The proposed 10,000 MW nuclear power plant at Jaitapur on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra has been a controversial one. The controversy may now see a clash between the Shiv Sena, which is opposed to the plant, and the BJP, which openly supported it earlier and subsequently switched to a position of diplomatic silence.
“We have not changed our stand on Jaitapur and we will remain with thelocal people in their opposition to the project. We are also going to meet the Prime Minister on the issue,” said Sena MP Sanjay Raut. BJP’s leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde, on the other hand, said, “Let the Sena leaders speak to the Prime Minister on the issue. He will give them a hearing and think over the issue. We are not changing our stand on Jaitapur, but we will not go against the decision of our government.”
The government has already acquired all 938 hectares of land required for the project, and 70-80 per cent of the project-affected people have received some form of compensation. However, some locals are still hopeful the project can be blocked with the Sena’s help.
“The people here do not want the project and the Sena has promised to scrap it. We believe that the Sena leaders will speak to the new government,” Amjad Borkar of Machhimar Kruti Samiti said. Bhikaji Waghdhare, sarpanch of Madban village, said “We voted for Sena on the issue and are confident that the leaders will follow it up in Delhi, as they are in power now.” The villagers have convened a meeting on June 8 and have invited Sena MPs and MLAs to pursue the matter further.
However, the activists in the protest against the Jaitapur power plant are completely disillusioned by political parties. “Shiv Sena is just playing with the emotions of the people. The party has no say in the newly-formed government at the Centre,” said Satyajit Chavan of Janhakka Samitee. He added, “But this is the time that the party should make its stand clear that they are helpless so that the activists can chalk out their own strategy on the issue.”
The project is being executed with help from France, and the two countries have agreed on the price of power from the project earlier this year. Konkan’s senior political leader Narayan Rane has expressed his support for the project, saying, “Jaitapur plant is necessary for industrial growth of Konkan.” The opposition to the project is from some locals and NGOs who fear the potential hazards from the nuclear plant. Greenpeace pointed out that, “The land for which the Jaitapur nuclear power plant is intended is classified as a seismic zone four, out of a possible five.” Seismic zone four is known as the ‘High Damage Risk Zone’, under the national system for assessing the likelihood of earthquakes. Further, documents reveal that 92 earthquakes have occurred there in just the twenty years between 1985 and 2005. The most severe one measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.
The place is also a part of the Western Ghats, which is a biodiversity hotspot.
Opinion on the health hazards from the plant is divided, with some experts reporting increased risks and others denying it. Physicist Dr Surendra Gadekar says he has found chronic health problems in villagers living near the Rawatbhata power plant. However, Dr Krishna Sainis of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre says radiation from the power plant could not be the reason for the ailments Dr Gadekar saw.