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Gujarat N-power plant: Citing poor radioactive data, top panel orders revision of environmental report

A farmer who will lose his farmland, which includes mango orchard
By Rajiv Shah
In an important breather to farmers of Bhavnagar district of Gujarat protesting against the proposed nuclear power plant near Mithi Virdi on South Saurashtra coast, the Expert Appraisal Committee (Nuclear) of the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to “revise” and “resubmit” its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project, as it lacks clarify on a large number of issues. The panel, simultaneously, criticized the NPCIL for an important delay – for taking three long years to submit proposal for environmental clearance following “site clearance” of the project by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
Suggesting that the delay has led to a situation where the new land acquisition Act – Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – came into force, making it difficult for acquiring land now, the committee wished to know about the “status of rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) as per the new Act”, and whether any land has at all been acquired. Under the new law, 400 per cent compensation to the market value of the land would have to be paid.
Asking the NPCIL to provide details of how much land is now available following the decision to drop the original proposal of township attached with the power plant, the committee asked the NPCIL to see if any new commitment has been taken for the township, and what is the status of the 21 hectares (ha) land to be acquired from the state forest department. It also wanted the NPCIL to submit a copy of the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance for the foreshore facilities, and a note on safety aspects, as seen by the Gujarat Coastal Zone Regulatory Authority.
Pointing towards major shortcomings in the EIA report, the committee said, it does not contain any “base-line radioactivity data for milk samples”. Wanting the new report to mention the model used for radioactivity dispersion, the committee insisted, the report must also detail “impact of two hills near the site on atmospheric dispersion.” It particularly took strong exception to the fact that only eight water samples were collected, and even “season of collection” was not mentioned, asking the NCPIL to “collect data for three seasons and submit.”
The committee further wanted the NPCIL to submit the location of the Near Surface Disposal Facilities (NSDF) for radioactive waste on the map, along with “its impact on land and groundwater”, current status and a detailed study of “effect of historical tsunamis”, and a copy of the no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state irrigation department “since the project is located in a command area”.
Then the committee wanted documents of the marine impact assessment, study of the thermal dispersion of condenser cooling seawater discharges from proposed nuclear power project at Mithi Virdi, details of high tide line/low tide line and CRZ, demarcation of Mithi Virdi coast by the Institute of Remove Securing, Anna University, Chennai, baseline environmental data of flora and fauna carried out by the by the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, and pre-operational radiological survey of the site by the Health Physics Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).
The committee simultaneously wanted “action proposed for conservation of endangered species, proposed conservation plan for the conservation of Schedule-I species observed within 10 km radius prepared in consultation with the State Wildlife Department, Government of Gujarat under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972”, and a summary of all the representations received, along with the NPCIL’s “comments, clarifications and commitments, if any, along with budget provision for implementing the commitments made”.
On top of all this, the committee,which held its meeting in May but finalised finer details a few days back, suggested constituting a sub-committee under Dr AR Reddy, chairman, Atomic Energy Commission – Nuclear Power Projects; AR Sundararajan, vice-chairman; Dr PB Rastogi, director and member-secretary; and Dr A Mehrotra, director, MoEF, regional office, Bhopal, which it wanted to “visit the project site of the project to assess sensitivity in the surrounding environment and suggest protection measures to further improve the environment.”

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