“We are totally opposed to the project and want no money”

Villagers opposing the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project in the Konkan region of Maharashtra have refused the enhanced compensation package announced by State Power Minister Ajit Pawar in the Legislative Council last week. At a recent press conference, the Madban Jaitapur Mithgavane Panchkroshi Sangharsh Samiti said it did not know which three Members of the Legislative Council had asked questions about compensation in the House, and that it had never been contacted by them.

A resident of Madban, Premanand Tivarkar, whose land has been acquired for the project, said that till now few political leaders had taken note of their agitation; and nobody from the affected villages had demanded increased rates for the land. “It is misleading to state in the Council that we have asked for more money. That is not the case. We are totally opposed to the project and want no money,” he clarified.

He submitted that land was forcibly acquired for the largest nuclear power plant in the world at Jaitapur and people were opposed to the project. In April, Shashikant Keshav Joshi, a resident of Karel, one of the affected villages, filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court, alleging that his land was acquired forcibly, that the site of the project was earthquake-prone, and the location a security threat. Mr. Joshi said he was offered Rs. 25 lakh as compensation for 47 hectares of land, but he had refused it. He also showed that his land records had the stamp of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), the enterprise building the project.

NPCIL has acquired 938.026 hectares from five villages in Ratnagiri district for the project.

Satyajit Chavan from the Samiti said the local people were not interested in either jobs or more money for their land. No one had accepted the compensation package as yet, it was submitted. At a public hearing in Madban in May, some 600 objections were filed to the authorities but no cognisance had been taken. The report of the public hearing, which had turned chaotic, was not available even after a request under the Right to Information Act. He said the government had so far ignored the protests of the people, adding that the people were willing to lay down their lives for the project, if necessary.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, members of the Konkan Bachao Samiti (KBS), S. Banerjee, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission, S.K. Jain, Chairman of NPCIL, and representatives of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) met Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh. KBS told Mr. Ramesh that it was not satisfied with the outcome of the earlier meeting between NPCIL and KBS on July 9 in Mumbai, as NPCIL had not provided the information needed for a scientific discussion. KBS reiterated that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared by NEERI was an unscientific document that must be rejected.

Template for future

Mr. Ramesh stated that his Ministry would ensure that all relevant information was shared in a transparent manner and that this project would set in place a template for considering all such projects. He agreed that there must be a make or break tariff beyond which the project would not be given approval. This tariff must be comparable with the tariffs of Greenfield natural gas and imported coal-based power plants coming up in the region. He asked NPCIL to discuss this issue in detail with KBS.

Mr. Ramesh asked NPCIL to give a written response to the detailed submissions made by KBS at the time of the public hearing. A period of two weeks for giving the written response was agreed upon, after which KBS and NPCIL will again meet for further discussions and clarifications on the issues raised. KBS will be given a hearing in mid-August, when the Expert Appraisal Committee considered the EIA.