India should learn lessons from Japan
Admiral L Ramdas writes... Many Non Government Organizations and civil society groups are for ever struggling against Government and other official agencies, for their violation of ‘Human Rights’ ecological degradation and loss of livelihood of the people, for example in giant Hydro Electric projects, Nuclear power plants and so on. The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) has therefore a great opportunity coming its way on March 11- a few days from now- when we will be observing the first anniversary of the disastrous accident and melt down of the Fukushima Nuclear power plant in Japan. 

The Japanese have not been able to clear the debris of the disaster even till now to make it safe from the danger of radiation. Information received so far indicates that the Japanese have already spent nearly 15 billion US Dollars trying to sort out the mess. Knowing all this full well, the Indian nuclear establishment is merrily going ahead with its nuclear power programme and its expansion. The already near complete Russian built Power plants at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu is facing stiff opposition from the people who do not want the nuclear power plant to commission. No doubt the tragedy of Fukishima has made an impact on the people and they would like to have power –but safe power. That seems impossible from a nuclear power plant–despite many assurances to the contrary- because even the manufacturers wish to be exempted from the responsibility towards any liabilities in the event of a nuclear accident. For purely cosmetic reasons the Government of India has agreed to have a USD 300 million as the manufacturers commitment. We have seen that this is small change as compared to the 15 billion USD already spent on Fukishima.      

Mrs Lalita Ramdas and I have visited Kudamkulam and have met with all the people who are struggling for their safety and livelihood. Most of the affected people are fishermen who cannot accept the theory that disposal of hot and contaminated coolant water into the sea does not affect the fish. The phenomenon is already happening in Kalpakam near Chennai. Most impressive was to see the women from various villages participating in the relay fasts. The canard spread about the funds from foreign hands behind the movement is utterly false. The money is coming from the fishermen, who contribute in rotation, their daily income, for the sustenance of the program. The money therefore is no problem. The people have devised their own ingenuous ways of managing food, teaching of children after school etc. Indeed a very fine example of self -help and community cooperation. The promised dialogue between the domestically nominated team of scientists to discuss with the official team did not materialize as the officials refused to meet and answer the people’s queries. All NPCIL and their couriers and messengers have said the same thing that it is safe. However the people are not convinced. They fear a disaster. One Tsunami was bad but to cap it with a potential Democles’s sword over their heads is simply not acceptable to them.

It is a fact that people exposed to radiation are more prone to getting Cancer. There are reports that waters in the Pacific have been contaminated due to the radiation leaks into the Pacific Ocean post Fukishima, and that these have reached the west coast of the United States. This is worrying indeed. Naturally the cancer will not surface immediately but shows up some years later.  

There are numerous other concerns and questions regarding nuclear power, primarily though it concerns safety. The Planning commission itself has opined that there is a solar potential equaling 500000, MW waiting to be tapped. This alone will take care of India’s need for the next 200 years. If we can do some thing to save the nearly 40% loss in production Transmission and Distribution totaling about 150000 MW, we can do without the 60000 MW proposed to be added to the grid by Nuclear power by 2032 ! The cost for erecting these planned killer plants is nearly 300 billion US Dollars. An ambitious target even if it could be executed on time. Many reasons including, the challenge of supplying millions of cubic meters of water for cooling of these plants is daunting. The accumulation of nuclear waste would also pose a problem for the authorities. Till now there is no way found for the safe disposal of nuclear waste. Hitherto the cost factor of solar was being quoted as a disincentive; this bogey has since been corrected as with each advancing year the costs of solar production, technologies and improved PV batteries all make it not only competitive but cheaper. We are a country where we start the day with the  “surya namaskar” Let us use it for our energy starved Indians in a cheap and clean way. We do not need costly grids to do that. De-centralised  distribution, managed by gram Sabhas can easily do the same. This is where the efforts of an organization like the NAPM come into their own. Awareness building and sharing of the scientific knowledge will be a very necessary and challenging task ahead. Hopefully the policy makers and others will take heed and create a free, beautiful, independent and a safe India in the years ahead.    
Admiral L Ramdas
(The author is a retired Indian Navy Chief)

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