Media Blackout of the Ongoing Nonviolent Protest at Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant
by Antonio C. S. Rosa, editor – TRANSCEND Media Service
The nonviolent struggle by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) to stop construction of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India is proving to be a best kept secret as not a word is said or written by the corporate, alternative, Internet or traditional western media to date. Why is that? Some background information (from PMANE):
Residents of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been struggling against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) since its inception in the 1980s. The KKNPP reactors, already obsolete, are being built without the government presenting to the people, their representatives, or the press, the required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Site Evaluation Study, and the Safety Analysis. After a struggle of 23 long years, the PMANE obtained a copy of an outdated and incomplete EIA a few months ago. No public hearing has ever been conducted for the first two reactors either.
- The tsunami of Dec 2004 flooded the KKNPP installations.
- There was a mild tremor in the villages surrounding Koodankulam on Mar 19, 2006.
- On Aug 12, 2011 there were tremors in seven districts of Tamil Nadu.
- Three million people live within 30 kilometers (18 miles), some less than half a mile from the KKNPP, what exceeds the AERB (Atomic Energy Regulatory Board) stipulations.
- It would be impossible to evacuate this population quickly and effectively in case of a nuclear accident or a disaster at KKNPP.
On Mar 18, 2012 fifteen of the protesters initiated a hunger strike, making a series of demands to the Tamil Nadu government such as liability and safety assurances at the plant, population drills, the release of over 200 people arrested to date, and others. 10,000 people-strong have been congregating at Idinthakarai village in a space the size of a stadium in front of the St. Lourdes church, cooking simple meals for all, most of them sleeping there as they are scared to venture out.
The military “operation Koodankulam “, on 19 Mar, arrested 203 protesters and blocked all roads leading to the coastal villages surrounding the nuclear power plant, preventing even food to circulate. They detained 185 men including the parish priest, Father Suseelan, at the Kottupuli village. The protest crosses religious, political, social and caste boundaries as the police attempt to portray them as a violent group with connections to the Naxalites (Maoists). It is ludicrous. Many more atrocities are happening, which would not fit the space of this article.
One of the leaders of the movement is the Convener of the TRANSCEND Network for South Asia, Dr. S.P. Udayakumar. Kumar, as we call him, had the school he built, the South Asian Community Center for Education, Research and Action-SACCER, totally destroyed by vandals. The situation is dire indeed.
He writes, “On Mar 29, 2012, a team of Home Ministry officials from New Delhi descended on my family’s home at Nagercoil and inspected our SACCER Trust’s account for 12 hours both at home and again at the Government Guest House in Nagercoil. Our small Trust with hardly any money runs a very small school of 217 children.
“[It is interesting to note that the central government's and state government's teams inspected the Koodankulam nuclear power plant for hardly a few hours, and not 12 hours at a stretch.]
“On Mar 30 I received a letter from the Passport Officer in Madurai that I have to return my Passport as I have criminal cases against me.
“[I wonder if all the politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, military leaders and businessmen with criminal record have received such a request and I am approaching the court to verify this.]”
Press Release – April 1, 2012
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) entered into a negotiation with the Tamil Nadu State officials on March 27, 2012 with the assistance of some credible and respectable mediators. As per that mediation, the Tamil Nadu State Government assured to release all the imprisoned people through due process and withdraw all the cases that have been registered against us.
However, the bail process is being delayed by several obstacles such as filing charge sheets in additional cases, demanding double surety, and condition bail of asking people to produce themselves at a distant police station on daily basis.
All the false and serious cases such as ‘sedition’ and ‘waging war on the Indian State’ have not been withdrawn yet. Instead all these cases that randomly include +3,000 people are used to intimidate the local people. So people here live in fear and are very afraid to venture out of their homes and villages. We hear reports that the Tamil Nadu Government is still trying to arrest all the important leaders and functionaries of the protest movement as soon as possible.
Furthermore, personal vendetta is being taken by the State and Central agencies on some individuals and NGOs. The Home Ministry officials searched the home of S. P. Udayakumar on March 29, 2012 for some 12 hours. And the Madurai Passport Officer has now asked Udayakumar to surrender his passport within 15 days through his letter dated 30/3/2012.
The Tamil Nadu Government has sent the local police officers and constables from Koodankulam and Idinthakarai etc. to their respective villages on official duty to divide the local communities by instigating caste and religious hatred and group clashes. These police men spend all their time talking to their relatives and friends in their villages spreading rumors and causing fear and concerns among the people.
The Tamil Nadu Government is also using the Rs. 500 crore (5 billion Rupee – 75 million Euro) package to woe the corrupt and unscrupulous elements from the local villages, divide the communities and mobilize false support for the Koodankulam nuclear power project.
We would also like to highlight the fact that the KKNPP has been restarted without any kind of consent and cooperation of the local people and it grossly violates Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The fears and concerns of the people have not been addressed in any meaningful manner by both the Expert Teams nominated by the Central and State Governments. These governments are blatantly violating the rights and entitlements of the local people in an arrogant and authoritarian manner.
The PMANE has concluded its 9-day indefinite hunger strike and has resumed its relay hunger strike on daily basis from March 28, 2012. It is not true that our struggle has been withdrawn just because we have decided to resume fishing, open the local shops and send the Idinthakarai children back to school.
