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Study calls for nuke plant pause

Mumbai, Dec. 28: A social impact assessment report has slammed the 9900MW Jaitapur nuclear power park proposed in coastal Konkan, saying it would have a negative social and environmental impact on nearby villages.

The 40-page report, compiled by a disaster management centre of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, has analysed the social impact the project would have on seven villages where the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd will acquire about 968 hectares.

The project, to be built in collaboration with French company Areva, would have six 1650MW reactors which would be commissioned in a phased manner beginning 2018.

TISS researchers used primary and secondary sources of information on nine parameters including livelihood, land, agriculture, horticulture, natural resources and health.

Data was collected from 123 respondents from seven villages, including panchayat members, local leaders, government officers, NGOs and women.

“Perceptions as shared by the people about the project bring out some stark realities about people’s reservations against it. It will be a big mistake to understand these reservations as tactics for negotiation of higher compensation. These people are not asking only for compensation; much larger level issues are being raised,” noted the report compiled by Mahesh Kamble, assistant professor and officiating chair of the Jamsetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management of the TISS.

The report said that contrary to the NPCIL claim that barren land would be used for the project, much of the land was being used for agriculture, horticulture and grazing purposes.

“According to government records, the vast area of land to be acquired for the plant is non-productive. As per the records approximately 633 hectares of land belongs to the potkharab kshetra (useless/barren) land category, while 268 hectares is under the warkas kshetra (less usable category), which has been slated for the project. But people do not agree with this categorisation.”

The report continued: “People have reason to believe that the government reports are forged resulting in loss of investments and benefits to people.”

The report said the fishing community feared the release of hot water from the plant into the sea would seriously impact their livelihoods. It said the villagers perceived a strong impact on their health. “With regard to the impact on health, people perceive that a nuclear power plant is more dangerous than coal power plants…. The company has promised regular health check-ups in the area. Instead of reducing fear, it has added to the people’s perception of risk. People question the need for health check-ups if the government is sure that there will be no health impacts.”

The report noted that notification of the region from high severity earthquake zone to moderate seismic severity zone had led to the perception that the government was hiding and misrepresenting facts.

“It would be a better option to pause the project till these primary exercises of environment impact assessment, social impact assessment and cost benefit analysis are done,” the report said.

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