It might appear strange to many as to why I, a former Naval officer, who headed the Indian Navy, should be a very vocal anti-nuclear campaigner ever since our nuclear tests were conducted in May 1998. This was least expected, as we had already proven to the whole world, our technical competence in the nuclear field, in 1974 when we carried out our “Peaceful Nuclear Experiment” – or PNE.
The nuclear test conducted at Pokhran, Rajasthan, on May 11 1998 was like a public announcement of our nuclear weaponization programme. Pakistan, followed suit a few weeks thereafter, namely, on May 28 1998, when they carried out their tests in the Chhagai mountains.
There was considerable hype generated in both countries, by both Indian and Pakistani press and media, including some irresponsible political leaders on both sides, calling this the ‘Hindu’ bomb and the ‘Islamic bomb’ respectively. Fortunately despite this jingoistic exhilaration, we have managed to keep a temporary, if uneasy peace in the sub continent. I am not too sure how long this may last as it constitutes a potential hazard at all times.
To add to this, India has currently a very ambitious nuclear energy programme for its anticipated requirements of power for the next two to three decades. Recently we have announced a decision to prune the intended nuclear power plants programme by two thirds.
This, in my view could well be on account of lack of funds and/or the intention to use domestic coal and other sources of energy in lieu.
Personally speaking we have had considerable interaction with the protest movement against the Kudankulam Nuclear Plant in Tamil Nadu, for the past decade and a half. Notwithstanding the claims made by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India [NPCIL], it has yet to produce sufficient electric power to feed the grid. This is truly a great shame considering that the protestors had brought this to the attention of all concerned. Noteworthy in this protest was the participation of women in huge numbers, who were, and continue to be active despite continued crack downs by the police and other authorities.
Almost all the nuclear power plants planned across various states of India, have a common feature – which is a total and unrelenting resistance and the voices of protest of the affected people – especially women. Whether it be Chutka in Madhya Pradesh, or Andhra [Kovaada], Maharashtra [Jaitapur], Haryana [Gorakhpur], or Gujarat [Mithi Virdi], Chennai [Kalpakkam], Rajasthan [Mahi -Banswada], Karnataka [Kaiga], W Bengal [Haripur], T Nadu [Koodankulam], huge numbers of people will be displaced, and their lands – often fertile irrigated lands taken over and livelihoods destroyed. Those on coastal regions will not only pollute our oceans but also displace large numbers of fishermen and totally destroy their source of livelihood.
Some of the other important aspects which constitute major health hazards to all those living in proximity of the nuclear plants, include radiation hazards, the continuing problem of disposal of nuclear waste, discharge of contaminated coolant and other liquids which are discharged into the seas/rivers nearby; not to mention the threat to flora and fauna – cultivation and living creatures . In addition, every nuclear plant is a water guzzler – and therefore further aggravating our already acute water situation.
In view of all the foregoing already mentioned by me – it stands to reason that we should find and implement renewable energy alternatives to meet our demands andneeds in the foreseeable future. This will mean educating our people regarding conservation and more efficient utilisation of our existing power plants.
Much as I would have liked to be physically present for this event, I am unable to do so. However, I wish to congratulate the WRN for this extraordinary and timely initiative. It is only natural that women will make the maximum noise - given that they are the ones most affected by this dreaded so-called “clean energy technology” – which is how Nuclear power is being labelled and promoted.