Chennai: Former President and one of the country's top scientists APJ Abdul Kalam has given a clean chit to safety measures at the upcoming Kundankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu, and has suggested a 10-point development plan for the people of the area who have been up in arms demanding that the plant be closed as they fear for their lives and safety.
India's 'missile man' visited the upcoming nuclear plant yesterday, inspected the security measures and said he was "fully satisfied". But Mr Kalam's distinguished scientific background and his son-of-the-soil status did not cut ice with the thousands of villagers, whose protests have held up work on the Rs. 13,700-crore project for almost a month. The project is at an advanced stage, with 2 x 1000 MW nuclear reactors almost ready. With protests against the project mounting, the Tamil Nadu Cabinet too has asked for a temporary halt in work.
To address the worries of the people, Dr Kalam has also suggested a 10-point development programme, which he suggests should be implemented by 2015. The plan, which would cost about Rs 200 crore to implement, envisages building four-lane highways, a mega desalination plant and construction of houses, schools and hospitals in the are to benefit Kudankulam and its 60-odd neighbouring villages, IANS reports.
The 39-page report, which also suggests setting up industry to provide direct employment in the area, has been authored by Mr Kalam and his advisor V Ponraj and has been submitted to the Tamil Nadu and central governments. Dr Kalam's 10 points include:
- Link Kudankulam and other villages in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here, with Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Madurai.
- Industries that can provide direct employment to around 10,000 people should be located within a 30-60 km radius of Kudankulam and youth should be extended subsidised loans for starting their own business ventures, suggest Kalam and Ponraj.
- Build 'green houses', apartments for people living along the shores of Kudankulam and neighbouring areas.
- For the benefit of fishing community small jetties, fish processing units, cold storages should be built.
- Set up a one million litres per day desalination plant and also bring water from Pechiparai dam for drinking as well as agricultural use.
- Build a 500-bed hospital in Kudankulam area, set up tele-medicine hospitals in all villages and two mobile hospitals with facilities to carry out diagnostic tests.
- Set up five state board and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) stream schools with hostel facilities.
- Provide broadband connections and disaster management centre.
- Provide higher education with proper training to selected youth and place them in permanent jobs.
- Also start other schemes in consultation with the local populace.
- The report has also suggested that the government should allay fears about the plant by providing them proper information and start generation of power at Kundankulam that houses the safest reactors in the world.
An expert committee appointed by the Centre is expected to begin interaction with local communities in a bid to convince them of the plant's safety soon. Activists in the area say many issues are unsolved. "We are not just worried about the safety of the reactor, we need to know about the waste issues, the decommissioning issues, the overall freshwater issues. There are so many other issues that have been left unanswered until now," said SP Udhayakumar, Coordinator, People's Movement against Nuclear Energy.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has meanwhile pointed out that the countries which had exported the technology to India had stopped using it themselves. Party spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said that it was for the government to reassure the nation about the safety of the project and allay the fears of the people opposed to it. He, however, declined to comment on Mr Kalam's report, saying he was a respected person.
With Mr Kalam's initiatives not appearing to win hearts, the challenge for the government committee is only getting tougher.
The 2 X 1000 MW nuclear power plant is being built by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) with Russian technology and equipment.
The first unit is expected to go on stream in December. The project is estimated to cost around Rs.13,160 crore (over $2.5 billion).
(With IANS inputs)