area shone beautifully that night too. We realized that something was happening there. The noise subsided. We later came to know that that was a trial dummy run that was done in the Plant. If the memory of a sound can frighten and bring your life to a stand still then we know what it means because we experienced it.
The second event is the news we saw last March about the Japan Tsunami and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant explosion. More than how and why it happened, we understand how weak the nuclear power plants are. Any small delay in getting the right amount of water, any human error in turning on or off a switch, a short tremor or shift in the earth, a wave from the nearby ocean that rushes in astray, a valve with a rusted nail in it can all start a disaster. And we realize that we are just 1.5 kms away from a disaster.
Someone who came here to see us asked about how we spend our free time. I thought aloud with my friends Washington, Arnold, Josan, Riyas, Raja, Preston and Donald. It seems strange that for the past 358 days all we do when we have some time is to run to the compound of the Village Church where our mothers, sisters, aunts and grandparents are sitting as part of the struggle to stop the Power Plant. We have lost the urge to play. All we want is to know if the Power plant will be stopped. The other day someone asked me to sing a song. All I could remember were our slogans “We do not want the Power Plant. We want to live. When there are so many other sources of power generation, why go Nuclear? That too at the cost of our life?”
I love to dance in tune with the beat of drums and good music. But now I dance with all my energy to the tune of songs like “Velkave Velkave Anukulaye ethirku makkal poraattam velkave…” that a brother from Koodankulam village made against the KKNPP. It fills my mind with the determination that on no account should the plant be established here or anywhere in the world. If I can stop the plant with my legs and hands, I will keep on dancing forever so that the world will not see anymore Chernobyls, Fukushimas, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think that there is enough knowledge in the world to decide to stop this.
I often think about the reason to start a nuclear power plant. It is for electricity. It is so a nation can prosper with more industries and factories. It is so that every home all over the country will have unlimited power supply. I would like to know if this plant will help light up our dark streets, our houses and our churches, temples and hospitals first and foremost before it goes to other regions. I also think that if I am a city dweller with air-conditioned houses and many electronic equipments in my house and if I come to know that this power is made from nuclear energy for which a whole region has been sacrificed, I would perhaps decide to live in darkness or cut short my power use.
I wonder about my future- what would I like to be when I grow up. Surely a fisherman. I love to see my brothers Michael and Androo get up early morning and go to the sea. Sometimes I accompany them to the sea shore and watch as they take the boats over the waves. When I return in the evening I see the fruits of their labour in the nice sardine curry and the occasional luxury of the prawn fry. I see my mother and sisters smile on the day there is a good catch and the sales at the local fish market is stable. I know it also in the laughter from neighbouring houses where my mother would have reached a share of the fish. But now, I hear my brothers and their friends talk about the drop in fish catch. They often speak about how the police from the KKNPP shout at them to move away from the fishing zones close to the shore where an abundant catch is assured. They speak about the desalination plants that will spew out hot water into the sea killing all life. I do not want a Plant to come that will take away not only fishes and shells but also a way of living that has been ours for so long.
My mornings are sometimes taken away by being alert for the rumbling sounds of the tractor and its impatient honking. That is our drinking water coming. We have to buy drinking water. The water supply to our villages are saline and cannot be used to cook or drink. Each plastic pot of water costs Rs. 2.50. We have to buy more than 6 pots every day as ours is a huge family. If we miss the vehicle, then we have no drinking water. I see the pain in my mother’s eyes when she hands over the folded ten rupee note and a five rupee coin to me to give the water supplier. The other day I heard her asking someone-“Should not we have more development in the form of good drinking water?” At least free supply of water and not this highly insecure state? Is the much hated KKNPP the need of this region?
My 12 year old mind fills with such ideas. I know that things are not so simple. I also know now that decisions are taken without considering the life of the people who have to pay a huge price in the form of their livelihood, land, health and future. It shocks me that it does not matter to the decision makers that our life has come to a standstill with their decision to move ahead faster and quicker. The unfair and cruel way in which this is done is what makes me want to dance and shout slogans till the KKNPP is suspended. We should then talk and search how else we can make power that will be clean and not smeared by our tears and blood.
I am Ignatius. 12 year old. Casa Tsunami Rehab Colony also known as Vela Colony. Do come and visit us. If there is a good prawn catch, we can have some prawn fry together.
[ Compiled by Anitha S. based on her interaction with children in Idinthakarai.
Anitha is engaged in ecological education with children in many parts of Kerala especially the coral islands of Lakshadweep. Since last few years she has been documenting the perceptions and experiences of women in the environmental movements ( anti-industries, anti-dam, anti-waste dumping, anti-deforestation) in Kerala. She is also co-ordinating a network called Tree Walk in her home city of Thiruvananthapuram for trees, safe pedestrian spaces and footpaths and space for small vendors when big wide roads usurp all common spaces in the name of development. ]