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Tension as nuke plant gets green light

Thousands mount hunger strike as Koodankulam plant gets government nod reporter, Chennai

March 20, 2012

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At least 8,000 people have gone on relay hunger strike in Tamil Nadu to protest the state government’s decision yesterday to allow the commissioning of a nuclear power project. Around 20,000 police personnel have been drafted in to stop protesters entering Idinthakarai village, the epicenter of anti-nuclear protests, in the southern Indian state. The stand-off comes in the wake of chief minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa’s decision to resume work at the Koodankulam plant after scientists declared it safe. She also unveiled a five-billion rupee (US$99.3 million) development package for the area adjoining the nuclear plant. However, this failed to placate the protesters -- anti-nuclear activists from the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy and other groups who have voiced safety fears and concern the project may adversely affect people’s livelihoods. Activist Jones Thomas said “the government’s decision is shocking as it is yet to address our concerns.” Many issues were “yet to be addressed” and it is “unlawful to operate the plant without disaster preparedness,” he said. Thomas said nearly 160 people who tried to enter Idinthakarai village recently have been arrested. Police said cases have been registered against nine people for holding demonstrations without permission, blocking roads and preventing plant officials from doing their work. Protests have stalled the project since September 2011, with many people fearing another disaster like the Fukushima meltdown in Japan last year. The first phase of the plant was scheduled to go online last December. The federal government accuses the Church of diverting foreign funds to fuel the protests and have frozen the bank accounts of many non-government organizations, including those of Tuticorin diocese. Related links: Police charge protest bishop
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