Chutka Nuclear plant faces local resistance


Shashikant Trivedi / New Delhi/ Bhopal Aug 17, 2012,
The Madhya Pradesh government has decided to buy 700 Mw power annually from the proposed Chutka nuclear power project.

The progress of the project took a hit when people from nearby villages refused to accept the land acquisition notices sent to them by the government. The protesters are likely to assemble on August 19 to register their strong objection over the project, which, they say, would adversely affect every village that falls under the scheduled area. The project site, according to reports, falls under an earthquake-prone zone, a condition many say could result in a disaster similar to the Fukushima nuclear reactor incident.

 Though the project is yet to come out of the drawing board, the district administration has issued notices under the 1994 land acquisition Act. “We will buy power at prescribed tariff from the project which will be established by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). The state government has issued notifications for the land acquisition process,” said a government official.

 Members of Chutka Parmanu Sangharsh Samiti allege that the NPCIL and state government officials are going ahead with their plans without taking them into confidence and had furtively conducted surveys more than five times and even ignored decisions and resolutions taken by gram sabhas. Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, has vested all rights on deciding developmental activities to the gram sabhas.

According to office-bearers of the Chutka Parmanu Sangharsh Samiti, constituted soon after proposal of the project in 2009 was officialy propoed, after the sanction of this project in October 2009, the NPCIL officials approached three villages in the area but were chased away by the villagers in December 2009. Later, villagers from Chutka, Tatighat, Kunda and Patha approached the then district collector to stop survey activities of the project.

Navratan Dubey, a senior activist of the Samiti told Business Standard, “We have been told that as many as 38 tribal villages will be displaced if the project takes shape. We all are already displaced when the Bargi dam on Narmada river was conceived. We are strictly against the project as we do not want to move for another project. Moreover, as Chutka and nearby areas fall under the scheduled area, how come they ignore our gram sabha resolutions.”

We will assembe on the 19th of this month and lay our lives in protest if need arises. We will also meet the governor of the state to withdraw his order for land acquisition.”

Chutka, Tatighat, Kunda, Bhaliwara and Patha villages are in the core areas of the project. Villagers are more enraged as district collectors since 2009 and local politicians are allegedly making false promises.

“We are being fed with one lie after another. The local politicians and officials furtively allowed survey in other areas. We have not been contacted since then, but the government cannot force a nuclear power project on an ignorant tribal people. We have slapped the notification to acquire our land back to the tehsil office,” Dubey added.

Bargi Bandh Visthapit Sangh, another organisation working in the interests of the Bargi dam oustees too have supported the villagers. “The Chutka project will pose a question on the livelihood of various tribals, particularly the fishing community. The project also poses radiation risk and threat to the rich bio-diversity. Mandla is known for its evidences of primitive era when human civilisation began on earth. Mandla district has a history of earthquake with a massive one in 1997 which was measured 8 severity on Richter. Narmada valley in this area has records of earthquake how NPCL and state government can be so ignorant,” Rajkumar Sinha, an activist of Bargi Bandh Visthapit Sangh said. The proposed project is also in the vicinity of Kanha National Park.

The NPCIL officials and district collector were not available for comment but according to government sources, a land area of 288 hectares will be acquired in core tribal villages and 400 families will be displaced.

Gujarat’s Nuclear -plant runs into land acquisition hurdle #Narendramodi


 

ADAM HALLIDAY , Hiral Dave : Mithivirdi, Tue Aug 21 2012, 
FP
 

Mithivirdi, which literally means a ‘sweet well’, is a nondescript Gujarat coastal village about 50 km south of Bhavnagar city and next-door to Alang, Asia’s largest ship-recycling yard. The region, with its reddish-brown earth, lush green orchards and undulating hillocks, is known as much for its farm and fruit produce as for the nearby rocky seashore which is a graveyard for thousands of ships. This contrasting landscape has been chosen as the location of a 6,000 MW nuclear power project, one of the first India hopes to build in the aftermath of the civil nuclear deal it signed with the United States in 2008.

