Health and environmental concerns over two nuclear projects in Andhra Pradesh
- Centre had cleared a proposal to set up a nuclear power plant at Kovvada in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, abutting the proposed executive capital city of Visakhapatnam, has sparked another round of protests.
- There are also protests at the other end of the State, in Tummalapalle, Kadapa district, over uranium mining and its associated risks to health and environment, as well as issues of rehabilitation and resettlement.
- The Kovvada nuclear power plant was first proposed in 2015. The government has acquired over 2,079 acres of land for the plant, which was taken up in association with the U.S. multinational nuclear power reactors supplier, Westinghouse Electric Company.
- The Forum raised concerns over the location of the plant (it is to be set up close to National Highway 16), the rehabilitation of fishermen, and the presence of several industries in the region.
- As per the guidelines of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, human habitation is not allowed within a 1.6-km radius of the plant. People living within 30 km from the plant should be kept ready for evacuation in the event of a disaster.
- The Uranium Corporation of India Limited’s (UCIL) mining in Tummalapalle in Kadapa district has also become controversial for similar reasons.
- With an estimated 85,000 tonnes of potential uranium deposit, the Tummalapalle mine is touted to be among the world’s biggest. After over a decade of mining at the site, there are concerns now over air pollution, ground water contamination and unmet promises.
- Locals say bore wells have become contaminated. The most common complaints are of skin and respiratory ailments, but more serious health issues have been reported among women.
- On the rehabilitation front, the villagers are unhappy as a majority of the youth have not been given the promised employment. The company is also accused of failing to provide pensions to those who have crossed 60 years of age.
- Meanwhile, Opposition parties and NGOs are beginning to take note of the issues and inaction. The projects, both associated with nuclear energy, have been taken up in national interest.
- It is high time the government took note of the issues on the ground as well as action in the right direction.