Casual approach of the authorities towards the nuclear power project in Mithi Virdi, Gujarat, can lead to a major nuclear disaster

Shaktisinh Gohil, sarpanch, Jaspara village
Shaktisinh Gohil, sarpanch, Jaspara village

In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Barack Obama, four sarpanches – Shaktisinh H Gohil of Jaspara village, Samuben Hirabhai Dabhi  of Mithi Virdi village, Vilasba Dharmendrasinh Gohil of Mandva village and Pruthvirajsinh.M. Gohil of Khadarpar village – have sought fair and open discussion on the proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant before taking any decision on the project. A before releasing the letter, on January 23, 2015 the villagers of one day fast observed against Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant by more than 300 villagers, which will be affected by the project. Text of the letter:

We are the villagers of the Mithi Virdi area of District Bhavnagar, Gujarat State, where the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), a Government of India company, seeks to install six 1000 MW (AP 1000) nuclear reactors with the joint support of the American company, Westinghouse Electric Corporation. We wish to put on record our viewpoint regarding this proposed nuclear power plant.

We are deeply concerned that NPCIL has nominated an environmental consulting firm (Engineers India Limited) lacking necessary accreditation to conduct the environmental impact assessment for Nuclear Power Plants. In fact, no agency in India is accredited to assess nuclear power projects by the National Accreditation Board for Education and Training.

In all, 152 villages with a population of more than 200,000 in 30 km radius of the proposed nuclear power plant will be “adversely affected” by the project. The main occupation of the villagers is agriculture. The rich alluvial soil here supports crops like groundnut, wheat, bajra, and cotton, and fruits like mango, chikoos and coconut.

The area also grows and supplies vegetables like onion, brinjal, gourd, tomatoes, and drumsticks on a regular basis to other parts of the state, and the climate and the soil are suitable for cashew nuts. This rich agriculture is threatened by the proposed nuclear plant. Moreover, the site of the project is about 5 km from top lignite mining site, while Asia’s biggest ship-breaking yard Alang is only a stone’s throw away, posing additional threats to public safety.

Moreover, the governing leadership of the village does not sanction this plant. On March 9, 2013 the gram Panchayats of four most-affected villages – Jaspara, Mithi Virdi, Mandva, and Khadarpar – passed a resolution declaring the entire Mithi Virdi-Jaspara region as nuclear free zone. Yet, a state official (Taluka Development Officer) unconstitutionally ordered the elected village head (Sarpanch) of Jaspara to grant approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL in a letter dated July 15, 2013.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has asked NPCIL to “revise” and “resubmit” its Environment Impact Assessment report of the project, as it lacks clarity on a large number of issues. The panel, simultaneously, criticized the NPCIL for a three year delay in the proposal for environmental clearance following “site clearance” of the project by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, and noted key coastal regulatory clearances to be missing.

Pointing towards major shortcomings in the environment impact report, the Ministry of Environment and Forests noted: the absence of “base-line radioactivity data for milk samples;” the absence of the “impact of two hills near the site on atmospheric dispersion;” only eight water samples were collected and the need to “collect data for three seasons and submit;” the location of the Near Surface Disposal Facilities (NSDF) for radioactive waste was not clear; unclear “impact on land and groundwater;” absence of current status and a detailed study of “effect of historical tsunamis;” and no copy of the no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state irrigation department “since the project is located in a command area”.

This casual approach to clearing a Nuclear Power Plant can lead to a major Nuclear disaster. Agriculture forms the backbone for human survival, and this project strikes on a very important asset of our country – the prime agricultural lands.

It is not that we are against electricity generation. But no serious thought has been given to the available sustainable alternatives for electricity generation. The solar and wind power have equal and more sustainable potential to produce electricity and that too in a decentralised manner.

Keeping in mind above facts to reiterate again, the said agency, the EIL does not have necessary accreditation to conduct EIA for Nuclear Power Plants and also other anomalies bear serious reconsideration, therefore demand the following:

  1. The concerned authority should immediately reject the present EIA of Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant of NPCIL prepared by EIL.
  2. Let us have fair and open discussion on the proposed 6000 MW Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant Project before taking any decision on the project.
  3. Consider other environmentally sustainable and non-hazardous technologies for electricity production, which can co-exist without disturbing the agricultural livelihoods.

We request you to give us date and time to explain in detail our above-mentioned points and other related points in the interest of justice.

Expecting your positive response.

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