Monday, November 29, 1999

Villagers in Ratnagiri rally against nuclear plant at public hearing

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Madban, May 17 -- They rang bells, waved black flags and placards, and even flung a plastic chair at the officials seated on the dais. For more than an hour, starting 11 am on Sunday, villagers and activists gathered at Madban village did their best to stall the mandatory public hearing for the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in Ratnagiri district. The project, spread over 938 hectares, affects five villages, and people were objecting to the proposed plant and the fact that the environment impact assessment report had not been made available to gram panchayats of four of the five affected villages. Only villagers in Madban, where the plant will be constructed, had a copy. "Since four other villages have not seen the report, the public hearing must be rescheduled," said Pravin Gavandkar, a Madban resident. Around 200 villagers submitted written objections. It was only after officials recorded their objections that the hearing was allowed to continue. Madhukar Gaikwad, collector of Kolhapur, and two officials from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board presided over the meeting. The panel was grilled on issues such as the loss of livelihoods, radiation safety and waste disposal, the cost of electricity as well as contamination of ground water.

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