The project will be spread over 777 hectares and house six nuclear reactors manufactured by US-based Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba of Japan, which has signed an agreement with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. The ambitious project aims to supply power not only to Gujarat but also to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

However, residents of five villages – Mithivirdi, Jasapara, Khadarpar, Mandva and Paniyad — where the project will be located are anything but excited. Their attachment to their land, which has to be acquired, and the fear of having to live near a nuclear plant have sparked protests.

In an almost identical replay of the opposition to the Jaitapur project on Maharashtra’s Konkan coast, Mithivirdi and its neighbours have prevented authorities from conducting soil and water tests, stopped land surveys and even the digging of borewells and submitted affidavits to the district collector saying they would not allow their land to be acquired.

“Money does grow on trees,” says farmer Arjun Dabhi, who owns a 40-bigha orchard and claims mangoes grown on just 2 bighas fetched him Rs 2 lakh this season while a kilo of cashew fruit was sold for Rs 500. “And they want to have a nuclear power plant here and destroy all that is natural,” he said.

Villagers said a survey of fruit trees conducted two years ago accounted for more than 10,000 mango trees, 1,000 chikoo and custard-apple trees each in Mithivirdi and Jasapara.

“The gram panchayat of each affected village has passed a resolution. Not just private land, not a single village will give up wasteland under it for the project,” said Shaktisinh Gohil, the sarpanch of the cluster. “Lands of 340 farmers fall under the earmarked area. All of them have submitted an affidavit to the district collector announcing their unwillingness to give up their land,” he added.

When the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited, engaged by the NPCIL, began digging borewells at 5 am, some 5,000 villagers reached the site and sent them packing.

The anti-nuclear sentiment is apparently a more recent development, with locals admitting that activists opposed to atomic energy have been visiting the region and pushing their line. The mix of NGOs involved is varied and includes the Indian unit of Greenpeace and a local group called Uthaan, which has otherwise focused on water conservation and gender empowerment. Leaders of other anti-acquisition protests from Saurashtra and Kutch, environment activists and even a rebel BJP MLA, Kanu Kalsaria, have waded into the campaign.

Bhimji Gohil, an elderly farmer and former sarpanch, opens the doors to a nine-room godown to show this season’s cotton production. Five rooms are filled with cotton bales. Next to the door are two anti-nuclear stickers featuring the picture of a child said to be a victim of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. And like in Koodankulam and Jaitapur, the Fukushima disaster has only exacerbated fears.

“We would have even considered giving up land if it was some other project. But the fear of living beside a nuclear plant is frightening,” said Deva Dabhi, a farmer who went on a NPCIL trip to the Kakrapar nuclear facility near Surat but came back unconvinced. “After Fukushima, we will not let this happen,” he said.

All the opposition has meant that the NPCIL and its associates have not been able to get the nuclear project off the ground as planned this year.

With even land acquisition yet to start, a tentative schedule suggests that work will begin in 2013-14. With Assembly elections due in December, the government, too, is taking it easy and hopes to hold a public hearing only in January or February next year.

Bhavnagar collector D J Zalavadia admits things are not moving forward.

“Earlier we had reached a consensus on land acquisition. But things did not materialise. As of now, things are at a standstill. But we have been trying to reach an amicable solution,” he said.

NPCIL officials maintain that not everyone in the region is opposed to the project. “Many understand that it’s a very safe technology and they understand the need for such a project. Some of them are even ready for land acquisition and we hope that happens soon. We do need to talk to some groups and reach a consensus,” said P M Shah, NPCIL’s chief project engineer.

“China is going to commission two plants using the same reactors next year. We are a democracy, so we function differently. I hope the plant does come up here during my time,” he said.

‘Vibrant Gujarat’

The protests against the project fly against the general perception that Gujarat is among the best states in the country to make large industrial investments and that there is little opposition to land acquisition like elsewhere in the country. The Narendra Modi-led BJP government has sought to play down the campaign against the nuclear project and is keeping a low-profile as the Assembly elections are due in December.

