India’s Biggest Nuclear Plant A Threat to the Konkan Zone: Experts

The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has given environment clearance to the controversial Jaitapur nuclear power project slated to come up in Madban village (Ratnagiri district) along the Konkan coast. This is the second major project, after the Navi Mumbai airport, to be cleared by minister Jairam Ramesh in a week. The 9,900-mw Jaitapur nuclear power plant, the country’s largest, will be set up in collaboration with the French firm Areva. The final contracts are scheduled to be signed in the first half of 2011. The project has elicited a huge outcry, with mass protests by local fishermen and environmentalists who fear that it will not only destroy the rich marine biodiversity of the Konkan belt but also destroy the livelihood of the local population.

”The true impact of the project of this scale will never be known unless one decides to do a comprehensive bio-diversity assessment. The thermal discharge of this scale is bound to cause an eco-system shift in a large area. Even a 0.5 degree of continous thermal stress will lead to mortality of marine species. And here we are talking about a 5 degree shift,” said Deepak Apte, marine biologist and deputy director of Bombay Natural History said.

Incidentally, environment clearance for Jaitapur project was given in just 80 days from the time final environment impact assessment report was submitted by Nuclear Power Corporation. An agreement between Areva and NCPIL is expected to be signed during French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit to India next month.

While approving the project, MoEF has prescribed 35 stringent conditions and safeguards, of which 23 specific conditions would have to be met within a year’s time. These include the preparation of a comprehensive biodiversity conservation plan, with BNHS and state forest department, to maintain health of 150 hectares of mangroves in the area.

Stressing the need for cleaner technology, Ramesh said nuclear energy was a cleaner option compared to coal.

”From the environment point of view, a nuclear project is land-intensive and greener. Today 38% of India’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the electricity generation sector. If we wish to maintain a GDP growth rate of 9% every year, then our power sector needs to grow at 7% annually,” he said.

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