Supreme Court Advocate Shri Prashant Bhushan visited us on March 31, 2012 and the former Chief Minister of Kerala and current opposition leader Shri V.S. Achuthanandan is scheduled to visit on April 12, 2012
The Struggle Committee,
People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu
FOR THE RECORD: These are the issues that the PMANE expert team identified in the KKNPP project:
1. The Koodankulam site is not only prone to small-volume volcanic eruptions, but also to mega-tsunamis with heights exceeding 100 feet, arising out of the presence of two large “slumps” in the seabed of Gulf of Mannar less than 100 km from the plant. A 1982 study in a noted journal documents the presence of two slumps — the East Comorin slump and the Colombo slump — in the vicinity of the Koodankulam site. The second report by the Central Govt Expert Group has accepted the presence of the slumps and the possibility of a Near Field Tsunami occurring out of a landslide. This is in opposition to their earlier position and also to the position of AERB that Near field Tsunamis are not possible in India. However, their contention is on the height of the Tsunami waves. While welcoming their change in accepting the possibility of Near Field Tsunami, the PMANE Expert Team wishes to state that after the 1982 study, a tsunami did occur in December 2006 and it may have changed the structures of the Slumps. Hence merely answering the question from the 1982 text is not sufficient.
2. PMANE’s expert team is alarmed that the NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India) has allowed the siting of the plant in an area characterised by sub-volcanic intrusions – an indication of volcanism in the vicinity of the plant. The presence of sub-volcanic intrusions of the kind found in the KKNPP site is precisely the reason why the United States Government abandoned the Yucca Mountain site as a possible waste storage site owing to concerns about the structural integrity. In addition to this, small volume volcanic eruptions have occurred in the KKNPP site’s vicinity from the year 1998.
3. Studies by Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and numerous other terrestrial and marine geologists confirm the presence of basaltic intrusions into the crust and the Gulf of Mannar seabed. Their findings tell us that the Gulf of Mannar sea bed has been thinned because of this. Its thickness is a mere 1,000 to 5,000 metres instead of average 40,000 metres for continental crust.
4. Scientists from various national institutes have published as late as 2010 that the crustal thickness of Koodankulam site is much thinner than the Gulf of Mannar Crust because of similar sub-volcanic intrusions. Ground Magnetic Surveys conducted by them have suggested that the Crustal thickness is a mere 150 to 200 metres at Koodankulam site.
5. The entire Koodankulam region is known for its lime stone formations. Lime stone formations are known to the formation of Sink holes and underground caves. Events that occurred on November 26, 2011 at Pannaiyarkulam, in 2008 at Radhapuram (both located 10 kms from the KKNPP site), and in 1998 at Maruthankulam (25kms from the KKNPP site) have suggested that this is a “KARST” Region. AERB’s safety laws clearly state that if a Karst region is suspected a detailed study has to be conducted. Such a study has not been attempted by the NPCIL.
6. During the 2004 tsunami the withdrawal of the sea was around 4-5 Kms from the shore. Every year after this tsunami, the some places of the coast of Tamil Nadu have faced the issue of sea water withdrawal at least 3 times a year. Tsunami hazard manual released by the USNRC in March 2009 states that if sea water withdrawal is an issue at the site then the chances of the reactor going in for a dry intake should be studied thoroughly. Dry intake can cause damage to the turbines and reactors. Each minute a reactor needs 5,000 cubic-metres of sea water. Hence a detailed volcanic hazard study, tsunami hazard study and a study about the “Karst” Terrain is a must.
7. Another crucial failure of the NPCIL is the fact that the plant has been assured supply of freshwater for merely 36 hours and 25 minutes. The dependence on a single source, namely, the desalination plants, further reduces the reliability of this water source because desalination plants rely on the sea and electricity. Both can be disrupted by disturbances in electricity supply and cyclones and extreme weather events in the sea along with Jelly fish intrusions. In such a situation, reactors will have to be closed down immediately and they may have just enough water for maintaining the safety systems for only 10 days. The reserve of potable water for the KKNPP Township is sufficient only for 2 days. The seawater intake pipeline of the Minjur desalination plant in Thiruvallur district was uprooted during the Cyclone Nisha in 2008. Repairing the pipeline required engineers from the Netherlands and it took more than 45 days to mend the pipeline.
8. Department of Atomic energy (DAE) funded study by Dr. Manjula Datta has found that the morbidity burden in the proximity villages of Kalpakkam is 400% higher than in distant villages. The diseases include Cancer, mental retardation, thyroid problems, infertility, lumps, stroke, cataract, TB, ulcer and diabetes. Another study conducted by Dr. V. Pugazhendhi et. al. showed that auto immune thyroid disease among women living in upto 40 kms from the Kalpakkam site was significantly higher than those living 500 kms away. In another study conducted by the same doctor in 2003 among the Kalpakkam employees and family members had shown that the death rate due to Multiple Myloma (a bone marrow cancer) is statistically significant. Studies based on data supplied by the NPCIL shows that the prevalence of cancer among workers and wives of the BARC (Bhaba Atomic Research Centre) and the TAPS (Tarapur Atomic Power Station) is significantly higher than that found in MAPS (Madras Atomic Power Station). The first two reactors became critical during the 1960’s and the 1970’s whereas the MAPS came critical during 1984-85. Yet another study shows significant deviation in sex-ratio of children born to employees of the BARC and the TAPS which is indicative of genetic mutations
I appeal to you to please disseminate this throughout the social media and the Internet. If you have any involvement with any kind of media please make sure that these developments are inserted for all to know about this 21st century struggle for public health, social justice, transparency, democracy, and against corporate takeover of our lives and livelihoods. Thank you!
Editorials by Johan Galtung and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgment and link to the source, TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 3.0 United States License.
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