India and Japan Should Work on Renewables: Lalita Ramdas’ Letter Opposing the Nuclear Agreement

Lalita Ramdas, an eminent environmental and women’s rights activist and who has also been on the board of Greenpeace International and has been a leading voice of support to the people’s struggles against nuclear energy in India, has wrote this letter to the Prime Ministers of India and Japan and sent the International Appeal against Japan-India Nuclear Agreement to them, along with more than 1750 signatures from all over the world, on our behalf. The twoPrime Ministers are would be meeting in Tokyo on 29th May. Tokyo based groups would stage protest against the meeting. 

Lalita Ramdas
Lara – Ramu Farm,
Village Bhaimala
Alibag – 402209

To: Their Excellencies

Dr Man Mohan Singh – Hon Prime Minister of India
Mr Shinzo Abe – Hon Prime Minister of Japan

Lalita Ramdas

Lalita Ramdas

Respected Prime Ministers of our two ancient Asian civilisations.

Greetings from Bhaimala, my little village on the west coast of India, in the state of Maharashtra.

It is Tuesday May 28 2013 , temperatures hovering in the high thirties, we have had intermittent power all night and today there will be a power shut down from 9am to 5 pm. In rural India we have daily power cuts ranging from 3 hours to 12 hours! But Nuclear power is not the answer!

We are located about forty five kilometres south of Trombay [near Mumbai] where the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre was built by the Canadians in the sixties; fifty kilometres south from Tarapur where the first BWR reactor was constructed with the help of Bechtel and GE [America] in 1969 – and about two hundred and fifty kilometres north of Jaitapur where France [AREVA] has been invited to construct the largest nuclear facility of 9900MW in the country [or the world?] to date .

If I go further south along this beautiful coast to the southern most point at Kanya Kumari and move up the east coast of this vast peninsula, I will come to Koodankulam – a name which today has become symbolic and synonymous with totally peaceful, democratic, non violent resistance against the nuclear power plant constructed by the Russians. And there are countless other Nuclear Power plants – existing and proposed – dotted across our land and threatening to pollute forever the air, the already scarce water resources and our fragile eco-system.

People from many of these project sites continue to struggle, peacefully and non-violently, against what is seen as the undemocratic imposition, most often without any consultation with local communities, of locating nuclear power plants in their vicinity. These are primarily agricultural lands and marine resources rich in bio diversity where they produce of a wide range of fruit, cereals, vegetables and fish – all of which have contributed to the overall food security and well being of the people. Today there is clear and present danger of these being destroyed and damaged beyond repair because of destructive technology, lack of a safety culture, no accountability and foreign and corporate pressures.

So, why are these farmers and communities resisting and protesting nuclear energy – especially when we all need power and energy? We are told that There Is No Alternative to Nuclear Power [TINA] if India is to sustain her growth pattern. But just for the record, the nuclear power contribution to India’s overall power generation is a mere 2.8% after all these decades. For any of the new and projected power projects to take off will take a minimum period of 10 to 15 years according to the industry and the NPCIL. The people of India are hungry for power now and are demanding that government provide them access to safe and reliable energy from renewable sources.

Ironically Mr Abe, it was the Fukushima nuclear disaster which has served as the wake up call and strengthened the resolve of concerned and right thinking people across the world against nuclear power. India is no exception. Those populations living in close proximity to our nuclear power plants – existing and projected, have made it their business to educate themselves about the potential and huge risks associated with nuclear power. You might know that our coast line and hinterland is no stranger to earthquakes and tsunamis either. Our peoples are in close communication with yours – such is the power of the internet and social media.

We have watched with sympathy, respect, admiration and now growing concern – the way Japan and the Japanese people have dealt with the one of the greatest industrial, human and ecological catastrophes of our times. Japan took the right decision at the time – to shut down its nuclear plants – despite the fact that you relied on nuclear for 30% of your power supply in Japan. We watched and applauded the steps you took to explore alternate renewable sources and the superhuman efforts to conserve and discipline energy usage across your country. And we are aware of every step of the continuing struggle to contain the damage in the crippled reactors – the impact and costs of which are still unravelling and being counted at many levels .

This is what therefore makes it even more difficult to understand this present initiative of your country and government – to turn its back on not only the lessons of Fukushima, but of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well.

And Dr Man Mohan Singh, as leader of the world’s second most populous democracy and an “emerging power”, it is the decisions that you and your government take today which have the terrifying power and potential to affect the very life and existence of millions of your people in this country, as also in the region.

Our questions today are simple: given that our country is facing a major agrarian and water crisis; given the growing mountains of waste that threaten our public health and river systems; given that there is neither a plan nor a technology in sight for the disposal of several tons of nuclear waste; given that the costs of nuclear energy are astronomical and growing by the minute; given our abundant supply of sunshine and wind; and given the extraordinary pool of scientific and technological talent which can be used to put in place and harness renewable energy; why are you rushing to sign this nuclear deal with Japan?

We can only guess at the nature and urgency of the pressures that both of you honourable and responsible gentlemen are driven by which makes you hurtle at such speed towards inking a decision which could be so fateful?

However Mr Prime Minister, we want you to use this opportunity to welcome the assistance and collaboration with our Japanese friends in finding practical solutions and making the investments so necessary in renewable energy – especially solar and wind. Recent press reports speak of the Green Phoenix rising from the Ashes Their aim is to be totally self sufficient from renewable sources alone in Fukushima Prefecture by 2040. Imagine that India, China and Japan could together transform the global energy scenario into a safer, cleaner and certainly greener future. This could be a wonderful moment for Asia and one on which there is need for powerful , independent and collective leadership!

As a woman, a mother and grandmother, and on behalf of millions who are out there and who are represented by the individual signatures you see on this petition – I can only add my personal plea that you do not rush to sign on any dotted line, that you keep the dialogue open and take a decision about a deal on nuclear issues, once the actual impact, implications and cost of the total clean up at Fukushima are realistically and honestly addressed and solved.

Till then – please do not embark on this dangerous step of legitimising the import and use of nuclear technology – which has the potential to endanger the future generations of millions of our people living in Asia in particular – since that appears to be the last frontier which the unscrupulous nuclear industry is bent upon destroying merely to protect and delay its own inevitable demise.
It is in this spirit that I commend this petition to you – on behalf of individuals and communities across the

Lalita Ramdas
May 28 2013

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