Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nuclear Power & Precautionary Principle

  Nuclear Power and Hazards to Human Environment


The fact that the process of fissioning uranium in nuclear reactors creates more than 200 new man-made radioactive elements, some of which "live" for only seconds: some remain radioactive for millions of years, is a well established scientific finding. It is also a well established fact that these diabolical elements, once created, will inevitably find their way into the environment and will eventually enter the reproductive organs of plants, animals and humans, where they will mutate the genes in reproductive cells to cause disease and death in the immediate generation or pass a hidden genetic disease to distant offspring down the time track.

Nuclear Power Reactor accidents induced by human error/ fallibility or due to natural calamities cannot be ruled out, as evidenced by melt-down of Three Mile Island Reactor in the United States, a massive power excursion erupted at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Russia and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster due to Tsunami in Japan as recent as March 2011. The possible  threat of terrorist attacks, similar to the one on WTC Towers in New York, on Nuclear Power Reactors cannot be ruled out, by any stretch of imagination..

 Precautionary Principle


According to universally accepted "Precautionary Principle" forming part of 1992 Rio Declaration, if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action or policy decision. The decision-makers are required to anticipate harm before it occurs.

This Principle allows policy makers to make discretionary decisions in situations where there is the possibility of harm from taking a particular course or making a certain decision when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public and environment from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed, only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.

Constitutional Obligations


The Article 37 of Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) of The Constitution of India stipulates that the principles therein laid down are fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws. While according to Article 48-A of Directive Principles, the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country, the Article 51-A (g) imposes as one of the Fundamental Duties on every citizen, the duty to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

The Environment (Protection) Act 1986, having important constitutional implications with an international background, drew its inspiration from the proclamation adopted by United Nations Conference on the protection and improvement of the Human Environment , which affects the well-being of people and economic development. As per the Act, "Environment" includes Water, Air and Land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between Water, Air and Land, and Human Beings ,other living creatures, Plants, Micro-organisms and Property.

Distortion of Obligations


The Govt of India, in recent times, by giving "Principle Approval" for new project sites for setting up Nuclear Power Parks (NPPs) at Jaitapur in Maharashtra, at Kovvada in AP State, among other states, has blatantly ignored "Precautionary Principle" and other constitutional obligations mentioned above. This seems to have been done, due to apparent compulsions, without taking into account viable and cost effective alternatives for Energy Security.


 Some of them are effective implementation of Energy Conservation measures by way of Supply Side Management (SSM) and Demand Side Management (DSM) Measures having considerable potential, the Renewable Sources of Energy with decentralized and small capacity generating units to cater for local power requirements, the grid interactive roof-top Solar PV Systems with suitable feed-in tariff etc.  


The respective State Governments, by initiating land acquisition process for NPPs based on "Principle Approval" of GOI, do not seem to have considered the implications of ignoring "Precautionary Principle" and other constitutional obligations.  


Land Acquisition


The land acquisition process for public use or other purposes invariably causes distress in affected families, mainly because of displacement and the loss of primary sources of livelihood of fishermen and tribal communities in particular, who have traditional rights on Natural Resources Sea and Forests for their livelihoods. No amount of compensation can offer solace and relief from distress caused by the loss of their age old habitations and livelihoods. In the case of land acquisition for Nuclear Power Plants, the threat from likely nuclear radiation, which became the public knowledge after Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, persists among the people in the surrounding areas.




 There is serious public opposition to the proposed NPP of NPCIL at Jaitapur in Maharashtra even after MOEF accorded Environmental Clearance, the stiff opposition against the land acquisition for the proposed NPP of NPCIL at Kovvada in AP is building up and the work on NPCIL NPP at Kudankulam in Tamilnadu, which is in advanced stage of completion, has come to standstill because of stiff public opposition in the wake of the latest Fukushima Daiichi Reactor disaster in Japan. It is high time for the Govt. of India to consider reviewing its Energy Policy before "Rio +20" in June 2012., with a view to provide Carbon- Free and Nuclear-Free viable and cost effective alternatives for Energy Security in the years to come.



Friday, February 10, 2012

Kolleru Wild Life Sanctuary Limping Forward?

I visited Kolleru Wild Life Sanctuary (KWLS) on 4 th February, after a lapse of about seven years, since the last visit to KWLS. The visit was confined to Environmental Education Centre ( ECC ),located in the area of around 5 fish ponds, dismantled during the operation in 2005 and there after, at Atapaka village in Kaikaluru Mandal of Krishna District. Watching the vast water spread, dotted with bunds providing habitats, with some sort of nesting facilities for sizable number of migratory birds is like a dream coming true, KWLS again becoming live, as a feeding and breeding ground.

The link for viewing the pictures taken during the visit is given below:

Kolleru Bird Sanctuary Feb 4 2012

If KWLS is to be restored to its pristine glory, the following issues need to be attended on a priority basis:
  1. Inadequate nesting facilities. While taking action to develop the right species of plants for providing nesting facilities in natural environment, more nesting stands made of steel and wood may be provided.
  2. Lack of security to nesting places. The areas earmarked for nesting are to be protected from human and live stock activities.
  3. The danger of poaching still seems to be a threat to the Birds, which needs to be guarded against by involving local communities.
  4. Apart from some fishponds which still exist between +5 and +3 contours, there are fishponds just abutting sanctuary area on the pretext that they are above +5 contours. Even if they are above +5 contour, they are to be governed by Wetland Rules (C&M) 2010 and The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act 1974.
  5. Necessary steps need to be initiated to remove the Fish Ponds that still continue to operate in notified Sanctuary Area up to +5 Contour, in spite of the resolution for reduction of Sanctuary Area from +5 to +3 contour, passed by AP State Legislative Assembly, which is questionable.
  6. The discharge of industrial effluents from the industries and domestic sewage from the townships in the catchment area of the sanctuary needs to be phased out in a given time frame, in coordination with APPCB.
  7. The issues of livelihood and employment for the stakeholders in KWLS need to be given the hugest priority, while taking care of providing safe drinking water, healthcare and education facilities.