Locals step up protest against proposed n-plant at Mithi Virdi

The proposed nuclear plant to be built by Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) with US technology at Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar district has run into stiff resistance from locals who are opposing the first public hearing scheduled for March 5. The project is part of the Indo-US nuclear deal signed in 2007.

Around six years ago, NPCIL had zeroed in on a cluster of five villages — Mithi-Virdi, Jasapara, Khadarpar, Mandva and Paniyad — to build the 6,900 megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant that would be India's largest such facility.

However, soil and water testing was delayed following intense protest by villagers. Now, locals including those living in nearby urban centre of Bhavnagar city have closed ranks and vowed not to let the public hearing on environmental concerns take place.

"We have submitted a memorandum to Bhavnagar district collector. We do not want public hearing in the first place," said Krishnakant, a coordinator for various groups opposing the plant.

"Bhavnagar is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the agricultural activities in the area. It gets its supply of fruits and vegetables round the year from the farmers of the 24 villages that have got notices for environmental public hearing for the proposed plant," said Damyanti Modi of Bhavnagar Anu Urja Abhyas Juth, a group of senior citizens from Bhavnagar who have been studying the possible impact of a nuclear power plant at Mithi Virdi.

A year ago, Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Company had signed an MoU with NPCIL for site development work supporting future construction of AP 1000 nuclear power plants. The project requires 777 hectares, including private and government wasteland.

Mithi Virdi is a small coastal town known for its lush green orchards producing a variety of rare-quality fruits. Villagers say adequate monsoon in the last decade has ensured them three bumper crops in a year.

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