Villagers protest against Jaitapur nuclear power plant

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Villagers protest against Jaitapur nuclear power plant
Ratnagiri:  As farmers' protests boil over in Ratnagiri, threatening to delay the 9,900 megawatt Jaitapur nuclear power plant - said to be the world's largest - a concerned Maharashtra government dispatched a Congress team to Ground Zero.

"A Congress committee is going to Jaitapur tomorrow. The committee will talk to locals and fishermen there. We will listen to their views and problems," Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said.

It has been a month since the Union Environment Ministry gave a conditional go-ahead to the Jaitapur plant. Yet, on the ground, the protests refuse to die down.

"People who have faced the effects of a nuclear power project in their vicinity told us that this is a devastating project. They said that our next generation will have nothing to live and survive on. We will lose our paddy fields, our plantations and orchards and we will die of hunger," said Umakant Kambli, a resident of Madban village, Ratnagiri.

"We will die but won't let this project come up," said Manda Laxman Wadekar, former Sarpanch.

There is a sense of mistrust against the government. People here say they were not taken into confidence regarding the project, their lands were forcefully taken away, and their democratic protests were illegally thwarted.

Experts have already said that building, safeguarding and providing imported fuel to the reactor will be so costly that power from Jaitapur will be unaffordable.

"In the case of coal-based projects, each new megawatt generation costs Rs 5 crore per megawatt. In the case of Jaitapur it will be Rs 20 crore per megawatt," said Dr E A S Sarma, former Secretary, Union Ministry of Power.

Now villagers allege the project has neither planned storage and disposal of its nuclear waste, nor a draft on how to ecologically protect Ratnagiri - a region of rich agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and biodiversity.

Without these plans in place, they say, letting the project come up will be suicidal.


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