In open letter to Modi, Obama, Gujarat villages seek public debate on nuclear power

Consulting firm chosen to conduct EIA on proposed NPCIL 1,000-MW reactors at Mithivirdi lacks accreditation, say sarpanches

January 25, 2015 02:41 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:32 pm IST - Ahmedabad

In this 2011 photo, Gujarat villagers protest against the proposed 6,000-MW power plant at Mithivirdi, Bhavnagar. Photo: PTI

In this 2011 photo, Gujarat villagers protest against the proposed 6,000-MW power plant at Mithivirdi, Bhavnagar. Photo: PTI

Heads of four villages in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district have written an open letter to United States President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for a public discussion and debate on the proposed 6,000-MW Mithivirdi Nuclear powerplant.

Their demand comes in the light of upcoming talks between the two leaders about of civil nuclear deal.

The state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) plans to install six 1,000-MW nuclear reactors at the district headquarters of Mithivirdi with the joint support of U.S. firm Westinghouse Electric Corporation.

The letter raised concerns over NPCIL’s nomination of environmental consulting firm Engineers India Limited for conducting the environmental impact assessment (EIA). The villages pointed out that the agency was “lacking necessary accreditation to conduct the EIA for nuclear powerplants.”

“The Ministry of Environment and Forests has asked NPCIL to ‘revise’ and ‘resubmit’ its Environment Impact Assessment report of the project as it lacks clarity on a large number of issues. The [Expert Appraisal Committee (Nuclear)], simultaneously, criticised the NPCIL for a three-year delay in the proposal for environmental clearance following the [Atomic Energy Regulatory Board’s ‘site clearance’ ]for the project, and noted key coastal regulatory clearances to be missing.”

The MoEF noted “major shortcomings” in the EIA report, including the absence of base-line radioactivity data for milk samples; absence of studies on the impact of two hills near the site on atmospheric dispersion and effect of historical tsunamis; and the lack of clarity on the impact of land and groundwater, the letter states.

“This casual approach to clearing a nuclear powerplant can lead to a major nuclear disaster. Agriculture forms the backbone of human survival, and this project strikes at a very important asset of our country — the prime agricultural lands. It is not that we are against electricity generation. But no serious thought has been given to the available sustainable alternatives for electricity generation. Solar and wind power have an equal and more sustainable potential to produce electricity and that too in a decentralised manner. Let us have a fair and open discussion before taking any decision on the project,” the village heads urged.

The letter — dated January 22, 2015 — was signed by sarpanches Shaktisinh H. Gohil of Jaspara village, Samuben Dabhi of Mithivirdi village, Vilasba Gohil of Mandva village and Pruthvirajsinh Gohil of Khadarpar village.

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