“I cannot comment on something that has not yet happened. The Nuclear Power Corporation is handling the project but we will go ahead only after taking the people into confidence,” said Industries Minister Saurabh Patel.

“Also, there are so many issues about which we have asked the Centre for clarifications because they are important for the state and we expect they will be clarified soon,” he added, without elaborating on what these issues are.

 

VITAL STATS

6 ×100 MW

AP1000 reactors, built by Westinghouse Electric Co, a group company of Toshiba Corp

 

50%

Gujarat’s share in power produced, other half goes to Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh

 

Rs 60,000 crore

Project cost at 2009 estimate

 

777 hectares

spread over five villages south of Bhavnagar in Saurashtra region

 

2009 October

land acquisition approved, but yet to begin

 

AP1000

Westinghouse says design is safe as it relies on natural forces of gravity, natural circulation and compressed gases to keep the core and containment from heating and not on active components such as diesel generators and pumps

 

The landscape

Beach: A heavy tide and a natural slope allow large, heavy ships to easily glide upon the sand. Asia’s largest ship recycling yard, Alang, lies less than 5 km south.

Fertility: Farmers say they enjoy three seasons. Crops include brinjal, cotton, onion, and the fruits that Arjun Dabhi grows.

Tribals have right to live near wildlife sanctuaries: Supreme Court


22 AUG, 2012, 06.03AM IST, NIDHI SHARMA,ET BUREAU 

 

NEW DELHI: The Centre would approach the Supreme Court to look into the rightful claims of tribals living near wildlife sanctuaries, while addressing the ban on tiger tourism. 

On July 24, the Supreme Court had issued a stern directive to nine states to notify core and buffer zones of tiger reserves and prohibit any tourism within the core breeding grounds of the big cats. Following the order, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs has received alarming reports of forcible eviction of tribals from near wildlife sanctuaries. 

Speaking to ET, Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo said, “In the name of demarcating core and buffer zones after the Supreme Court order, the state governments are deliberately evicting forest dwellers from their land. We have received alarming reports of eviction of tribals from Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.” 

The minister said that the Supreme Court has not been kept informed about the ground realities in the wildlife sanctuaries. “Tribals have a symbiotic existence with wildlife for decades now. 

The states have not implemented the Forest Rights Act and PESA. Under these Acts they need to recognise the tribal’s right to their land. 

Now they are evicting them and depriving them of their means of livelihood,” Deo said. His ministry would now make a case for first implementing existing laws and protecting interest of tribals, while making efforts for conservation of the natural breeding grounds for tigers. 

The SC would hear the matter on Wednesday. Only Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh notified breeding grounds and filed affidavits, after the court’s April 3 directive. The court on July 24 gave states three weeks to demarcate core and buffer zones but Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka are yet to respond.

MoEF Review Committee visit to the proposed POSCO project area: Non Transparent, Shocking and Violates NGT concerns


It may be informed that the Review Committee, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in pursuance to the suspension of environment clearance to the proposed POSCO project by National Green Tribunal (NGT) , visited the proposed project site yesterday (21st August 2012). There was no prior information about the visit of the committee given to the people likely to be affected by the proposed project, though it seems the state administrative apparatus was fully aware of it along with the brokers working for the project for the last 6-7 years. Our people came to know about the visit suddenly only after the media reported about it.

 The committee went to mainly Noliasahi and Nuagaon villages, where land has been acquired by force and deception, and the approach road which was being constructed from IOCL side. They deliberately choose not to visit Dhinkia Panchayat and interact with our people. This is quite bizarre as we have been opposing the project from its inception in 2005. The whole visit to the area was completed in just about an hour. The 2000 acres which is in Dhinkia Panchayat, which could not be usurped by the government due to opposition from our people, is key to the project due to its landscape. It is 3.5 km x 3 km whereas the width of the land which has been acquired is barely half a kilometer. The team also did not visit the proposed port site at the mouth of river Jatadhari. Without visiting such key sites and taking opinion of the key people, the report which will be given by such committee can only be eyewash and would be to the taste of central and state governments and the IDCO, which are hell bent upon implementing the project despite stiff opposition from people. Interestingly, the beneficiaries of the project eying on contract and construction work seem to have enjoyed confidence of the committee as they were the privileged people who could talk to visiting members.

