Anger grows over Indian nuclear plant proposal
Tribal protesters say they would rather die than give up their land
Protest leaders explain their position to the press
Protests are building in a tribal dominated region of Madhya Pradesh as thousands of people who face displacement to make way for a nuclear plant say they will face death rather than leave their land.
The protests are taking place in villages around Chutka, in Mandla district, the site of a 1,400 MW nuclear power project to be built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL). The project could affect as many as 100,000 people in the area, with around 400 families facing immediate eviction.
“The government can build it on our dead bodies," said one protester.
“We will not give an inch of land for the nuclear project,” said another, 39-year-old Prem Singh Narethi. “We would sooner commit suicide."
Narethi’s family was evicted in 1984 so that a dam could be built in the neighboring district of Jabalpur. "Now the government wants us to give it up again," he told ucanews.com.
The proposed nuclear plant also threatens the livelihood of over 2,000 fishing families on the shore of the nearby Narmada river, according to tribal leader Gulzar Singh Markam.
“Thousands who live near the plant will face radiation and other environmental problems,” Markam said. “It also threaten bio-systems in the area. It will destroy a huge stretch of thick forest, leading to environmental problems," he told ucanews.com.
The Madhya Pradesh government has announced a public hearing to take place on July 31, but the protesters have dismissed this as a PR stunt.
They also claim that the administration did not give the Hindi translation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report to the people. It provided only a brief summary of the report which runs to over a thousand pages, they allege.
As the date of the hearing approaches, police have stepped up vigilance, watching for outsiders moving into the villages, who they fear may coordinate and strengthen the local protest. One group of agitators has already been threatened with arrest.
District Collector Lokesh Jatav, the highest local government official, told ucanews.com: “We will hold the public hearing as scheduled," on July 31. An earlier hearing scheduled for May had to be postponed because of public anger.
Jatav added that the government has addressed all environmental and other concerns and will give adequate compensation to the displaced.
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