#India- Koodankulam: A Nuclear Plant in My Backyard #mustshare


 Amirtharaj Stephen

January 16, 2013 · , gallin.in

I come from a village called Kavalkinaru in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, not very far from Kanniyakumari. My father was employed at a Heavy Water Plant in Tuticorin and I spent the first 24 years of my life in the Atomic Energy Township there. I was always told by the people in my township that nuclear energy was safe and that it was the future. I believed them.

In 2001, construction of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) had begun at a distance of about 18km from my village. In 2009, I was living in Bangalore and working as a magazine photographer, when I heard about a leakage at the Kaiga nuclear plant that exposed 50 workers to radiation. Later when I went to Cambodia for a photography workshop, I found my fellow participants discussing the issues of nuclear safety and weighing the pros and cons of nuclear energy.

Many in the region did not care much about the power plant or the effect it would have them until 2011. The tsunami that shook Japan in March that year and the subsequent Fukushima disaster however caused panic in the region. The villagers, already severely affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, began raising a lot of questions on the safety of nuclear power.  KNPP was nearing its completion just about that time and the people living in the vicinity of the plant started fearing a similar catastrophe in their region.

The Indian government, on its part, did little to allay the fears of the villagers regarding safety of the plant and preparedness in the event of a natural disaster. The response has always been ambiguous and completely lacked transparency on plant safety measures.

Since then the villagers have been involved in a non-violent protest against the nuclear power plant. Idindhakarai, a village located very close to the plant, has been the epicenter of the protest. The villagers, mostly fishermen and farmers, have been protesting against the plant for more than 500 days at Idindhakarai. They are also worried about the ecological impact the plant would have on the region. The Gulf of Mannar, after all, is an ecologically fragile region.

The Tamil Nadu state government, which took sides with the villagers initially, did a U-turn and tried to crush the agitation by using all means available at its disposal. Police force was deployed against the protestors to suppress and dissolve the protest completely. All villages within a radius of seven kilometers from plant have been under curfew since March 2012. Cases were filed against members of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), the anti-nuclear protest group, and any villager found taking active part in the agitation. Many of them were charged with sedition and waging a war against the nation.

This is the story of the brave fight being put up by the villagers.

Idinthakarai village with the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) seen in the background. May 21, 2012.

Kids belonging to fishermen families play on the beach in Koothankuli village. July 02, 2012.

A fisherman brings his boat to the fish auctioning center to sell the day’s catch. Every Wednesday, villagers collect 10% of their earnings as their contribution towards running the protest. The Indian government, which has accused that the protests are being funded by the Scandinavian NGOs to run the protest, could not produce any proof. The villagers maintain accounts of all funds collected and spent by them. October 18, 2012.

Villagers from the Koothankuli, prevented from going to Idinthakarai by the imposition of a curfew, gather in front of the church and shout anti-government slogans. May 10, 2012.

Police forces assemble  in front of the KNPP before going on rounds in Koodankulam village after the imposition of a curfew. May 10, 2012.

Villagers take a holy procession around the Koothankuli village while praying that the nuclear power plant be closed down. Most people from the region are devout Roman Catholics. May 14, 2012.

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Villagers observe a candle light vigil to pay homage to Hiroshima victims.  August 06, 2012.

Children from Idinthakarai with the post cards they have written to the Russian Ambassador requesting Russia to stop providing technical support to the project. August 06, 2012.

Women on their way to laying siege on seashore near KNPP. September 09, 2012.

Thousands of villagers protesting against the commissioning of the plant sleep on the seashore with their kids near KNPP.  September 09, 2012.

Men warm themselves by a bonfire while on an overnight protest against the commissioning of the plant. September 09, 2012.

Villagers cry and pray during a cleansing ceremony which was performed after police forces broke the idols of the Mother Mary and urinated in the church. September 15, 2012.

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Fishermen lay siege to Tuticorin Port and block passage of ships to protest the attack on villagers in Koodankulam  by police forces. September 22, 2012.

A woman prays to Mother Mary at the church after the police attacked villagers during the siege. September 11, 2012.

Thangamma, a 70- year-old woman was on hunger strike for over 7 days along with 260 other women demanding that the nuclear power plant be shut down. May 05, 2012.

Women plead with Dr. S.P. Udayakumar, leader of Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy(PMANE) to reconsider his decision to surrender to the police. Within few minutes he was lifted from the dias by a group of youngsters and carried in a boat to a safe hideout. September 11, 2012.

A coast guard aeroplane flies low over protesting villagers who ventured into the sea. September 13, 2012.

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Napolean, a resident of Idinthakarai, runs after being attacked by the police. September 10, 2012.

Xavieramma, a resident of Idinthakarai, cries out for help after being chased into the sea with no place to run. She was later helped out by the security forces. September 10, 2012.

Children of Sahayam cry during his funeral mass. He fell off a boulder he was standing on inside the waters due to fear when the coast guard aeroplane flew very low and was killed by the impact. September 17, 2012.

Bio:

Amirtharaj Stephen is a documentary photographer based in Bangalore. He is currently documenting the anti-nuclear protests around his native village in Tamil Nadu. He had been a participant in  the Angkor Photo Workshops and a mentee under Lucie Foundation’s E-pprentice program. He is also a foodie who loves to explore the rural cuisines.

http://www.lightstalkers.org/amirtharaj_stephen

DNA investigations: Kudankulam’s lurking dangers


English: Construction site of the Koodankulam ...

Image via Wikipedia

Feb 28, 2012, 10:30 IST
By Gangadhar S Patil | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

While the prime minister (PM) accuses NGOs funded from abroad of trying to sabotage the ‘state-of-the-art’ Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), various studies carried out by government agencies as well as experts suggest that the site is unsafe for a nuclear project.

The studies reveal potential threats to the nuclear reactor campus from near-shore tsunami, volcanic eruptions, and Karst (vulnerable landscape). DNA has a copy of the reports submitted by the agencies and experts.

A 15-member expert group set up by the Centre cleared the project. “The Kudankulam site is located far off (about 1,500km) from the tsunamigenic fault [where tsunamis originate]. Thus a tsunami would take time and lose some of its energy by the time it strikes Kudankulam,” according to the group’s official document.

However, a 1982 study reported in a noted journal documents the presence of two slumps — the East Comorin and Colombo — in the vicinity of the site. A ‘slump’ is a massive agglomeration of loosely-bound sediment on the sea bed that may suffer large submarine landslides, causing mega-tsunamis.

The expert group’s first report failed to identify the presence of a slump that is about 100km from the plant. After activists brought it to the group’s notice, its second report noted the presence of the slumps and the possibility of a near-field tsunami.

“This is against their earlier position and to that of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) which said near-field tsunamis are not possible at the KNPP site,” People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) functionary M Pushparayan said.

“It is suggested that large submarine landslides can generate a tsunami and may cause coastal hazard. An attempt has been made to quantify the amount of possible water displacement from the above slump belts in the Gulf of Mannar that may occur during a worst case scenario,” the expert group’s second report said. However, it added that the amount of water displacement will be too small to produce a serious tsunami.

Read DNA full story here

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