Locals of Mandla district will once again raise their voices against 1400 MW NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited) Chutka project which is coming up in highly seismic zone, near Kanha national park and adjacent to one of the least polluted river Narmada. State government officials have already issued land acquisition notices to local people, almost all of them are tribal, and have slapped a NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) report which is Greek to them.
The district administration has called a public hearing on 24th of this month to invite claims, objections and suggestions suggestion on the project that pose risk to rich diversity and more importantly pre-historic evidences of human civilization in the area. Members of Chutka Parmanu Sangharsh Samiti, have demanded immediate cancellation of the meeting and threatened to stage dharna from 20th of this month if their demand is not met.
NEERI has readied environment impact assessment report on the project. On the other hand district collector told BS that all formalities and documentation procedures have been completed and there are people who want this project to come up.
Interestingly, when world is debating safety of nuclear power project after 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan, Jabalpur-Mandla belt also experienced an earthquake on 22 May 1997 of 7 magnitude on Richter. The epicenter of this earthquake was at Kosamghat --hardly 20 kilometers away from the proposed site.
According to Navratan Dubey, secretary of Chutkha Parmanu Sangharsh Samiti, the district collector handed over the NEERI report on 21 April 2013 to them and gave one month period to study it. “Entire report is in English and is in scientific terms, how can villagers study it and come up with even suggestions? He asks, “The NEERI took two years to prepare it and they want us to analyse it in one month. We have demanded the district collector to give a Hindi version of the report and a time of two months so that villagers can understand it. It would be impossible for them even if they are in favour of the project,” Dubey said, “We will launch our protest from 20 of this month if they do not listen to us. We want the public hearing to be cancelled.”
Villagers of Chutka, Tatighat, Kunda, Bhaliwara and Patha are in the core area of the project. Villagers are more enraged as they have already been displaced due to Bargi dam on Narmada River. The project site also falls under the scheduled area.
The district collector Lokendra Singh Jatav told BS telephonically from Mandla, “We have given them enough copies of the NEERI report in Hindi and enough time. There are people who want development and they are in favour of the project, we will go ahead as per schedule. We have already issued land acquisition notifications and few with vested interest are opposing it.”
Though the project is yet to come out of the drawing board, the district administration has issued notices under the 1994 land acquisition Act. Members of Chutka Parmanu Sangharsh Samiti also allege that district administration officials are forcefully moving ahead without taking them into confident. “They have not taken permission from gram sabhas and ignored decisions and resolutions of villagers in contrast to the fact that Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, has vested all rights on deciding developmental activities to the gram sabhas,” said Rajkumar Sinha, who is fighting for rights of oustees of Bargi dam. He is advising villagers on Chutka Parmanu Sangharsh Samiti on environment and other issues.
The samiti members said they were already displaced when the Bargi dam on Narmada River was conceived. “We are strictly against the project as we do not want to move for another project,” Dubey added. The district collector was not available for comment. However the district collector clarified that all legal and documentary procedures have been completed.