Mumbai: Controversy is once again brewing over the plan to build a mega nuclear power plant in Jaitapur in Maharashtra with the state government rubbishing the concerns raised by the opposition and environmentalist over the safety of the project.
India and France had signed the agreement on the 9,900 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project -- expected to be the biggest in the world and 10 times that of Chernobyl, during French President Nicolas Sarkozy`s visit to India earlier this month.
To be built in collaboration with French nuclear energy giant Arevo, the project is being billed as the first fruit of India`s civil nuclear agreement with France and the Nuclear Power Corporation is expecting that the first unit of the project will be commissioned in 2017-18.
Importantly, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has already given its go ahead to the project - with 35 conditions and safeguards. Minister Jairam Ramesh said, “Economic growth, fuel mix diversification, global diplomacy and environmental protection were the key objectives while giving the go-ahead.”
Jaitapur is in Ratnagiri district in the ecologically sensitive Konkan region of the state.
However, the project ran into controversy after many environmentalists questioned the clearances given by the MoEF. Although most aggress that it is the cleanest form to generate energy but many are concerned about the huge negative impact on the social and environmental development in the region.
Civil society groups like the Konkan Bachao Samiti have come out in the open with their worries over the radiological safety of the nuclear plant and its impact on the environment.
They have also pointed "faults" in the environmental impact assessment report prepared by the National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) alleging that it is based on generic and incomplete inputs on radioactive threats.
Moreover, as per a report quoted by a news channel, the Jamshetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has revealed that the plant will be a disaster for the region if allowed to be built.
The report has indicated that the project — which requires about 968 hectares of land panning five villages — will have a huge negative impact on the social as well as environmental development of not just these villages and the surrounding areas, but also on the Konkan region in general.
The opposition has also taken on the state government over the project and has claimed that the government is buckling under international pressure to grant sanction to the project.
However, the state government appears fully convinced about the utility of the project and has slammed the opponents by contending that the project is a clean way to meet the developmental needs of the power deficit state.