MUMBAI, Aug 31, 2013 (Menafn – Mint – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) –The 9,900 megawatt (MW) Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra cleared a major hurdle on Friday with protesters agreeing to withdraw their long-drawn agitation and resolve pending issues through dialogue with the state government.

“The villagers have accepted enhanced compensation of Rs.22.5 lakh per hectare by the state government,” said Narayan Rane, Maharashtra’s industry minister after a meeting with people from nine villages around Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district.

“However, they have some further demands on which I have assured them to organize a meeting with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan at the earliest and resolve all pending issues,” he said.

Praveen Gavankar, president of Jaitapur Action Committee, said: “We had given a memorandum of some 29 demands to Rane, including enhancing the compensation, and he has promised to find solution to our demands at earliest.”

The project faces other major hurdles.

In May, Mint reported that the Jaitapur nuclear power plant may only be commissioned by 2021 at the earliest, given that state-owned Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd (NPCIL) and France’s Areva SA need to iron out critical issues such as India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, credit arrangements for the construction and the final cost of the project located in Maharashtra.

The estimated cost of the project, to be developed by NPCIL, was around Rs.1 trillion in 2010, when a memorandum of understanding was signed between then French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. French government-owned Areva is NPCIL’s technology partner for the project.

The Jaitapur project is the first civilian nuclear power project India undertook with foreign collaboration after signing a civil nuclear deal with the US in 2008, which ended India’s isolation in the nuclear arena that had begun with the country’s first nuclear test in 1974.

A group of fishermen continues to oppose the project. “Farmers will get compensation for their land but we are not offered anything by the state government despite the fact that we are also going to lose our livelihood,” said Amjad Borkar, Ratnagiri district president of Maharashtra Fishermen Action Committee.

The nuclear power project will entail strict security restrictions on fishing around the area, “which will force us to go into deep seas, which will increase our costs”, Borkar said. Jaitapur is located some 395 km south of Mumbai in the Konkan coastal region.

The opposition Shiv Sena party that’s been backing the Jaitapur agitators also continues to oppose the project. “We will continue to support the anti-nuclear power plant agitation as we don’t want hazardous nuclear power project in our beautiful Konkan,” Sena legislator Rajan Salvi told Marathi news channel ABP Majha on Friday.

Protests by Jaitapur locals on health, safety and other grounds turned violent in April 2011, when a fisherman was killed and three were injured in police firing.

Nuclear power projects in India have triggered extreme worry among locals because of the potential risks. The nuclear power plant being constructed in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu with Russian collaboration too faced large protests over similar issues. The Supreme Court cleared the project in May.

In February, the Maharashtra government, which is acquiring the land required for the Jaitapur plant on behalf of NPCIL, announced an enhanced compensation package of Rs.22.5 lakh per hectare for people losing their land.

Around 1,000 ha. of land has already been acquired for the project but barely 10% of around the 2,200 affected land owners have so far accepted the compensation package.

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed a landmark Bill that ensures adequate compensation and rehabilitation for landowners and others affected by any acquisition of land for public and private projects, but an official in the Maharashtra revenue department, which handles land acquisitions, said the law wouldn’t apply restrospectively.

“Besides, we have already announced compensation which is much higher than market rate in the area,” the official said.

India has an installed power generation capacity of 223,626MW, of which 2.1%, or 4,780MW, is nuclear power. It wants to boost this to 63,000MW capacity by 2032.

Courtesy: MENAFN.COM

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