Mumbai: The controversy over the proposed nuclear power plant in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur is refusing to die down despite Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan defending the 9,900 mega watt project on Wednesday.
Ruling out a rethink on the clearance given by his ministry– with 35 conditions and safeguards - to the mega project – dubbed as the biggest of its kind in the world – Ramesh questioned the opposition by some political parties to the project by saying that many “people” have different agendas in Jaitapur as they were not happy with the successes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in clinching the Indo-US nuke deal; crucial to solve the energy needs of the country.
“There are some problems with land acquisition which is being addressed by the Chief Minister. As far as environmental clearance is concerned, we have done all we could have done,” he said.
Jairam also opined that the opposition is using the environment debate to gain political mileage.
Last month while clearing the project, Ramesh had said, “Economic growth, fuel mix diversification, global diplomacy and environmental protection were the key objectives while giving the go-ahead.”
Meanwhile in Mumbai, Chief Minister Chavan said he will convene a meeting of local legislators and NGOs to discuss the Jaitapur nuclear power plant coming up in Ratnagiri district of Konkan region.
"There are a lot of misunderstandings about the project which need to be cleared," Chavan told reporters.
"I plan to convene a meeting to clear apprehensions about the project after which I will personally visit to the plant site. A team of experts will also be invited for the meeting," Chavan said.
However, the state unit of the party seems to be not on the same page with him on the issue as Congress’ fact-finding team, sent to the project area today to asses the situation, has, as per reports, asked the government to rethink on the clearance given to the project..
The state government’s concern is understandable as farmers and activists have been up in arms against the project, with civil society groups like the Konkan Bachao Samiti being very vocal about the 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.
The Opposition in Maharashtra has been gunning for the state government for clearing the project. They claimed that the government has buckled under international pressure to grant sanction to the project.
However, the state government - before today’s development - had always sounded fully convinced about the utility of the project and had slammed the opponents by contending that the project is a clean way to meet the developmental needs of the power deficit state.
What has added to the worries of the state government is that the impact assessment report prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has strongly criticised the proposed nuclear power plant.
“The plant will be a disaster for the region if allowed to be built”, the report said. It also pointed out that the Jaitapur project area is an earthquake prone zone.
As per the report, 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 ecologically sensitive Konkan region in general.
The findings suggest that “the government subverted facts and showed called fertile agricultural land barren”.
The Jaitapur nuclear power project in Ratnagiri district being built under an agreement between India and France is expected to be the biggest in the world and 10 times that of Chernobyl. The agreement was signed 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.