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Four years after Fukushima, India is flogging a nuclear dead horse

It’s a telling comment on the state of the Indian media that most of it blacked out the fourth anniversary of the still-continuing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, which fell on March 11. The same media reported breathlessly on the Indian government’s plans to triple domestic nuclear power-generation capacity by 2020-21, and on the “breakthrough” achieved on the nuclear liability issue during Barack Obama’s recent visit to India.

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Modi government cracks down on green NGOs

India’s new Modi government trains its guns on environmental activists.

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Fighting The New Green War: Medha Patkar’s contribution

Nobody has made a greater contribution to building such a grassroots movement than Medha Patkar who turns 60 on December 1. Patkar is best known globally as the leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, one of the world’s greatest ecological mass mobilisations. She is also the founder of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, comprising over 250 grassroots groups active in more than 15 Indian states on a range of civil-political and social rights issues.

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Rio+20: A failure of epic proportions

Even the most incurable optimists among the globe’s spin doctors will find it difficult to dress up the Rio+20 summit of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development as a halfway modest success. Indeed, it represents a failure of epic proportions, which pro­ves that the world’s leaders have learned virtually nothing during the 20 years that have passed since the landmark 1992 earth summit, which negotiated path-breaking conventions on climate change and biodiversity and made commitments to poverty eradication and social justice.

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Book Review: Saving climate debate from a lack of vision

Praful Bidwai lays bare the contours of climate politics as it has evolved over the past two decades at the international level as well as within India. While criticising the developed world for doing nothing to cut down emissions and relying on market- based mechanisms such as carbon trade to fulfil their climate responsibilities, the author finds India’s policy equally flawed as well.

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Low-level nuclear deception

India’s former President APJ Abdul Kalam brought himself no credit by visiting the Koodankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu, and declaring it “100 percent safe”. The idea that any technology, especially a complex hazard-prone one like a nuclear power, is “100 percent safe” is patently unscientific. All technologies carry finite risks. The more complicated, energy-dense, and dependent on high-pressure high-temperature systems they are, the higher the risk.

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Green challenges

Jairam Ramesh’s removal as environment minister creates many uncertainties at a critical moment for domestic environment policy and for the deadlocked global climate talks. Can Jayanthi Natarajan quell them?

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Don’t rush through the Jaitapur nuclear project, urge concerned citizens

''Disregarding calls for caution arising from the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima, the Indian government has announced that it is going ahead with the Jaitapur nuclear project. This will mean imposing reactors of an untested design upon an unwilling people and a uniquely precious ecosystem. There has been no independent and credible review of India's nuclear power policy, nor a proper safety audit of our nuclear installations after Fukushima. Public-spirited citizens are again called upon to urge the government to reconsider its stand, and to demand that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board be given a truly independent and powerful mandate and that its members be selected with great care and prudence. More than 60 eminent citizens from different walks of life have signed the following statement. The prominent signatories include former Chiefs of Naval Staff Admiral L Ramdas and Vishnu Bhagwat, former Major-General SG Vombatkere, former Planning Commission member SP Shukla, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A Gopalakrishnan, former vice-chancellors Deepak Nayyar and Mushirul Hasan, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nirupam Sen, social scientists Romila Thapar, Sumit and Tanika Sarkar, Ramachandra Guha, Rajeev Bhargava, Amit Bhaduri, Achin Vanaik and Zoya Hasan, and scientists PM Bhargava, Satyajit Rath, MV Ramana, Suvrat Raju, writer Arundhati Roy, dancer Leela Samson, artistes Krishen Khanna, Ghulam Shaikh, SG Vasudev, Vivan Sundaram and Bharti Kher, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar, and many others, including scholars, and social and environmental activists such as Vandana Shiva and Aruna Roy.''

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The Nuclear Crisis in Japan: a Wake-Up Call for India

March 30, 2011

Dear Editor/News Editor/Chief Reporter,

For immediate publication

The grave nuclear crisis in Japan has highlighted the issue of safety in atomic installations the world over, including in India. It has also prompted the demand for a thorough safety review of nuclear installations.

More than 60 eminent citizens from different walks of life have signed the following statement calling for an independent safety review of nuclear installations in India, and pending it, a moratorium on further nuclear activities.

The prominent signatories include former Chief of Naval Staff L Ramdas, Indian Institute of Science Bangalore director P Balaram, former Planning Commission member SP Shukla, former vice-chancellor of Delhi University Deepak Nayyar, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chairman A Gopalakrishnan, former Ambassador to the United Nations Nirupam Sen, historians Romila Thapar, Sumit Sarkar, Mushirul Hasan and Ramachandra Guha, economists Amit Bhaduri and Jean Dreze, psychologist Ashis Nandy, scientists PM Bhargava, Satyajit Rath and MV Ramana, writers Arundhati Roy and Nayantara Sehgal, painters Krishen Khanna, Gulam Shaikh, SG Vasudev and Vivan Sundaram, dancer-choreographer Leela Samson, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar, and many other social scientists, scholars and activists, including Aruna Roy.

The full list of signatories appears at the bottom.

In view of the critical public importance of the issue, could you please carry the statement in full in your paper, channel or wire service? Publication of the entire list of signatories on your website would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards, Praful Bidwai

PS: In case you want to contact or interview any of the signatories, please contact the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace at (011) 26517814 and 65663958.

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Nuclear lessons from Japan

Fukushima has highlighted the supreme importance of nuclear safety. Governments, especially in the West, cannot afford to ignore public concerns about safety. Switzerland has cancelled its plans to build three new reactors. And Germany’s conservative government has reversed its controversial decision to prolong the phaseout of all nuclear reactors. Nuclear authorities in many countries are questioning the assumptions on which they designed reactor safety systems and operating parameters. But in the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), complacency and smugness prevail. Its secretary denies that there is “a nuclear emergency” in Japan, only “a purely chemical reaction”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised a safety review of all DAE installations. He said his government “attaches the highest importance to nuclear safety”; the DAE has “been instructed to undertake immediate technical review of all safety systems… particularly with a view to ensuring that they would be able to withstand… tsunamis and earthquakes”. That’s a red herring.

