By Nandini Oza
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Pic: Reuters

Ahmedabad: Villagers in and around Mithi Virdi in Gujarat have written to US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding a public discussion and debate on the 6,000 MW nuclear power plant proposed to be set up at Mithi Virdi.

In the letter sent to the leaders on Thursday, the villagers stated that Engineers India Limited, the environmental consulting firm nominated by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to conduct environmental impact assessment for the power plant, has no accreditation to conduct such an assessment.

The NPCIL in association with Westinghouse Electric Corporation, an American company, has proposed to set up six nuclear reactors of 1,000 MW each in Mithi Virdi, Saurashtra region.

Shaktisinh Gohil, Sarpanch of Jaspara village near the proposed site said that nearly 2 lakh people in the radius of 30 kilometres from 152 villages will be affected by the project. He said that the rich alluvial soil will be threatened by the proposed plant, which again is only five kilometres from a lignite mining site. The villagers have also mentioned that Alang, Asia’s biggest ship breaking yard, was just a stone’s throw away.

The villagers have pointed out that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has asked NPCIL to “revise” and “resubmit” its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the project as it lacks clarity on a large number of issues. In the past, the MoEF had pointed towards “shortcomings” in the impact assessment report. Sources said that the villagers were helped by environmental activists and experts on the subject to draft the letter.

It is not that we are against electricity generation. But no serious thought has been given to the available sustainable alternatives for electricity generation, the villagers said. Solar and wind power have equal and more sustainable potential to produce electricity and that too in a decentralised manner, they added.

Among the signatories include sarpanch of Mithi Virdi village Hirabhai Dabhi, sarpanch of Mandva village Vilasba Gohil and sarpanch of Khadarpar village Pruthivrajsinh Gohil.

The villagers have demanded that the concerned authority should immediately reject the present EIA report and have a fair and open discussion on the proposed power plant before taking any decision.

They have also demanded that other environmentally sustainable and non-hazardous technologies for electricity production should be considered. These technologies, they said, can co-exist without disturbing the agricultural livelihoods.

On Friday, about 300 villagers observed a token fast.