NGT notice to Centre, NPCIL on plea against Kaiga

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The National Green Tribunal on Thursday issued notice to the Centre and Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) on a plea questioning the environmental clearance to expansion and enhancement plans of the Kaiga Atomic Power Project in Uttara Kannada district, in disregard to ‘catastrophic risk’ and adverse impact on the eco-sensitive Western Ghats.

The Green Tribunal bench of Southern Zone, at Chennai, headed by K Ramakrishnan and comprising technical member Saibal Das Gupta, sought a response from the Union government and the NPCIL on a joint appeal by Kaiga Anuvidyut Sthawarad Ghataka Virodhi Horata Samiti, Kadra Anekattina Nirashrtar Sangha and Kaiga Kali Santrastara Sangha. The Green Tribunal put the matter for further consideration on January 28, 2020.

The local organisations, represented by senior advocate Devadatt Kamat, challenged the validity of the grant of environmental clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of August 5, 2019, for expansion of the capacity of Kaiga Units 5 and 6 from 235 MW to 700 MW each.

“Clearance has not taken into account the adverse environmental impact likely to be caused as a result of laying 100-km-long power transmission lines on a 75-meter wide corridor through the dense tropical forests of the Western Ghats surrounding the project site, which is in an eco-sensitive zone,” they claimed.

This would also require clearing of forest area in order to create evacuation path for the power generated in an area within 10 km from the boundary of Anshi National Park, which has been granted the status of a tiger sanctuary, and also considered as an eco-sensitive zone by various studies.

Maintaining that expansion of Kaiga will be catastrophic for the biodiversity of the area, having its effects on Karnataka, India and even the world, the appellants claimed the nuclear power posed many threats to people and the environment, including health risks and damage from uranium mining processing and transport, the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation or, sabotage, and the unsolved problem of radioactive nuclear waste.

The petitioners, also represented by advocates Javedur Rahman and B S Pai, pointed out the environmental clearance was against the NGT’s previous orders for maintaining the eco-sensitive zone of Western Ghats. They said the public hearing in the matter was conducted at NPCIL township, 18 km away from the villages likely to be affected by it.

They also pointed out the forest cover in the Uttara Kannada district, where Kaiga plant is located, has already come down from 70% of the land area in the 1950s to less than 25% now due to various projects including the Konkan Railway, sea-bird naval base, national highways, industries, many dam-based hydel projects, and the atomic power plant, since 2000.

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