Friday, 26 October 2012

Bloody Power!

I have been away. For eight weeks. Really Away - no phone, internet, connection to my regular life or loved ones - to retreat into myself and find connections within and without - in a natural, mostly non-peopled world of things wild, wide and beautiful.

I return to find many things drastically changed in a world that dominates my life i.e. my intense and sometimes obsessive preoccupation with the civil liberties and humans rights challenges and horrors of this country. Foremost among these obsessions , for the last year, has been with the intense, prolonged, passionate and peaceful opposition to the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant mounted by the local communities fighting to preserve their life, health, environment and livelihood in a post-Fukushima, and more enlightened world - at least more aware about real dangers in presuming safety of nuclear technologies.

I left during an impasse between the state and the protesters, the latter having found support from heavy weights like Aruna Roy. I returned and found time to catch up with mails only to find that a repressive state that could charge thousands as seditious had crossed the final line, of reasonable and restrained, to squash protests using brutal violence, with guns and batons. No one was spared, not children, aged, women. Two were killed - and I did not know. All this bloodshed - for electric power? for personal and political power?for national development? with Nuclear Power?

Bloody Power used to shed Blood of the Poor to serve hidden agendas with Nuclear Power - Bloodied Power!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Erratum and An Update on Populations Placed Under Nuclear Risk

Karuna Raina called today regarding my blog on numbers at risk due to current and proposed nuclear plants.
Staring at the table, it appears that Koodankulam has been counted twice, once as itself, and once more as Tirunelvelli. This is an error. The total numbers at risk within 80km radius is now 113 million instead of 122 million. However, few points are noteworthy. First, for six of the plants I have used 2001 census data. The average increase in India's population over the 2001-2011 decade is 17.64%; so the populations around each of these plants is likely to increase by about a similar percentage. Also proximity to large towns have been ignored; for example Rawatbhata is 25mi from Kota - a large city. Also in the list of India's nuclear planned and proposed plants,  I find that there are a few plants I have not included in my list. Of these, interestingly, Haripur is becoming the most haunting with an increasing likelihood of resurrection. And, the population density of Bardhaman district (2011 census) is 1100/ - more than double of Tirunelvelli/Koodankulam area. Thus the basic premise of about 10% of India's population being placed at risk due to the presence of current or proposed nuclear plant - still holds - and is likely to go up - if calculated precisely.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Maps of Global Renewable Potential

These maps are extracted using google searches. The reference to the Wind Map below is here. Please click to view and enlarge. Note the potential for India.


The map below shows the scope for solar energy, globally.

The annual water map of the world is given below - with an associated potential for harnessing energy via mini, micro and small hydro power.

Biomass Global map is given below.

The above geothermal map is taken from here.

Now I wonder if our lawmakers have gone through these maps? studied them sufficiently to realise that we, the nation, are blessed enough, naturally? and nuking is not necessary.

Response to MRS

 MR Srinivasan(MRS), the ex-chief of atomic energy commission, has recently attempted to re-persuade the public that there really is no alternative to a nuclear power plant at Koodankulam. To this end, he resorts to sweeping generalities, inappropriate distractions and deliberate falsehoods to prop up his arguments – and cleverly side steps the real issues and concerns of people who oppose this nuclear plant.

All proposed nuclear plants in India, like those at Jaitapur, Kovvada, Gorakhpur, Haripur, etc., are sites of intense public opposition due to their inherent risks, even during normal operations. Risks of a serious accident, whether natural, man-made, or of technical origin, further compound the resistance in vulnerable communities near the plants. Thus, there is a real need to address the viability of energy alternatives for India’s rising demands. This write up offers a point wise rebuttal to MR Srinivasan’s many wrong contentions, and also serves as a reminder to a few of the lesser known facts about a nuclear-India.

Natural Gas: Currently, natural gas accounts for more than 10% of India’s installed electricity generations – this despite its other uses as feedstock, domestic and transport fuel. A recent report on the natural gas capacity in India places it amongst the fastest growing conventional options, and recommends that India take advantage of the excess global availability of the fuel and its green advantages. In a similar vein, India’s oil ministry is targeting a tripling in the pipeline capacity for gas distribution. Natural gas is expected to feature increasingly in India’s demand to generate electricity. The cost of natural gas has already fallen by 60% from 2011, and is at a 16 year minimum, due to oversupply in the market; its value currently stands at $2.45/million BTU; MRS uses an unrealistic value of $8-9/million BTU which was last seen in 2007-08 period, to imply a per unit cost which is twice that of nuclear energy!

Wind Energy: A recent assessment by Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory places the wind potential of India at 2000-3000 GW, much higher than the government estimate of 102 GW. This enormous potential requires an estimated  0.05% of India’s land; only 3% of that land is used for power generation, so most of the land in a wind farm is still available for traditional or other uses. Suzlon has recently announced that it has crossed a 1GW mark wind capacity at Jaisalmer, indicative of the practicality of wind as a potential component to India’s energy solutions. Tamil Nadu state itself currently has an installed wind capacity of over 6 GW. It is true that wind power generation happens only part of the time; however in peninsular India, this luckily happens during the monsoon months, when the solar generation is low.