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India's Nuclear Neros

The colossal hubris, ignorance and smugness of India’s nuclear czars take one’s breath away. The day Japan’s crisis took a decisive turn for the worse, with an explosion in a third Fukushima reactor and fresh radiation leaks, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) secretary Sreekumar Banerjee declared that the nuclear crisis “was purely a chemical reaction and not a nuclear emergency as described by some section(s) of media”. Nuclear Power Corporation chairman S.K. Jain went one better: “There is no nuclear accident or incident. It is a well-planned emergency preparedness programme which the nuclear operators…are carrying out to contain the residual heat after…an automatic shutdown”.

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People vs Nuclear Power: the Environmental Struggle in Jaitapur, Maharashtra

The first thing that strikes the visitor to Jaitapur-Madban in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, about 400 kilometres from Mumbai, is the sheer beauty of the place. The second thing that strikes you is the profusion of posters, banners and slogans which say “Areva Go Back”, “NO to Nuclear Power” and “Radiation Kills” in Marathi. These are the work of a grassroots movement against a project. This is planned to be the world’s largest nuclear power station.

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The truth behind India's nuclear renaissance

Jaitapur's French-built nuclear plant is a disaster in waiting, jeopardising biodiversity and local livelihoods

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A bad nuclear choice in India

Imagine a beautiful ecosystem with virgin rainforests, great mountains, and immense biodiversity, in which two great rivers originate. Add to this a flourishing farming, fisheries and horticultural economy which grows the world-famous Alphonso mango. And you have the Jaitapur-Madban region in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district in the Western Ghats, termed by the Biological Survey of India as the country’s richest area for endemic plants.

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Courting Nuclear Disaster in Maharashtra - A fact finding report by CNDP

The Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, of which I am a founding member, recently sent a team to Jaitapur, in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, where the world’s largest nuclear power station is proposed to be built. The people of Jaitapur strongly oppose the project and have sustained a strong and peaceful movement against it for four years.

We went there to assess the strength of the people’s opposition to the project, to inquire into the state’s violations of their civil liberties, and to express solidarity with the people’s movement.

CNDP has produced a booklet on Jaitapur, whose PDF file is linked below. This will be printed with a four-column colour cover this week. If you would like copies, please write to: Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) A-124/6, 1st Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi-110 016 I Telefax: 011-26968121 Email:

CNDP decided at its Tenth Anniversary Convention in December 2010 to participate in and intensify people’s struggles against nuclear power, which is being forcefully promoted by the Indian government after the completion of the India-US nuclear deal and its endorsement by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

Praful Bidwai.

Courting Nuclear Disaster in Maharashtra: Why the Jaitapur Project Must Be Scrapped A report published by Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (authors: Praful Bidwai, Bhasha Singh, S P Shukla, Vaishali Patil, Rafeeq Ellias) 42 Pages (PDF) January 2011

Down the nuclear tube in Jaitapur

India is obsessively pursuing nuclear power generation and imposing it upon an unwilling public, which doesn’t treat nuclear reactors as good neighbours. Inevitably, the government is getting into direct and imperious opposition to the people, with terrible consequences for democracy, which at minimum must respect the right to life with dignity, and the right to reject projects that are destructive of the environment and livelihoods. This is nowhere more evident than in Jaitapur in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, on the Konkan coast, where Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd is erecting six giant (1,650 MW) reactors designed by the French firm Areva. Jaitapur is touted as the world’s largest nuclear station, generating 9,900 MW (India’s present nuclear capacity, 4,780 MW).

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Remove the smokescreen

The disclosure by the Centre for Science and Environment that 11 of the 12 leading brands of honey sold in India contain high levels of harmful antibiotics should make us acknowledge our failure to evolve and enforce environmental and health standards. Similar disclosures were made about pesticides in soft drinks and coliform bacteria in 'safe' bottled water. More distressing is the documentation since the 1980s of high content of pesticides and other toxins, including lead, in a majority of samples of foodgrain, vegetables, meat, eggs and milk tested by public laboratories.

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Wages of GDP-ism: Manmohan Attacks Environmental Protection

Clearly, India must tighten its regulations to protect land, water, air, forests and coastline. This is a top priority related to the survival and well-being of the people. Dr Singh is sending out the message that the environment is dispensable. We can allow it to be destroyed to promote growth. He must revise his views on environmental deregulation. Or we’ll all have to pay the price for his myopic obsession with GDPism and pampering of Big Business.

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Wrong call on nuclear liability

The government is set to move the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 in the current session of Parliament after withdrawing its earlier draft on March 15 without explanation. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology headed by Congress MP T Subbirami Reddy has since heard various proponents and opponents of the Bill.

While the former mainly comprise Department of Atomic Energy officials, who stress the importance of moving the legislation quickly so as to encourage investment in the nuclear power programme, the objectors are a more plural group, including “official” experts such as former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) A Gopalakrishnan, and independent experts and activists from the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), Greenpeace India and the Delhi Science Forum, as well as political parties.

The opponents have raised a number of issues of vital public importance. The Standing Committee must faithfully and earnestly incorporate their suggestions and the government must pay heed to them if there is to be an informed and intelligent debate on the Bill. Any attempt to rush the Bill through would be thoroughly misguided.

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Terminal folly

Delhi's ecologically unsound new airport terminal does not represent progress; rather it marks the Indian elite's dependence on false symbols of grandeur.

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