877 hectares of land will be acquired for 6,000-MW project

In the run-up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the U.S., where a ‘pre-early works agreement’ is likely to be signed with American atomic major Westinghouse for a nuclear park at Mithivirdi, farmers of five villages in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, where the company is to launch its 6,000-MW project, have decided not to part with their fertile lands.

The farmers of Mithivirdi (after which the proposed plant has been named), Jaspara, Mandva, Khadarpur and Sosiya, who are also aware of the nuclear liability controversy, have reiterated that they will resist any move to acquire their lands.

Rally on Sept. 23

They will take out a tractor rally from Jaspara to Bhavnagar, district headquarters, on September 23 and send signed affidavits in large numbers to the Union Environment Ministry.

It has been proposed to acquire 877 hectares of land: 100 hectares for administrative and residential purposes and 777 for the six nuclear plants. Officially, 152 villages in a 30-km radius from the proposed plant will be affected. “This is a double whammy for the farmers. On the one hand, you are taking away their fertile lands and, on the other, exposing them to dangers for which nobody will be responsible…,” says environmental activist Rohit Prajapati, who is camping at Mithivirdi.

“We are determined not to part with our fertile lands as this undulating coastal area in Bhavnagar yields various types of high quality fruits, including mango and chikoo. Even officially, the land is under the double crop category,” Shaktisinh Gohil, who heads the Bhavnagar Zila Gram Bachao Samiti, told The Hindu.

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), which is setting up the project, and the reactor supplier, Westinghouse, have other issues also to deal with. Environmental activists have alleged that the consultants, Engineers India Limited (EIL), appointed by the NPCIL, had no accreditation to carry out an environment impact assessment (EIA) for a nuclear project. “We have written to the Environment Ministry, seeking to scrap EIL’s EIA, but are yet to get a reply,” Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti said.

Activists have also been alleging the Gujarat government has given the project the Coastal Regulation Zone clearance “without reading the note on safety aspects and the site clearance report, and without any site visits,” Mr. Prajapati said. “The Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority has not taken into account the very basics; for instance, eventualities like population increase in the vicinity of the proposed plant.”