08 December 2010

PBKMS Takes Lead In Organising Against Haripur Nuclear Plant Plan

[This is a report of our earlier mobilisation against the Haripur plant] 
On November 16, 2006, a team of 12 technocrats, all from the nuclear industry and research establishments, arrived in West Bengal on a four-day visit to inspect seven possible sites for a nuclear power plant. PBKMS, after finding out their plans, organised a blockade at  Joonput–Haripur, one of the chosen sites. About 5000 local people led by PBKMS resisted the entry of the officials on the 17th of November. The Matsyajibi Unnayan Samity (a constituent member of the National Fishworkers Forum) was also an active participant. The blockade received the active support of Subhendu Adhikary, the local MLA, members of most political parties including supporters of Democratic Socialist Party (a constituent of the Left Front).

The resistance continued for the next two days, in spite of a huge police presence and repeated threats of police action. On the 19th, attempts by the administration to come into the area were thwarted once again, while the team of nuclear experts met the Chief Minister. In spite of the very vocal protest by the residents of Joonput-Haripur, the Chief Minister and the experts have declared that Haripur is the chosen site for the nuclear plant – without however inspecting the site, due to the blockade!

The PBKMS members in Joonput- Haripur are resisting the land acquisition for two reasons. One, the Government plans to acquire over 5000 acres for the nuclear power plant. This land is rich and multi-cropped. It is used to grow paddy, wheat, mustard, potatoes, betel leaf and chillies. Over 25,000 people depend on this farmland. It also consists of a sea beach which supports about 20,000 fisherpeople. In addition, the buffer zone for a nuclear plant in India to prevent radioactivity has a radius of 1.6 km where no one is allowed to live. In addition, only 10,000 people can live within a five-km radius, 20,000 within a 10-km radius and 100,000 only live in a 30-km radius. All this means massive displacement from livelihood and homes for the residents of Haripur and its surrounding areas, all of which are rich and thickly populated farmland.

Secondly the residents of Haripur are also terrified of the effects of radioactivity and pollution on their lives. The fishermen fear a drop in fish yields due to the heating of the sea water which will be used to cool the reactor. There is also the ever-present fear of leakages and radioactivity, with irreversible effects on people's health.

It should be noted that PBKMS was also part of a successful Statewide campaign in 2000 to stop construction of a nuclear plant in the ecologically sensitive area of Sunderbans. It has been preparing its members in Joonput- Haripur for the invasion by the nuclear industry for the past 4-5 months. Educational meetings with nuclear experts and street corner meetings and distribution of leaflets against land acquisition and in support of the Singur land struggle were organized. A team of five PBKMS members from Haripur also visited Singur and met the agricultural workers there. The villagers were therefore well prepared for the visit by the nuclear establishment.

We seem to however to be headed for a long struggle, as expensive and unsafe nuclear power seems to be part of the grand design for industrialization that the Chief Minister has for West Bengal. On November 20, PBKMS took the lead with all political parties and unions to form a citizens’ committee “Parmanu Chulli Birodhi O Bheete Mati Jeeban Jeebika Bachao Committee” (Committee Against Nuclear Plant and To Save Homes, Life and Livelihood).

We appeal to all of you to send letters of protest to the Chief Minister of West Bengal and the Prime Minister of India stating that:
i) The West Bengal Government must stop acquisition of prime farmland for non-agricultural uses.
ii) Keeping in mind the inherent dangers, nuclear energy should not be one of the choices that India or any other country makes for fulfilling its energy needs

 (Prime Minister: http://pmindia.nic.in/write.htm  fax 011-23016857
Chief Minister: cm@wb.gov.in fax 033-22145480)

Related Post: Letter To Medvedev  

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