Fear Over Konkan
By Prabhat Sharan
26 December, 2010
The Verdict Weekly
The fear amongst the natives of Jaitapur in Konkan belt of Maharashtra
is now a constant subliminal hum emanating from slapping of serious
criminal charges as punishment for not heeding the internal protocol
devised by the government – a protocol that is never spoken in the
Natives of Jaitapur in Konkan-the green ribbon which runs across the
coastline of Maharashtra, is flaming red. The anger of people is
expanding. It is relentless, exponential, riding and rushing like the
waves of Arabian Sea which crashes on the shore.
For the Indian State neither empirical evidences of nuclear disasters
or people’s anger has any place in its deranged experiment. After
being hounded out from various parts of country and forced to put its
plan for nuclear installation on hold- the Indian State has zeroed in
on Konkan belt.
The government has learnt lessons learnt from places like Haripur
mouza in East Midnapore and Gorakhpur where it had tried to usurp 700
acres and 1000 acres respectively for Nuclear Power Corporation of
India Ltd (NPCIL,) plans.
Today, it has converted Jaitapur into a concentration camp. Charges
are being slapped on protestors and now there are more armed policemen
than the natives whose eyes glint in the twilight paths with the fear
of a helpless animal pinned in the headlights of an oncoming truck
full of armed men.
The fear amongst the natives is now a constant subliminal hum
emanating from slapping of serious criminal charges as a punishment
for not heeding the internal protocol devised by the government- a
protocol that is never spoken in the press.
The area is cordoned off, and outsiders read ‘unauthorised,’ people
are not allowed in the region where NPCIL has decided to put up
Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant (JNPP) having 6 reactors, each of 1650
MWe totalling 9,900 MWe. Two reactors have already been approved in
the first phase.
With just a tokenism of support from the establishment press having an
attention span of gnat, and politicians of various hues dancing out
political businesses in the region, the people of the area are slowly
being reduced to semiotic ghosts.
The Bhopal gas tragedy preys on everybody’s mind and ironically this
time it is the women who have taken up the fight. Talking to The
Verdict, Comrade Vaishali Patil of Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi
Samiti (KVPVS,) from Madban said that a criminal technology with a
proven killing record is being carved out and installed with all kind
of lies and stories framed in sci-fi imagery that permeates the
“Scientists themselves are talking politics and what we see here is a
concentration camp… the state government is forcibly acquiring the
land at Madban, Karel, Niveli and Mithgavhane in Rajapur Taluka.
Locals till now are opposing and protesting the forcible land
acquisition democratically. But the government does not seem to know
any kind of democratic methods…a silent genocide, ethnocide and
ecocide is being carried out.”
In May this year, a public hearing was held where villagers spoke
against the project. Strangely, despite sans any clearance from the
Ministry of Environment and Foresty, NPCIl and Maharashtra government
started issuing tenders for geological surveys and construction of
compound wall building near Niveli village, “as if people’s voice does
not matter at all.”
With the initiation of work on sites, eruption of a confrontation was
inevitable. And in August, the inevitable happened between the
contractor and his men on one side and villagers on the other side.
And as expected police waiting in the wings swung into action and
started picking up villagers. According to Vaishali Patil, when
villagers tried to point out to the authorities as well as the
contractor about the non-clearance from MoEF, 40 FIR were filed
against the locals.
According to activists, “It is surprising that while on one hand
government expects us to use democratic methods for airing our views
and grievances, for smothering our voices it uses strong-arm tactics
and stoops to any level without any qualms. Even though the anger is
slowly corroding the daily lives of locals, we are still attempting to
walk on democratic paths.”
Till date neither the Centre nor the State nor NPCIL has bothered to
answer queries raised by locals. According to leaders from KVPVS-the
umbrella organization of various protest movements in Konkan, the
French firm Areva which has been asked to set up the nuclear reactors
in Jaitapur, was recently penalized by nuclear regulatory authority of
Finland for its flawed design and construction of reactors.
Moreover, sometime back even France, found serious difficulty in
maintaining safety at its nuclear infrastructures. A couple of years
back, in Romans-sur-Isere in Southeastern France, Uranium-bearing
liquid leaked from an underground pipe of Areva’s nuclear plant. The
cleaning up operation is still on, according to reports.
Moreover, Ms Patil points out that Konkan region is a seismic zone and
the site selected for JNPP falls under seismic zone 4. “The tremors
experienced over the years in Koyna valley and Ratnagiri district
makes the site inappropriate for a nuclear power plant. Lacs of liters
of sea water sucked in and released into sea at higher temperature
everyday will severely damage marine aquatic life. Fish & fishing will
be in danger. The increased temperatures of the surroundings,
billowing clouds of steam, will endanger and destroy the well
developed mango, cashew, other horticulture, forests and also health
of people. Considering all the factors, it is an obvious inference
that the site selection is unscientific and dangerous.”
She also points out that apart from this “there are 8 coal-based
thermal power plants of 23,000 MWe capacity proposed in Raigad,
Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts. The State Government has also
accorded permissions to mining projects in Mandangad, Dapoli and
Dodamarg talukas. Huge piles of stored coal and fly ash will
contaminate of water bodies in the surroundings. The pollutants e.g.
