Published: Wednesday, Mar 23, 2011, 12:47 IST
Environmentalists have attacked the position of environment minister Jairam Ramesh that his department cannot he held responsible for ensuring radioactive safety of the upcoming Jaitapur plant.
The ministry of environment & forests (MoEF) had given an environmental clearance to the plant in November last year, but Jairam said last week his ministry is not technically competent to predict and prescribe radiation norms which, he said, was the domain of the department of Atomic Energy.
“If your department is not competent enough to assess the dangers from the technology to the environment (including people’s health) why did you give an EC in the first place,” asked Saraswati Kavula, joint convener for Andhra Pradesh for the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), in an open letter to the minister on Sunday.
The earthquake and the resulting failure of cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan had led to an intensification of local level opposition to the power plant, which was already seen as a threat to the local fisherfolk’s livelihoods due to the proposed discharge of large quantities of warm water into the nearby sea.
After initially promising to look into “additional safeguards and design specifics” for the plant in the light of the Fukushima situation – one of the biggest nuclear emergencies in years if not decades – Jairam clarified on Friday laying down radiation norms was not his ministry’s job. The statement was seen as a fall-out a turf battle between the MoEF and the department of Atomic Energy, under the prime minister of India.
Not surprisingly, there are few takers for Jairam’s latest position. Karuna Raina, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace points out that the norms for preparing the mandatory environment impact assessment, the primary document on which clearances are given by the MoEF, specifically talks of radioactive impact.
“The MoEF guidance emphasizes over and over again that radiological releases and resulting exposure to populations and ecosystems is the most important environmental impact to be studied,” she says.