 On March 30, 2012 National Green Tribunal (NGT) had suspended the environment clearance to the project on the ground that clearance was given to the complete project of 12 MTPA basing on the Environment Impact Assessment done for 4 MTPA capacity. MoEF had appointed the review committee for ‘re-assessment and review’ as ordered by the NGT. However such un-informed and quick visit to only a portion of the proposed area is likely to capture an incomplete assessment of the possible environmental damage the proposed plant may cause.

 PPSS strongly opposes such biased visit of the review committee and demand to scrap the project basing on the Saxena and majority view of Meena Gupta committee reports. PPSS has formally submitted a complaint to Ms. Jayanthi Natrajan, Minister, Environment and Forests opposing such a visit of pretence. A proper assessment of possible damage to the environment could be done by an impartially chosen committee which would visit all the key sites and meet all stake holders. This visit of the committee has been projected by a section of the media as reparatory exercise to give clearance to the project. Even a reputed Odia daily newspaper like Dharitri (edited by ruling BJD MP Sri Tathagat Satapathy ) ridiculed the way the committee visited the area and selectively saw sites and met people guided by district administration- all within an hour (Dhartiri of 22 August 2012 attached).

 The PPSS will continue to oppose any unjust and undemocratic step taken anywhere to impose the project on our unwilling people. At the same time we appeal our friends who have been with us all these years to please write complaints to MoEF objecting such stage-managed visits and to generate public opinion everywhere highlighting the violations of law, ethics and democracy done deliberately by the governments at the centre and in the state. We would also request you to please inform the NGT that this visit of the MOEF committee is a clear contempt of the NGT order.

 Please circulate widely.

 In Solidarity,

 Prashant Paikary

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti

Mobile no-09437571547

E-Mail - prashantpaikary@gmail.com

Vedanta may temporarily shut down Odisha refinery #goodnews


 

 

BS Reporter / Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar Aug 22, 2012, 00:11 IST
 Rapidly dwindling stock of bauxite at its refinery complex at Lanjigarh in Odisha’s Kalahandi district has forced Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) to downsize its capacity significantly.

 

And, with bauxite stock depleting to almost ‘zero level’, the refinery plant is barely able to run intermittent operations for the past two days after operating at 40-50 per cent capacity since August 1 this year.

 

 After being denied access to the bauxite deposits at Niyamgiri Hills by Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), VAL wholly depended on bauxite sourced from other states to keep its refinery operation afloat at Lanjigarh.

 But supply glitches from have poured cold water over its plans, leaving the company high and dry. With sourcing of bauxite from other states becoming increasingly difficult, VAL may be left with no other option except going for ‘temporary shutdown’ of the plant, says a top official of the company.

 

“There is no bauxite to talk of. We have zero stock. The company is making all out efforts to source bauxite but things are not working in our favour. One of our major mines in Chhattisgarh which used to supply us 120,000 tonnes of bauxite per month has become non-operational due to expiry of mining lease. Mine operations of another smaller mine in the same state that supplied 60,000-70,000 tonnes per month has been impacted by rains,” said the official.

 

Of late, the company is unable to get bauxite from Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC) as the company had not issued any tender recently. Besides, private miners in Gujarat are preferring to export their material instead of selling it in the domestic market because of better returns, the VAL official informed.

 

Bauxite mines in neighbouring Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh were bogged down by regulatory issues and this has hit supplies, he added.

 

To run the one million tonne per annum (mtpa) refinery plant at full steam, VAL needs 300,000 tonnes of bauxite every month.

 

He clarified that there was no pressure piled by Vedanta Resources’ shareholders to shut the Odisha refinery as it was bleeding financially.

 

“There is no such pressure from the shareholders to close the Odisha refinery. Its true we have been running losses by importing bauxite from other states, but we have always strived to keep the refinery running,” he said.

