Take locals into confidence on Jaitapur: MPCC tells Maha govt

The visit by the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), led by Hussain Dalwai, comes in the wake of a social impact assessment report which has slammed the project contending that it would have a negative social and environmental impact on nearby villages.

The 40-page report, compiled by a disaster management centre of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), has analysed the social impact the project would have on seven villages where the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd is in the process of acquiring about 968 hectares of land.

The report by social scientists of TISS suggest that a large part of land to be acquired for the project is being used for agriculture, horticulture and grazing purposes, which the government had termed as barren land.

"As we understand, one thing is very clear... the government should have taken the people into confidence before we began this project," said Dalwai, who along with five others, held meetings at Jaitapur and Sakharinata.

"There is utter confusion in the minds of the people. Also, there is fear. So, we wanted to find out what is the truth," he said.

Dalwai said he had read reports of locals being arrested by the state police and externed from the villages for protesting against the project.

Dalwai said he had also explained to the people about the conditional clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the project.

"We have also to clear the fear in the minds of fishermen who think that the project will take away their livelihood and whether they can go fishing in the areas," he said.

Dalwai said he would brief Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan about his visit and the people's expectations and apprehensions.

"The Chief Minister is ready to talk to us on this. We will try to release all the locals and activists who are in police custody," he said.

"There are political parties which have never agreed with the fact that our Prime Minister concluded the most successful civil nuclear agreement, of which Jaitapur is the first one," Ramesh said attacking the opponents of the project.

Acknowledging that "there are some problems" associated with land acquisition, Ramesh said these would be looked into by the Maharashtra Chief Minister "more sensitively. We have to take local communities along with us."

His comments came in the backdrop of senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat demanding a re-look into the conditional environmental clearance given to the nuclear plant.

They said it has created a "great deal of disquiet" among locals as well as others across the country.

"There are issues of safety. More importantly there are issues of environment and a conditional clearance given by the Environment Ministry is not enough. Minister Jairam Ramesh is on a mission mode and is trying to implement policies in that mode.

"Therefore, I was quite surprised, indeed shocked and I found that he has even given conditional clearance of the plant. It definitely calls for a re-look," Sinha said.

An impact assessment report by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has warned that the project will have a "huge negative impact on social and environment development" as it is sitting on a high to moderate severity earthquake zone.

The report compiled by a TISS social scientist Mahesh Kamble highlighted the people's demand for more transparency from the government on the project.

"The code set by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for site selection for setting up of nuclear power plant (NPP) prescribes that there should not be any active geological fault within 5-km radius from the proposed site of NPP," NPCIL spokesperson N Nagaich said.

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