Gujarat n-plant runs into land acquisition hurdle
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Mithivirdi, which literally means a 'sweet well', is a nondescript Gujarat coastal village about 50 km south of Bhavnagar city and next-door to Alang, Asia's largest ship-recycling yard. The region, with its reddish-brown earth, lush green orchards and undulating hillocks, is known as much for its farm and fruit produce as for the nearby rocky seashore which is a graveyard for thousands of ships. This contrasting landscape has been chosen as the location of a 6,000 MW nuclear power project, one of the first India hopes to build in the aftermath of the civil nuclear deal it signed with the United States in 2008.
The project will be spread over 777 hectares and house six nuclear reactors manufactured by US-based Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba of Japan, which has signed an agreement with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. The ambitious project aims to supply power not only to Gujarat but also to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
However, residents of five villages – Mithivirdi, Jasapara, Khadarpar, Mandva and Paniyad — where the project will be located are anything but excited. Their attachment to their land, which has to be acquired, and the fear of having to live near a nuclear plant have sparked protests.
In an almost identical replay of the opposition to the Jaitapur project on Maharashtra's Konkan coast, Mithivirdi and its neighbours have prevented authorities from conducting soil and water tests, stopped land surveys and even the digging of borewells and submitted affidavits to the district collector saying they would not allow their land to be acquired.
"Money does grow on trees," says farmer Arjun Dabhi, who owns a 40-bigha orchard and claims mangoes grown on just 2 bighas fetched him Rs 2 lakh this season while a kilo of cashew fruit was sold for Rs 500. "And they want to have a nuclear power plant here and destroy all that is natural," he said.
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