 

Owing to its total dependence on externally sourced bauxite, VAL has hitherto incurred cumulative losses to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore.

 

“More than 7,000 people are employed directly or indirectly at the Lanjigarh refinery. We cannot allow the refinery to close, putting the future of so many people at stake. VAL is currently running its 0.5 mtpa smelter plant by importing alumina,” he added.

 

VAL’s Lanjigarh refinery as well as smelter and captive power plant (CPP) complex at Jharsuguda has seen grounding of investments of Rs 50,000 crore. The company’s smelting facility and CPP engage more than 15,000 people.

 

VAL had designed its refinery in Odisha keeping in mind the locally available bauxite. The aluminium major had entered into an agreement with state controlled miner Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for supply of bauxite.

 

But attempts to mine bauxite at the ecologically sensitive Niyamgiri hills under OMC’s leasehold in Lanjigarh district were red flagged by the environment ministry that had scrapped the Stage-II forest clearance on August 24, 2010.

 

Unequal glory: India and the ‘other’ medal tally #olympics


 

Garga Chatterjee | Agency: DNA | Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A few days have elapsed since the Olympics and now even the Independence Day is over. With some trepidation, one can assume it is safe enough to make a few points. The 2012 London Olympics have been the most successful one for the Indian Union in recent memory. On the field, it has won six medals. This is the highest number of medals that this nation has won at any Olympics, giving it a rank of 55, placing it between the upper two third and the bottom third. More desis attended this Olympics than ever before, packing events where the Tricolour went, embodying the spirit of the Olympics by hooting and cheering when a badminton player from China hurt herself as she led her bronze-medal match against an Indian. The bronze in boxing may momentarily help people of Manipur forget about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or so the Union wishes.

 

There is another way at looking at the medals — a way that brings the cheering and the hungry, the Jatt and the Kuki, the prince and the servant together. What about a per capita analysis of the medal tally? Given the collective gloat, how many medals does the nation win, per person? It is easy to do this. One simply needs to divide medals by population. There can be multiple ways of counting medals – one can count only golds, one can add up medals irrespective of colour, one can add up giving differential weights for gold, silver and bronze. Fought in the name of the nation, such an analysis brings the ‘national’ participation (or the lack thereof) in the picture. Doing a gold only analysis does not suit the Indian Union – this time it has not won one. One might imagine that a larger population would lead to a larger talent pool of sportspersons and hence a correspondingly larger number of medals. Negative deviations away from this would not represent a system that does not nurture its population in general, be it sports or otherwise. The medals then are achievements of the individuals, sometimes due to grit and talent, sometimes due to the added factor of wealth. Their grit is in spite of the nation that wants to appropriate the glory. Abhinav Singh Bindra, the Punjabi Sikh, had won an individual gold medal in the 10 metre air rifle competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In his memoir he has a chapter named ‘Mr Indian official: Thanks for nothing.’ The Union of India’s dispossessed millions might say the same of the state.

 

So here is the data at the close of the 2012 Olympics. 85 countries had won medals. The following numbers are calculated using a weighted formula where a gold gets 4 points, silver 2 and bronze 1. So, if a country won 1 gold, 1 silver and a bronze medal, the total points is 7 and dividing 7 by its population in millions gives the number of medals per million. Topping this modified chart using the weighted number of medals per million population was Grenada. This is not surprising given a success by chance from a very small nation like Grenada takes the cake. However, some small Caribbean nation or the other has been topping the list since 1996, pointing to something more than fluke, but a regional ecology of excellence. By this measure, People’s Republic of China gets a rank of 67. The United States of America is at 42, the Russian Federation at 31, France, Cuba, Great Britain and Australia are at 33, 15, 13 and 11 respectively. The reason I have mentioned these nations is because their population is relatively substantial. With this historical best medal haul, in 2012, India comes last, 85th out of 85. Going back to the medals per population data through the Olympics, India was 87th out of 87 at Beijing 2008, 75th out of 75 at Athens 2004, 80th out of 80 at Sydney 2000 and 78th out of 78 at Atlanta 1996. In 1992, 1988 and 1984 its tryst with destiny at the Olympics did not result in any medal.

