|Jaspara sarpanch Shaktisinh Gohil addressing rural activists|
As previously planned, villagers from Mithi Virdi-Jaspara region of Bhavnagar district in Gujarat on Sunday took part in a well-attended rally against the proposed 6,000 MW nuclear power plant on 777 hactares (ha) land. The rally, said a joint statement issued by the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and the Bhavnagar Gram Bachao Andolan, “marked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US, where he was expected to agree on an administrative deal to implement the Early Works Agreement signed in 2012 between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NCPCIL) and the USA’s Westinghouse Electric Corporation.”
In 2012, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation had agreed in principle to supply six nuclear powered reactors (1,000 MW each) for the proposed plant, which Gujarat environmentalists say would “adversely affect” the lush green agricultural land of Saurashtra coast. The agreement, according to them, was signed despite the fact that the Environmental Impact Assessment report for the nuclear power plant was prepared by Engineers India Ltd, which is officially not accredited to make an environmental assessment of a nuclear power plant.
Environmentalists claim that about 2 lakh people in about 30 km radius of the proposed site would be adversely affected by the plant, which would require acquisition of 777 ha of land for the nuclear power plant and another 100 ha of land for a township of those working in the plant. The acquisition is proposed to take place by invoking the “public purpose” clause of the new land acquisition Act, which does not require local villagers’ consent.
The villagers gathered at around 5.00 pm, where they raised slogans against the nuclear plant. The slogans included “We will not part with our land, take our lives”, “No to nuclear plant, no to merchants of death”. The meeting continued for more than two hours, where they reiterated their position that no nuclear plant will be allowed on their land. Notably, they had walked out of the public hearing for the plant, which took place in March 2012, saying it was “illegal” as it was based on an EIA report, prepared by a non-accredited agency.
The leaders at the meeting sent a message to the Prime Minister, which said that he had “no right” to decide about their future as their consent was not taken, and that he should not sign any agreement with the US on building a nuclear power plant. A statement, issued following the demonstration, in which sarpanches of several affected villages participated, called upon the villagers not to give away their land at any cost for constructing the plant.
It said, “When Modi was Gujarat chief minister, we was told how the nuclear power plant was sought to be built without taking villagers’ consent. The sarpanches of the affected villages signed a memorandum calling the entire area as nuclear free zone in March 2014, and sent it to him.” Those who addressed the meeting included Shaktisinh Gohil, sarpanch of Jaspara villager, Dharmendrasinh Gohil, Arajanbhai Dabhi and Hirabhai Dihora, all of whom have formed Bhavnagar District Gram Bachao Samiti to protest against the project.
Those present during the demonstration included senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat’s radical environmental group, and other activists from the group, including Krishnakant, Amrish Brahmbhatt and Kantibhai Mistry.