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Kudankulam: The coast is not clear

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  • Thiagarajan Arunachalam
    From: karmayog - tanya 11 Mar 2013 Hindustan Times (Mumbai), Pg. 12 Nityanand Jayaraman Nityanand Jayaraman is a Chennai based writer and
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 11, 2013
      From: karmayog - tanya <info@...>

      11 Mar 2013
      Hindustan Times (Mumbai), Pg. 12

      Nityanand Jayaraman

      Nityanand Jayaraman is a Chennai based writer and volunteer with the Chennai
      Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle The views expressed by the author
      are personal

      The coast is not clear

      The Kudankulam saga suggests that a Fukushima-type tragedy could happen here
      Two years ago, on this day, an earthquake and tsunami wiped out a fair
      section of Fukushima prefecture. The independent commission appointed by the
      Japanese parliament to investigate the accident observed that while natural
      disasters may have triggered the nuclear events, the meltdown itself was
      "profoundly man-made". The commission concluded that "the accident was the
      result of collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and
      the lack of governance by said parties."

      The regulatory and governance deficit is all the more true for India. Take
      Kudankulam, for instance. Minister of state in the PMO V Narayanasamy has
      assured us at least 16 times in the last 18 months that the plant will be
      commissioned within 15 days, after the final nod from the Atomic Energy
      Regulatory Board (AERB). But the PMO's statements ignore a crucial fact.
      Kudankulam plants 1 and 2 do not have valid Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)
      clearances. Last November, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL)
      grudgingly admitted to the Supreme Court that the desalination plant was an
      afterthought, and that it was constructed without the mandatory prior
      environmental clearance. No clearance was obtained for the already
      constructed dyke and seawall either.

      The missing references in the PMO's statements to the absent CRZ clearance
      exposes the scant regard that the nation's highest office has for our
      environmental laws. Unmindful of the supersession of the 1991 CRZ
      Notification by the 2011 Notification, NPCIL has applied post-facto for a
      prior clearance under the defunct 1991 rules. The application is legally

      CRZ clearance is not a mere technical formality. The Notification is
      supposed to protect the sensitive coastal region by prohibiting some
      activities and permitting others, subject to conditions derived from a
      scientific scrutiny of the impacts of the proposed works. India's east coast
      is characterised by the massive movement of sediment up and down the
      shoreline. A September 2005 study for NPCIL estimates that there is a net
      transport of 420,000 cubic metres of sediment towards east at the project
      site. This littoral drift is what nourishes beaches and maintains the
      coastline in equilibrium. Hard engineering structures, especially those like
      the dyke and seawall, that are constructed without studying and providing
      for management of impacts, can cause severe beach erosion. Idinthakarai's
      disappearing beaches are proof of this. The Pollution Control Board's
      Consent to Operate is to environmental due diligence what AERB's final nod
      is to radiological aspects. Legally speaking, a company can get this consent
      only after obtaining all other clearances. But the lack of CRZ clearance has
      not stopped the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) from issuing
      consents for units 1 and 2. Legally speaking, the TNPCB should have revoked
      the Consent to Operate, and the PMO should have stated that the plant will
      be commissioned only after all clearances, including CRZ, are obtained.

      But nobody is keen to make any pronouncements on Kudankulam's legality.
      Perhaps, they are praying that AERB will give its final nod. After that, all
      those who are "legally speaking" can deal with the fait accompli of a
      radioactive reactor.

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