As I sit here in my home village of Idinthikara watching the hot sun light up the waves rolling onto the shores, I think of the news that has hit the world today about the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. All of you must have seen the headlines that proclaim the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s decision to go ahead with Initial Fuel Loading and first approach to Criticality of Unit 1 of KKNPP.
As I think aloud with my friends gathered here rolling beedis and contemplating our future, I wonder who can give clearance without getting the consent of all of us who live so close to the plant. For over 2 decades, we have waited for some form of consultation with us about issues and doubts that have troubled our minds. Apart from generalized assurances with statements like It is Safe and There will be no problems, we have not been given any answers. Are we not still living here and are we not expected to live here? Or do we not exist or have become transparent like the people of Hiroshima who just vanished as they walked along the streets?
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As we talk this afternoon with wind blowing over the Neem trees and bending the branches of the Drumstrick tree, it is our minds that are getting loaded- not with the toxic uranium rod but with concerns about our life and the life and health of our children. It is the soul force of all of us who have come here every single day since August 16, 2011 that is reaching a criticality – to act and respond with the alacrity and peace that our true struggle for justice demands of us.
We realize while cleaning the sardines and mackerels that came into our houses this morning that the Environmental Clearance given for the KKNPP is not appropriate or legal. What study can vouch for the safety of the KKNPP? Has the scientific team who did the study ever asked us about the fishes and other animals that have provided us with life for generations? Do they know the seasonality of the species, the variations in currents and tides, the changes in the seas as seasons change? Do they mention the rich wedge bank offshore that is home to many species that sustain our lives? What have they said about the abundant catch of prawns and lobsters?
We look at our homes and the sea avidly- because we are afraid this will all become an Exclusion zone as we have seen in Fukushima and Chernobyl. We might have to go away from here gathering all our belongings. Where will we go and how will we survive? We know of no life away from the sea. Our men are so dependant on the waters of the sea. Away from her, our health will wither, we will become wasters and gamblers not to speak of searching for the wrong kind of jobs. We need to be together to live in peace and harmony. Has any impact study ever mentioned this? Will a bit of money be able to buy us all that living in the community brings ?
Yes, please answer all these questions and we will reconsider our vow to struggle till KKNPP is closed. We suggest that all the decision makers and technical support personnel connected to KKNPP stay with us in the village for a few days and explain and answer all our questions. Only then can our vow be broken…
[Based on the author's conversation with Leema Navaras, Chellamma, Fransisca, Mary, Sundari, Annammal, Chinna Thankam, Tamilarasu, Ponnasakkiammal, Paramasithi and other women.
Anitha S. 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. ]