The narrow roads in this fishing village wind down to a crisp blue creek full of frenetic activity. Across the creek is the location of the proposed Jaitapur project being built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).
There is a primary fishing school run by the government and trainees can be seen in the campus repairing bright red nets. Near the creek, Kamal and Abdul Rashid repair their old nets. “Yes, we have heard about the nuclear project. I think it will finish fishing in our area,” Kamal says. The first reactor of the nearly 10,000 MWe nuclear project will be set up by 2017.
It is evening and Liyakat Solkar is all set to go on a fishing trip. He has a steel tiffin box and a small plastic bag with some belongings. “Sometimes I feel, what is the use of opposing this project? It is a big project; the government has sanctioned it. But on the other side, it will wipe us out. Today we are self-sufficient. At the worst, we can walk down to the creek and grab a handful of fish and eat it with rice,” Mr. Solkar says as he sets off into the dusk.
Already, there are examples of the fish catch reducing in the sea as a result of projects in the Dabhol and Pawas creeks nearby. There are about 4500 fisherfolk in this village. Mr. Solkar supplies fish to a major exporter. “People make about Rs.1 lakh to Rs.5 lakh per trip,” he adds.
The 10 to 12 villages in the vicinity of the project will be affected, according to Amjad Abdul Latif Borkar, former chairperson of the Sakhri Nate Machchimar Society. The annual turnover for fishing in these villages is about Rs.15 crore. In Nate alone there are 200 big trawlers and 250 small boats. Nearly 6,000 people depend on fishing in the area and more than 10,000 are indirectly benefited.
“The used water from the nuclear plant will be dumped into the sea through a pipe, and while its temperature should be about five degrees Celsius, who will ensure that it is maintained?” Mr. Borkar says. “Government officials come here and tempt people with contracts and jobs, but how many people can the plant really employ?”
At a recent protest meeting in Sakhri Nate, activists managed to gather the entire village, including the women who rarely speak up. Hamid Abdur Rehman says: “We don’t want this project. Our future generations will be affected.”
The residential complex for the project will be spread over Karel, Niveli and Mithgavane. Dattaram Narayan Dalvi and his wife Darshana stand to lose two acres to the project in Karel. “We refuse to accept the compensation cheques. We are dependent on the land and we don’t have anyone working in Mumbai to help us,” Ms. Dalvi says.
In Niveli village, Anil Tirlotkar’s father Jagannath has received a letter saying he will get Rs.1.78 lakh for his land. “We have to divide this money among so many claimants in the family. I will get about Rs.16,000,” Mr. Anil Tirlotkar says. “We got a notice in 2007 for a survey of the land. Later we were asked to be present for a joint survey, but they did not let us anywhere near the survey,” he adds.
According to the official note, about 185 landowners from the village will get Rs.55.91 lakh. The NPCIL has deposited Rs.16 crore with the government for compensation to all those affected, but there are no takers yet.
“Is this how projects are done? Are we living in a democracy? This is worse than the British,” Keru Katkar says.
In Mithgavane, Dr. Milind Desai, who is spearheading the protest, says: “Background radiation from this massive project is a concern. We feel water, air, everything will be polluted. Why is this lovely coastline chosen for a dangerous project? They can’t give us simple processing units for our fruit crop. We would have given land free for any other project but not this one.”
The villagers have filed two writ petitions against the project, but the Bombay High Court did not give them any relief. The first case was withdrawn and in the second, Justices Ranjana Desai and A.A. Sayed dismissed the petition on August 13, 2009.
The project will use 100 cubic metres of sea water per second per unit, says C.B. Jain, project director of the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the limit of the temperature of water should not exceed seven degrees Celsius.
The NPCIL will build a pipeline extending 1.5 km long and 40 metres below the sea bed to dispose of used water for the first two reactors. The NPCIL has said fishing will not be affected as it has commissioned a study which indicates that the released water temperatures will be a maximum of three to four degrees Celsius and that too for two months in a year.
The College of Fisheries in Ratnagiri has also submitted a report as part of the Environment Impact Assessment saying that fishing will not be affected.
Studies have ruled out any adverse impact on the biodiversity of the area as well, Mr. Jain said.
The villagers, however, will continue to fear the worst.