Sulphur dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Carbon monoxide and Carbon dioxide
along with Arsenic, Cadmium will spread over 25~30 km and contaminate
air, soil, water. These proposed projects will result in destruction
of ecology and means of livelihood of toiling masses of Konkan. CRZ
norms will be violated.”
In its study paper, KVPVS points out, “…the risk associated with
nuclear power which is usually long-term effects is not just confined
to human beings but also to the trees, livestock, fish and environs.
Exposure to radioactivity leads to the increase in incidence of
tumors, cancer, infertility, congenital deformities, stillbirths etc.
The most serious matter is that due to genetic mutations these can be
transmitted through generations. An even more monstrous problem is
that of safe storage of nuclear waste. Finally, considering the
complexity of the technology of a nuclear reactor, there is no way to
ensure that a serious accident at a nuclear power plant will not take
place. An accident at a nuclear power plant is not a simple accident;
it affects the very sustainability of life on Planet Earth. Nuclear
energy is also no less harmful in greenhouse gas emissions as compared
to coal or gas fired electricity generation, when the entire nuclear
cycle from uranium mining to waste storage is considered.”
Maybe, in the process of ravaging, pillaging and destruction some
places might be preserved as a kind of historical park for the future
generations to show what once was-Konkan with semiotic phantom bits of
cultural imagery also added to it. And natives probably would be left
with mementoes of a scorched out decayed existence and a life not
And if at all a nuclear disaster does strike then the middle-class
which tom-tomms about the much-bandied and abused word ‘development,’
may find themselves snuffed out and maybe the nuclear proponents
sitting in Delhi, will spin out platitudes and rake in monies on the
howls, cries and deaths of radioactive corroded bodies in cheap
March 16, 1979: Hollywood film “China Syndrome,” hits the screen in
USA cities. The film revolves on an impending nuclear disaster in one
of the plants. The nuclear hawks and proponents dismiss it and term it
as “an exaggeration, pseudo-science and a hypothetical improbability.”
Twelve days later. March 16, 1979, in an island just 10 miles from
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, disaster struck in Three Mile Island.
Though no fatalities were reported, till date nobody is sure as to
what effects radioactive water released in Susquehanna river at the
time have had on the people living in vicinity. Thirty-one years have
passed since the disaster and no
April 26, 1986, near Kiev in Ukraine, one of the worst nuclear
disasters occurred. The effects are still to be assessed. Twelve
years later in Tokaimura in Japan over a 100 people were hospitalized
and two workers exposed to radiation during the disaster in the
nuclear plant died.
The list is long and it goes back to 1952 when the first recorded
disaster occurred on in the Chalk river experimental nuclear plant in
Canada. Five years later in the Great Britain’s Windscale reprocessing
plant (Sellafield) three tones of uranium caught fire. The effect:
over 200 people developed terminal cancer. The exact magnitude could
not be ascertained as the radiation spread hundreds of miles across
Facts and Figures
• Over the past 60 years, the standards set for occupational exposure
has dropped from 30 rems per year in 1934 to 5 rems per year in 1987.
These changes in the exposure limits were dramatically altered, as the
health effects of radiation became further understood.
• Single radiation doses of over about 1 gray can cause radiation
sickness. Acute effects include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea,
sometimes accompanied by malaise, fever, and hemorrhage. The victim
may die in a few hours, days or weeks. Other acute effects can include
sterility and radiation burns, depending on the absorbed dose and the
rate of the exposure.
• For radiation doses less than about 1 sievert, stochastic, or
random, effects are of the greatest concern. Cancer and inheritable
genetic damage may appear many years or decades after exposure.
Estimates of the magnitude of low-dose radiation effects have tended
to rise over the years, but remain the subject of controversy. That
Chernobyl is giving rise to a new range of deformations and that
cancer in the United States is becoming an epidemic, provides new
opportunities to assess the health risks of routine exposure from
leaks in commercial power plants, nuclear weapons production
facilities, uranium mines and test sites.
• The largest source of radioactive waste threatening human health and
genomes is the tailings resulting from uranium mining. These mines are
often in indigenous communities with lower than adequate public health
monitoring and medical facilities.
• Approximately 2,051 nuclear weapons were detonated in the pursuit of
'security' between 1945 and 1995, an average of one every 9 days
during a 50 year period. The 423 above ground tests are estimated to
have put 11-13 million curies of strontium-90, 17-21 million curies of
cesium-137, 10 million curies of carbon-14 and 225,000 curies of
plutonium into the environment.
• The US National Cancer Institute released a report in 1997 revealing
that iodine-131 from nuclear testing was found in every single county
of the United States.
• Temporary sterility in men can occur with a single absorbed dose, of
about 0.15 grays, to the testis. In children, the threshold for
congenital (existing at or dating from birth) malformation and other
developmental abnormalities has been estimated to be 0.25 grays of
radiation exposure up to 28 days of gestation.
• The dose at which half the exposed population would die in 60 days
without medical treatment is called the LD50 dose (LD for lethal dose,
and 50 for 50 percent). It is about 4 seiverts for adults.
Reaching Critical Will- Health Effects and the Nuclear Age.
Prabhat Sharan is a Senior Journalist with interest in social, working
class, wild-life conservation, media, philosophical and literary
studies. He can be contacted at email@example.com.