Bengal site bags first nuclear nod - Land acquisition challenge lies ahead

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By Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 19.11.06

Calcutta, Nov. 19: Bengal today moved a step closer to finding a place on the country’s nuclear map after the central site selection committee said it would recommend Haripur in Contai, about 200 km from here, as a location for the eastern region’s first nuclear power plant.

“We have found that Haripur has good potential for setting up a nuclear plant,” committee chairman S.K. Jain said after meeting chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings today. Jain is also chairman of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India.

The chief minister said the committee liked Haripur the most, but added: “We have to convince people about the need for the plant and that there is nothing to fear. We need it urgently in Bengal.”

Besides Bengal, the 12- member committee has visited Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

“We are scouting for sites for nuclear power plants in coastal areas as part of the Centre’s policy. Haripur was selected as a ‘candidate site’,” an official of Nuclear Power Corporation said.

“A study will now have to be carried out to ensure the proposed plant would not be set up on declared forest land and would not disturb marine fauna. Also, it has to be found out whether the nearest port at Haldia has the capacity to handle heavy machinery and equipment. Last but not the least, how many families would have to be compensated.”

Once this is done, a report will be sent to the Atomic Energy Commission for approval and then to the PMO. “The PMO will take the final decision in consultation with the state government,” the official said.

If a plant comes up in Bengal, it could be of 6,000-10,000 mw capacity, officials said.

But residents of Haripur, which is part of East Midnapore district, are already protesting. About 4,000 families in Majlapur, Rangmalapur, Samraibari and Mankaraipur villages fear eviction.

Villagers had prevented the committee from visiting the site last week. Land acquisition — for a nuclear plant or otherwise — is a sensitive issue in Bengal.

“There is a thriving fish-drying industry in Haripur. Where will our fishermen dry their fish? That is the only source of income for the villagers,” said Sandip Singha, secretary of the local fishermen’s body.