Will 'Sheila' the big fish survive?

Will 'Sheila' the big fish survive?

Fishermen along this fragile tsunami-hit sea coast are already improvising ‘Opparis’ for their favourite, high value yielding fish varieties, the royal among them being ‘Sheila’ that can weigh up to 20 kg a piece.

‘Valli Vaalai meen’, ‘Paarai meen’ and ‘Kooni Iral’ (a special type of prawn found in the seas here and in high export demand), are the other valuable species of the locals’ fisheries stock which they fear will all perish if the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) starts functioning.

On top of chemical units like ‘Sterlite Copper’, ‘SPIC’ and DCW, upstream of Kudankulam coast already polluting the sea waters, even the slightest radioactive material mixing “will seriously endanger our lovely fish varieties,” says veteran fisherman, Ignacius. Also, the coolant water when released from the reactors into the sea would increase the sea-water temperature to the detriment of our fishes, he argued.

Having seen the rough seas for over five decades now, Ignacius was not impressed when the KNPP authorities had years back brought a couple of fishermen from Kalpakkam, the site of another nuclear project near Chennai, to convince their local brethren that a nuclear plant does no harm to fish.

“But their fears are unfounded as there is no proof so far that fish species have got dwindled by locating a nuclear power plant on the coast,” says Rajasekhar, a nuclear scientist, formerly with the Madras Atomic Power Station at Kalpakkam and now working in the Fast Reactor programme there.

 “Along the Kalpakkam coast, there has been no significant change in the availability of fish so far,” avers Rajasekhar. Fears of side-effects from possible radioactive contamination are also refuted by him, saying, “We live along with the fishermen, eat the same fish, buy the same vegetables and drink the same water in Kalpakkam.

” Also, the ‘coolant water’ from the reactors that is let into the sea through a 2 km-long separate channel, does not touch any of the radioactive materials inside the reactor but used only for taking off the outer heating,” added Rajasekhar to ally fishermen’s fears.

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