As grant of clearance for N-power plant at Mithi Virdi is pending, CRZ nod to it is arbitrary, without jurisdiction

mithi virdiBy Krishnakant*

A case-appeal has been filed against the order of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and others granting CRZ clearance for establishment of intake and outfall facility for proposed 6000 MWe Nuclear Power Plant at Mithi Virdi, District Bhavnagar, Gujarat by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) vide order in F 11-23 /2014-IA- III dated March 3, 2015. The case-appeal in the National Green Tribunal at Western Bench at Pune is filed by Shaktisinh Gohil, Sarpanch of Jasapara; Hajabhai Dihora of Mithi Virdi; Jagrutiben Gohil of Jasapara; Krishnakant and Rohit Prajapati activist of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a notice to the MoEF&CC, Gujarat Pollution Control Board, Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and case is kept for hearing on August 20, 2015. Appeal No. 23 of 2015 (WZ) is filed, and as the order was challenge late by some days, a condonation of delay application MA No. 82 of 2015 (WZ) was filed before the Pune bench of NGT. The NGT will hear first the condonation of delay application — MA No 82 and then after Appeal No. 23 of 2015 (WZ).

The  NPCIL has proposed to set up 6×1000 MWe, capacity Light Water Reactor (LWR) type Nuclear Power Plants at Mithi Virdi in Talaja Taluka of Bhavnagar District, Gujarat State. It is being set up about 40 km from Bhavnagar and is located on the sea coast on the western side of the Gulf of Khambhat and will be spread across 777 hectares (ha). Out of 777 ha, a total of 603 ha area falls under prime agricultural, three-crop land, and the remaining land includes forest, scrub land and water body.

The site is located on the western coast of the Gulf of Khambhat. The NPCIL will use 4.25% enriched uranium as their fuel and will use the sea water for their condenser and primary cooling purposes. The reactors are named AP-1000. This type of reactor does not have a previous operating experience. Toshiba-owned Westinghouse Company of the USA is the designer and manufacturer.

Following are the main contentions raised in Appeal No 23 / 2015 (WZ):

1. The CRZ clearance order is without jurisdiction as the present project is one which requires Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Clearance under the EIA notification 2006 and the recommendation of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) ought to have been forwarded to the EAC dealing with Nuclear Power Plants so that a comprehensive view of the matter could have been taken. Further, when the grant of clearance for the main project is pending consideration, grant of CRZ clearance for the establishment of intake and outfall facility for Nuclear Power Plant at Mithi Virdi, District Bhavnagar, is arbitrary and without jurisdiction.

The CRZ clearance order is passed without taking into consideration that the EAC for the Main Plant has found the EIA to be inadequate and has requested for more studies. EAC has also sought explanation from NPCIL as to why site clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) was not obtained before submission for getting Environment Clearance. The committee also pointed out that the EIA report did not contain any “base-line radioactivity data for milk samples” and asked NPCIL to conduct the study for it. The EAC also wanted NPCIL to provide information regarding the model used for radioactivity dispersion and impact of two hills near the site for atmospheric dispersion. It took strong exception to the fact that only eight water samples were collected, and even the “season of collection” was not mentioned, asking the NPCIL to “collect data for three seasons and submit the revised report”.

2. The committee made it clear that the proposal will be reconsidered only after submission of the information sought. “As per the existing criteria, the proposal will be considered for EC [Environmental Clearance] only after submission of site clearance and approval of the forest land under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,” it observed. It also suggested constitution of a sub-committee which would visit the site of the Nuclear Power Plant to assess sensitivity in the surrounding environment and suggest protection measures to further improve the environment. It is shocking that the impugned CRZ clearance has been granted without the NPCIL having submitted any of the additional information and data collection as stipulated by the EAC.

3. The foreshore activities contemplated in the integrated project are as follows: 1. Jetty 2. Desalination plant 3. Intake and outfall channels. The impugned order has granted clearance only to one of the foreshore facilities, viz. intake and outfall channels, and it has no mention of the other two facilities. This kind of piecemeal consideration of the project leads to a misleading appreciation of the environmental impacts to marine ecology and defeats the very purpose of obtaining a clearance under the CRZ notification.

4. The EAC for CRZ Clearance ought to have considered comprehensively the impact and desirability of all the three foreshore facilities along with the likely impact of the main plant on marine ecology before passing the impugned order.

5. The CRZ clearance has been given based on the studies conducted by an agency whose accreditation application was rejected.

6. The CRZ clearance has been granted without taking into consideration the cumulative impact and the consequences of other development projects within 30 km radius from where the intake and outfall channels are to be located.

7. The proposed Nuclear Power Plant is just next to Alang–Sosiya is the largest ship-scraping yard in the world, established in the year 1982. The yard is about 14.3 km long, north-south, and covers a total area of approximately 67 km2. There are 192 plots which carry out ship-recycling activities. Alang Sector houses 112 plots and the Sosiya Sector houses 80 plots 34. The boundary of the Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant is just 700 meters north of the Sosiya Sector boundary of the Alang-Sosiya Ship Breaking Yard (ASSBY). ASSBY dismantles cargo vessels, oil tankers, passenger liners and even warships.

Every year on an average of 365 ships are scrapped. It takes one or one and half a day to dismantle a normal 10,000–13,000 ton ship. Combustible solid waste is around 83% of the total solid waste available at the yard. Among the combustible waste, wood and its associated products were found to be greatest in weight followed by cotton wool and synthetic polymer wastes. The waste includes certain toxic substances including, glass wool, thermocol, scarped paints, oiled sponge etc., which create disposal problems. Concentrations of total petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals is high in the ASSBY coast compared to stations 5 Km away north and south.

Concentration of all these three compounds was highest in winter followed by monsoons and summer. At present the scrapped material is dumped along the coast without proper treatment. Moreover, the waste is carried by tides into the intertidal zone and the possibility of the waste entering into the marine environment, during the highest high tide is not ruled out.  The presence of higher quantities of solid wastes at the eastern fringe of the Sosiya sector means that they will pose considerable problems for the condenser cooling sea water structures of the Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant.

8. The opposite sides of the coast are several of the nation’s critically and severely polluted industrial clusters like those of Vatva, Vadodara, Ankleshwar, and Vapi.

And many more points. The struggle against the proposed Nuclear Power Plant is going on since 2007 and now the villagers have unanimously decided to give legal fight in the court also.

On August 9 (Hiroshima and Nagasaki Day) at Bhavnagar the villagers had distributed the leaflet among the people of Bhavnagar about the disastrous ill effect of Nuclear Power Plants and spread the message about the ongoing struggle on the street and in the court.

*Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara

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