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Focus of protests remains safety concerns: Meenakshi Mahadevan

IBNLive.com
Dec 12, 2012 at 03:30pm IST

With the commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project coming closer, anti-nuclear activists are upping the ante once again. CNN-IBN's senior correspondent Meenakshi Mahadevan joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the anti-nuke protests.

Q. Why has the govt(s) both at the center and state not able to gain the confidence of the people regarding safeguards against the dangers. Is it too late now to regain the confidence? Asked by: Narayan

A. That has been the government's biggest mistake in this whole issue.. They have never really tried to reach out to the people and explain the safety measures that have been put in place in KNPP... All the committees that were formed went till Kudankulam, visited the plant and gave a go ahead, never tried to interact with the people... Had they done that maybe this issue wouldn't be where it is now.

Focus of protests remains safety concerns: Meenakshi Mahadevan

The anti-nuclear activists are again upping the ante at Kudankulum.

Q. I think the protests are politically motivated and not in the true interest of the people. What are your views? Asked by: Chennai Vaasi

A. That would be an exaggeration.. It's true that the protests have the backing of a few political parties but if you visit the Idinthakarai village once and try interacting with the people, you'll realise that it's not just politics.. For those women and children, its a matter of their livelihood and safety.. Small kids, housewives are so well aware of the possible dangers.. They ask you so many questions about radiation, nuclear waste etc... And they really spend much of their time lending voice to the protest.. Of course some political parties want to be seen as supporters of this protest to score political points but that doesn't mean the whole protest is motivated.

Q. Are the protests foreign funded? Asked by: Indian

A. There have been allegations.. and counter allegations as far as foreign funding is concerned.. Best to leave the judgement to the investigators.. But the question is.. Does the govt have answers for the questions and concerns of these protesters? Give those answers and nothing else will matter.

Q. Can you explain, the Biggest question, how and when they will solve this issue? Asked by: Rajeev

A. Ha ha.. I wish.. We have seen the protests slowly escalate and blow up into this massive movement over the last two years.. What started off as a small protest in a small village near Kudankulam has now become a major protest that reached even Chennai.. PMANE laid siege to the plant through road and sea and even tried to do something similar to the state secretariat here.. The govt tried to use force and it became from bad to worse.. All they had to do and still can do is talk to those who are protesting.. And find a middle way.

Q. How effective will the power plant be in solving the power crisis in Tamil Nadu? Asked by: syed

A. Not very.. Tamil Nadu's deficit is 4000 MW.. And we can expect at the most 900 MW which also is unlikely.. It can definitely help in a small way but its not going to solve the crisis for sure.

Q. Will it make sense to move the project to some other location in India? Asked by: Iqbal

A. It's too late for that.. Huge amounts of money have been invested and plant is all set to be commissioner in less than a month (atleast that's what we're being told).. Also I'm sure the area in Kudankulam was selected after looking into the various benefits of having a plant there.

Q. If Government announces free or subsidiary Electricity for surrounding area does it ease out the tension. Asked by: sudheendra_sr

A. Not really.. The people who are protesting are not looking for anything but assurance of safety in return.. They just need the government to tell them that they will be safe and their livelihood will be protected.

Q. Why center had not initially decided to take clearance for disposal of nuclear waste before starting this project. Asked by: sudheendra_sr

A. That was perhaps the mistake that's costing the centre now.. NCPIL perhaps thought it won be such a major issue.. Truth is it really wouldn't have been had the Fukushima disaster not happened.. But after that, the people became informed and started asking questions.. that's when the problems started.

Q. PM was saying some time back that Kudankulam protest were motivated by foreign elements do you feel that he is polarising the protestors and ignoring local interests of the region. Asked by: Manush

A. The timing of that comment by the PM raised many eyebrows, Why did he suddenly make that statement when the protests had been happening for much longer? The sentiment on the ground is definitely that their sentiments and concerns have been ignored.. And when you see that no one from the govt is really trying to reach out to them, you really want to wonder whether their concerns are right.

Q. Why was there no protest when the project was on the drawing board? Why they are protesting when 100% investment is done? Asked by: srinivass

A. The protest really gathered steam only after the Fukushima Daichi disaster.. There were too many questions.. If an advanced country like Japan couldn't manage their plants, how will India.. Does KNPP have all safety measures in place.. What will they do with the nuclear waste? What if there's a Tsunami? all these questions started cropping up and that was when the govt should have addressed the people and given them assurance.. That didn't happen and the protests kept growing bigger.

Q. Tamil Nadu is already suffering from power cuts. I don't see why people are opposing this if this improves their situation. So do you think this protests are politically motivated? Asked by: Shin

A. Because there are bigger concerns than power for the people living in and around the plant.. These protests have been happening for a very long time but became stronger as the plant neared completion.. Political parties started supporting the protesters only later to score some brownie points.. Though there have been these distractions, the focus of the protests have remained the safety concerns.

Q. Do you feel that govt is in haste to commission the Kudankulam plant so that it can prove that nuclear bill it passed in 2008 during no confidence motion is giving results. As power could have been provided in a safer way with conventional means like thermal and hydro. Asked by: Manav

A. That's a far fetched thought.. Kudankulam is not the first nuclear power plant in India.. Conventional means of energy will continue to remain but the dependency on them like for instance wind energy is subject to the wind speeds.. So we have to start looking at alternate means of producing energy.

Q. There are functional nuclear plants across the country which have the same security measures as Kudankulam. Do you think that the protest among the people is just because of their concern over safety measures? Asked by: Jins

A. Mostly yes... There are the problem makers everywhere - no denying that.. But then, if the government is so confident of its safety measures, why doesn't it tell people that? Atleast there wouldn't be a doubt in anybody's minds.. Also.. it'll be a fitting reply to these protesters also.. People will know govt has done its job!!

Q. PM's statement always get's node of congress supremo before it is published in media. Does this dip the confidence of people residing at Kundankulam. Asked by: sudheendra_sr

A. Not really.. On the contrary the protesters in Kudankulam feel the entire foreign funding allegation was an attempt to derail their protests.. You have to visit that place and you'll know that every single person protesting there knows what he wants and what they are protesting against.. Their confidence hasn't really dipped much but somewhere within themselves, they ought to know its now becoming a losing battle.

Q. What will be the real benefits of providing power through nuclear as after some time its benefits will be neutralized as speculators and hoarders both in business and politics will exploit it on one pretext and the other and power prices again will be much higher than hydro and thermal. Asked by: Shailesh

A. The energy demand in India is rising considerably... Given that we need all forms of energy.. As far as nuclear energy is concerned, India has a vision of becoming a world leader in nuclear technology because of its expertise in fast reactors and thorium fuel cycle.. What happens in the future will be known only then.. But for now, given the power situation, any form of energy seems to be welcome.

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