Domestic inequity shows up in unlikely ways in international pageants where Hindustan tries to show off its turbaned best. As though it was natural, the Indian Union, for all these years, has sent an Olympic contingent where the middle and upper-middle classes are heavily over-represented. Through this whole period, India topped the world tables for the largest number of hungry people, beating Sub-Saharan Africa (yes, ‘those’, them) hands down, who in turn have beaten India at the Olympics. There you are, hauling the least number of medals in the name of the greatest number of people, consistently. The parallel with India’s billionaire list and its dismal per capita income could not be starker. And so it goes. Unfortunately, fudging poverty lines and pretending to be the world’s largest democracy does not help win medals at the Olympics.

The writer is a postdoctoral scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

THE BRUTAL HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICA’S PLATINUM INDUSTRY


Gavin Capps looks at how platinum has taken centre stage in South Africa’s mining industry—and how workers have paid the cost

Platinum mining is a big part of South Africa’s economy. South Africa holds 88 percent of the world’s platinum reserves and accounts for over three quarters of global platinum production.

In the boom years between 1994 and 2009 the industry grew by 67 percent, making it the single largest component of the country’s mining sector.

The period saw a huge wave of mine expansion and investment, including at British-owned Lonmin, the owners of the mine at the centre of the battle (see below).

With gold in long-term decline because of the difficulty of reaching the remaining reserves, platinum has become the pivot around which South Africa’s mining future turns.

The ANC government has identified mining as central to its new resource-based development strategy. It even plans a “platinum valley” to concentrate platinum-based manufacturing industries.

However, its plans have been severely hit by the global crisis and a dramatic fall in the price of platinum over the past year. The earlier scramble to expand production has now led to a situation of global over-supply.

Pressure

At the same time, rising wage pressure, electricity and transport costs are squeezing profits. This has led some smaller producers such as Aquarius to temporarily close their mines. All the big players are radically cutting back on their investment plans.

Anglo Platinum—which alone accounts for 60 percent of world platinum production—has been particularly hard hit. It recorded a loss of £20 million in first six months of 2012. For its part, Lonmin has cut its planned spending for the next two years from £285 million a year down to £160 million.

Now the South African ruling class is panicked by militancy. It is particularly scared by the growth of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and its power to shut down production.

It is equally worried by the loss of control by the established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The union has been central to dampening and deflecting struggle since it became deeply embedded with management. Since 1994 it has effectively worked for the government.

A militant strike at the Impala platinum mine in January set a pattern. It lasted six weeks, cost Impala £180 million and stopped almost half of national platinum output.

This strike resulted in a sudden growth of the AMCU at other mines, including Lonmin, which is terrifying the bosses, the ANC and the NUM alike.

Lonrho’s shameful hidden history

Lonmin is the renamed British company Lonrho. The name change hides a shameful history even for an industry as brutal as mining. The firm was originally set up in 1909 to grab mining rights in what was then called Rhodesia.

Even British Tory prime minister Edward Heath called Lonrho’s boss Tiny Rowland “the unacceptable face of capitalism” in 1973.

This was amid allegations of tax avoidance, bribing African leaders and breaking UN sanctions against the racist regime in Rhodesia.

Golden tradition of workers’ fight

Since gold was discovered in South Africa in the 19th century, more than 80,000 miners have died in avoidable accidents. But this brutality has gone along with a long history of militancy.

The current National Union of Mineworkers first built its strength from strikes in the gold mines under the apartheid regime in 1975. It faced systematic repression.

In 1986 177 miners died in an accident caused by cost-cutting. More than 300,000 miners struck for a day. And in 1987 330,000 miners struck for 21 days, proving the power of the black working class in South Africa.

The truth behind the Marikana massacre

How police planned and carried out the slaughter

Workers fighting back deserve our support

South Africa’s dashed hopes of liberation

The brutal history of the platinum industry

Gavin Capps is a platinum specialist at the University of Cape Town

Original article at http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/