As India prepares to welcome Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on December 21-22, one of the nuclear power projects that Russia intends to set up in India may be shifted to Orissa from West Bengal, following protests by local farmers, officials said.
After Russia expressed concerns over protests in Haripur, West Bengal, against the proposed project, India has "informally conveyed" that a new site in Orissa can be made available.
“We have received this informal proposal and it sounds good,” a Russian official said.
However, government sources said: "Last ditch efforts are on to sort out the problems regarding the Haripur site."
The 200 MW Haripur project would require around 5,000 acres. As at Singur and Nandigram, locals are resisting land acquisition claiming fertile and multi-cropped land on which more than 25,000 farmers depend for their livelihood, is being taken away.
Here too, the protests, which have been on for the past two years, are led by Trinamool Congress, which controls the east Midnapore zilla-parishad under which Haripur falls.
"It is difficult for me to comment. The party opposing the project is an important partner of the resent union government. It is up to the Centre to decide the matter," West Bengal Industries Minister and CPI (M) politburo member Nirupam Sen told Hindustan Times, when asked if he was hopeful of sorting out the issue at Haripur.
But whether Orissa, which has also seen long drawn struggles against land acquisition by companies such as Posco and Vedanta, will support the project, remains to be seen.
As envisaged in the 12th five-year plan, six Russian-made nuclear reactors were in the pipeline — two at Haripur in West Bengal and four at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu.
Kudankulam has two Russian-designed reactors under construction now that are expected to be ready for commercial operations in March 2011 and December 2011 respectively.
An agreement between India and Russia to set up two more nuclear reactors at Kudankulam project is also likely to be signed during Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's visit to India on December 21-22.