Fishermen and their families protesting against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS
KUDANKULAM, India, Jan 6 2013 (IPS) – Mahalakshmi, a housewife married to a farmer, is afraid for her family’s future. The fifty-two-year-old woman is also frustrated that Indian authorities have “betrayed” poor villagers.
A huge nuclear power plant under the control of the government-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is the source of her woes.
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP), situated 24 kilometres from the world famous tourist town of Kanyakumari on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula, is likely to be commissioned this month.
Speaking to IPS, Mahalakshmi and dozens of women in Kudankulam, a village in the Tirunelveli district of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, charged that the energy project would ruin their futures, homes and livelihoods.
The plant is slated to produce an initial 1,000 megawatts of power, according to the NPCIL, no small contribution to a country saddled with a severe energy deficit.
But the proposed nuclear station has brought sleepless nights to scores of locals, who fear a disaster similar to the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in March 2011, and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.
Locals have risen up in widespread protest over the proposed plant, which they claim has not been equipped with the best possible safety measures.
One of these protestors, Arul Vasanth, told IPS that politicians, scientists, and bureaucrats have made every effort to crush agitation against the potentially lucrative KKNPP.
“We, the poor, are at the receiving end of all false promises given by the authorities,” he said. “The risk has been put on our shoulders so the people will aggressively fight till the end.”
Indeed, the vast majority of those participating in the protests live below the government-declared poverty line.
Opposition to the energy project first began when India inked the KKNPP deal with the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988.
Agitation gained momentum in 1997 when the country signed another agreement with Russia to revive the deal.
The controversial Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. Credit K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS
Now, in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, which drew the world’s attention to the horrific dangers of nuclear power, the people in Kudankulam have brought their fight into the open.
People from the Idinthakarai, Koottappalli, Perumanal, Koothankuli and Uoovri villages, located close to Kudankulam, fear health consequences arising from the plant.
Talking to IPS, well-known anti-nuclear activist K. Sahadevan questioned the efficacy of government measures to safeguard the health of local people living in the vicinity of the plant.
“Radioactivity-related health hazards are a major concern for the people residing near the plant,” he said, referring to a survey of houses very near to the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, which revealed a high prevalence of cancer and tumors.
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