Green signal for Kudankulam, Rs.500 crore for region (Lead)

March 19th, 2012 - 8:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, March 19 (IANS) Doing a U-turn in six months, the Tamil Nadu cabinet Monday gave its green signal for the Kudankulam nuclear plant and allotted Rs.500 crore for local area and infrastructure development. And simultaneously, it arrested around 10 people opposing the project.

Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said her cabinet concluded earlier in the day that “there is no risk of an earthquake or tsunami and the plant (had) best safety features”.

She said in a statement that the cabinet examined the reports of panels of the central and state governments as well as the memorandum submitted by those opposed to the atomic power plant.

She said the water from the plant will not endanger marine ecology or affect the livelihood of fishermen. The central government’s expert panel had answered the doubts of the locals about the plant.

With an idea of implementing development projects without affecting the safety and livelihood of the people, the cabinet also passed a resolution to take steps to start the plant, Jayalalithaa said.

She said the cabinet also decided to allot Rs.500 crore for setting up a fishing boat repair centre, cold storage to stock the fish catch, housing for the villagers, and roads and other infrastructure facilities.

India’s atomic power plant operator, Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL), is building two 1,000 MW reactors at Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from here.

Villagers of Kudankulam, Idinthakarai and others fear for their lives in the event of a nuclear accident.

Their agitation, led by the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), had put a stop to the project work, delaying the commissioning of the first unit slated in December.

The Tamil Nadu government had earlier passed a resolution asking the central government to halt work at the plant and to allay the fears of the locals.

To resolve the issue, the central and state governments set up two panels.

The central panel submitted its final report Jan 31. The Tamil Nadu government set up another expert committee which too favoured the project.

Meanwhile, in Kudankulam, police arrested 10 anti-KNPP protesters with the government changing its stance on the project.

The 10 included advocate S. Sivasubramanian, M. Pushparayan, convener of the Coastal People’s Federation and a leader of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), told IANS over phone.

Police declined to confirm or deny the arrest.

On Monday morning, tension gripped Kudankulam and surrounding areas.

Hearing the news of the arrests, activists in Idinthakarai village began ringing the church bell to mobile the villagers. Leading activists live in this fishing village.

“Around 3,000 policemen were deployed in Kudankulam and surrounding areas,” Pushparayan said.

He said the heavy police deployment deterred them from accepting an invitation from the Tiruvelveli Collector to meet him.

Two PMANE leaders - S.P. Udayakumar and M. Pushparayan- have started an indefinite fast demanding the closure of the atomic power plant at Idinthakarai near Kudankulam.

Udayakumar told reporters that the agitation would continue despite “the betrayal of our trust by the state government”.

He said: “This is a people’s movement and cannot be crushed by police.”

Meanwhile, NPCIL employees at KNPP numbering around 500 have entered the project site after a gap of nearly six months.

“We are going to office now!” an official told IANS, full of enthusiasm.

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