Feb 22, 2018, 05:45 IST

Officials from a private company visited Mandla to collect soil samples but farmers from 3 villages banded together in protest and stopped it.Officials from a private company visited Mandla to collect soil samples but farmers from 3 villages banded tog… Read More
BHOPAL: Up in arms against the Rs 17,000 crore Chutka nuclear power plant project, famers in Mandla district have stopped researchers from collecting soil samples for tests.
Officials of a Mumbai-based private company had visited Mandla to collect samples, but farmers from three districts banded together in protest and stopped it.

On Tuesday, senior Congressleader and former CM Digvijaya Singh had supported the protest, writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the decision to set up a 1400MW nuclear power plant here. It would affect bio-diversity of River Narmada, said Singh, who is on a 3,400km parikrama of the holy river.

“Narmada is the lifeline for tribals of Mandla for ages as they earn their livelihood by fishing. I found that the river area is shrinking and getting polluted. In such a situation, establishing a nuclear power plant will not only destroy bio-diversity of Narmada river, but would also prove disastrous for this waterbody,” he wrote.

Singh has alleged that permission of the affected gram sabhas wasn’t taken for the project. “Despite their (gram sabhas’) protests, the compensation was deliberately deposited in the accounts of affected persons in a bid to carry the project forward,” he claimed.

Villagers are being displaced in stark violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, Singh says. He quotes Section 4 of the Act that says Gram Sabhas need to approve all development work in a village, identify beneficiaries, and issue certificates of utilisation of funds.

Besides, he points out, Mandla district is close to Jabalpur that is prone to earthquakes.

Villagers have launched a Satyagraha against the N-plant project. Kunda village, one of the three affected by the project on the banks of Narmada, has not only passed resolutions rejecting the government proposal, but also nominated three persons to move court, said sources.

The site is about 100km from Jabalpur and the famous marble rock formations on the Narmada and a mere 35k from Kanha National Park. Most of those affected are tribals, who were earlier displaced by ‘Bargi Dam’ in the 1990s. Being displaced again rankles them.

“How can the government be so ruthless as to displace villagers twice? Moreover, Bargi dam was constructed for irrigation, to help farmers. Giving up the site for a nuclear plant will only pollute the water with hazardous waste discharge,” said Rajkumar Sinha, convener of an organisation for those affected by the dam.

“On the one hand, the government claims it is trying to save Narmada and on the other hand, it is allowing a nuclear plant on its banks.”

Sinha and the other protesters claim that the Centre and state government have joined hands to push ahead with the project, ignoring its “dangerous consequences”.

In 2014, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited had declared the Chutka plant safe. An environmental impact assessment report filed by the corporation says the project is in low seismic activity zone-II and is “environmentally benign, techno-economically viable and sustainable”.https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/soil-satyagraha-against-chutka-n-plant/articleshow/63020572.cms