Villagers protesting against the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in Ratnagiri district, plan to hold a referendum to establish the percentage of locals willing to give their land to house the six imported European light water reactors from France.
The referendum will be held in Madban village—this is where the power plant will occupy 700 hectares of land--in three weeks.
“Right now, the opposition is all verbal. The results of the referendum will go to the state government and will officially show how many villagers are for or against the plant,” said Dr Jayendra Parulekar of the Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Samiti that is coordinating the referendum. “A referendum is a democratic process that is practiced even in countries like the US and the UK. The presence of a judge brings in transparency.”
The referendum is the latest in a series of mobilisation efforts by locals who do not want the 10,000 megawatt plant to be set up on their paddy fields, mango orchards and acres of dry land. Over the last month, at least three public meetings have been held to apprise villagers in Rajapur taluka — where the plant is situated — and other parts of Ratnagiri on the reasons for opposing the plant.
“After the water contamination incident at the Kaiga atomic plant, people have become far more aware of the dangers. Our movement may gain some more strength,” said Pravin Gavandkar, a resident of Madban.
Land acquisition notices were sent to three villages — Niweli, Karel and Mithgawane. But they were not accepted and villagers refused the compensation cheques.
Off the 938 hectares, the reactors will be set up on 700 hectares in Madban, while the remaining land will house utilities for the staff employed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) that will own the plant.
NPCIL officials said 248 hectares have been acquired from seven villagers who have accepted the cheques.
The nuclear power plant is an outcome of the September 2008 Indo-French agreement soon after the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted international restrictions allowing foreign countries to collaborate with India for civil nuclear cooperation.