KOLKATA, 22 MAY: For the Atomic Energy Commission chief, displacement of about 10,000 people in 19 villages in the Haripur-Junput area for setting up of the proposed nuclear power plant is “too less”. Mr Srikumar Banerjee, secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, said that the site was chosen for the proposed nuclear power plant as there would be less displacement. Less cultivable land and proximity to the sea were two other reasons cited by him for selecting the area for the project.
It should be noted that the area earmarked for the plant and what Mr Banerjee called less cultivable is a producer and exporter of agricultural products like paddy, vegetables, betel nut, betel leaves, coconuts and spices. Infuriated over the “irresponsible” comments made by the nuke chief, the members of the civil society who have been agitating against setting up of the power plant came down heavily on him saying that if the concerns of the common people are not heeded, Haripur would follow the line of Jaitapur where a fisherman was killed in police firing while agitating against the nuclear plant.
The proposed Haripur nuclear power plant is expected to have six nuclear reactors each of 1650 MW ~ a total installed capacity of 10,000 MW of electricity. A minimum of 1,000 acres of land will have to be acquired for the proposed plant in the first phase alone. The Junput fishing harbour would fall in this zone.
Ms Anuradha Talwar, activist, said that 1,059 families in 26 villages, all within 2 km of the spot that has been marked by surveyors presumably for the nuclear plant, shows the dependence of the families on the natural resources of the area. “According to a survey conducted by us only 0.5% out of the 1,059 families had no objection to the plant,” she added. Eighty-six per cent of the families have given their main occupation as agriculture or fishing, in the survey. There has been no public consultation, she added. Mr Pradeep Chaterjee, secretary of the National Fishworkers’ Forum, said that the discharge of hot water from the plant into the sea would sound a death knell for the fishing activities, especially for the traditional fishermen in the region. Mr Banerjee had said that for Bay of Bengal the acceptability of temperature rise due to discharge of plant water has been kept at 7 degrees Celsius. However, with such rise in temperature within 500m to 1 km radius of the discharge point, fish would migrate and a lot of marine species face the threat of extinction.
At least 15,000-20,000 people will be affected directly in the fishing industry. Apart from sea-based fishing activities and farming, a number of salt factories have been supplying natural sun-dried salt to various parts of India as well as many Asian and European countries. About 15 per cent of the salt supplies of West Bengal come from Contai.
Interestingly, before the election, chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee had said she will scrap the project if her party came to power in the state. The project is yet to get a Cabinet clearance and its fate is now questionable as the chief minister is a key ally of the UPA.