Solar energy: might be diffuse, but its potential, especially in India, is virtually limitless. The solar global market is expected to witness a rise of 200-400% over the next five years with Asia taking a lead.
Furthermore, the scope of meeting the needs of our millions, who are without power, become feasible with ideas of rooftop solar panels for households. This idea was recently examined by Prof. Chokshi at IISc., and shown to have a potential for meeting distributed energy needs  without needing any 100MW photovoltaic solar plants considered by MRS. This has an additional advantage of cutting down enormously on transmission and distribution losses – which in India are  27% of total electricity produced.  While the per unit cost of solar energy is high compared to conventional fuels, in Dec. 2011, its cost fell below the cost of power generated from a diesel source to Rs. 7.49/unit, far below Rs.20/unit quoted by MRS;  and a further drop by 40% is expected by 2015.

Hydro-Power: While MRS limits himself to large hydro projects and its associated human and environmental damages, small hydro electric projects have a potential for renewable and distributed energy generation while also avoiding the large scale damages. Their potential as an integral part of a multi-pronged and green energy approach has yet to be fully explored, and exploited. A feasibility study of mini, micro and small hydro power plants has been carried out at IISc. along the Bedthi and Aghanashini rivers in Uttara Kanara district of Karnataka. It has been estimated that the energy harnessed from streams would provide, respectively, 720, and 510 million unitsof electricity! Grossest estimates for electricity generation from small hydro projects, based on currently available data, suggests a potential of 15 GW –  with likelihood that this number might vastly increase.

Coal: is an unfortunate and a major provider of India’s power needs – and the sooner we wean ourselves – the better.

Nuclear Energy: Contributes about 2.7% to India’s current electricity production with 20 operating nuclear reactors. Koodankulam nuclear Power plant, at the verge of criticality, cost Rs.13,000 crores and almost ten years to build. It has an expected potential of 2 GW, at full capacity. India proposes that by 2032, the national nuclear capacity will increase to 63 GW from a current capacity of 4.8 GW.

MRS grossly underplays deaths and damages in Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear disasters, while underscoring that lessons have been learnt. The disaster at Chernobyl has left a legacy of wastelands far beyond regional and national boundaries and mutated the genetic pool of all living matter, plant, animal or human for generations to come. Only the nuclear establishment can callously dismiss the living tragedy of the post-Chernobyl generations and count death with only the handfuls that immediately died. The latest estimate by Union of Concerned Scientists places the casualties of Chernobyldisaster at 25,000, with approximately double of that for radiation induced cancer [ Also see this]

It would be un-scientific to call any nuclear reactor ‘fully-safe’. WANO certificate on technical safety can be accepted – at face value – as only that. Safety of any nuclear plant can be compromised by human error or sabotage, or caused by freak natural occurrences, and human inability to respond appropriately to these during crisis. Fukushima only resulted in our nuclear establishment declaring our 100% safe plants – more 100% safe.

Now a few points that have escaped public attention: In an independent study funded by DAE on the health effects around the Kalpakkam nuclear facility, Dr. Manjula Datta found that cancer cases in nearby villages were seven times higher than in control samples. A 2005 UNSCEAR study found Kalpakkam to have the highest Tritium releases in the world; Tritium is a carcinogen and a mutagen.

Tell a lie often enough, and it becomes truth. MRS concludes by urging confidence in our nuclear engineers who have operated India’s power plants safely for last 40 years – that is, if we choose to ignore the  major reported incidences at Kalpakkam and other facilities; the fire in Narora facility in 1993 being the most serious of all Indian nuclear accidents.Having confidence in our nuclear engineers does not rule out  nuclear accidents or catastrophe. 

So, we can either live in the make believe world of MRS to perpetuate his unnecessary, expensive and hazardous nuclear fantasy. Or, we could do one or both of the following -immediately: (1)Cut down on transmission and distribution losses with insulated wires buried underground and immediately enjoy a whopping ten times our current nuclear capacity.(2) Convert from incandescent to CFL (or LEDs) bulbs to save an estimated 10 GW - without constructing a nuclear plant.

Finally, let us remember that a nation is made of its people; and national development has to be people based. It cannot be dictated from top - it must necessarily involve consensual approach, especially of those people who have most to lose.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Democracy and Sedition

The protest over a Nuclear Power Plant at Koodankulam (KKNPP) started soon after India and Russia signed an agreement on the project, way back on November 20, 1988. In May 1989, ten thousand people gathered to oppose the project. Police disconnected mikes and opened fire.

A lull followed due to the collapse of the Soviet bloc and also the assassination of India's PM, Rajiv Gandhi. The project was revived in 1997 and linked to the purchase of T-90 tanks, SU-30 planes and the Admiral Gorshkov submarine from Russia. It took ten years to hold a public hearing on the project - seven thousand people attended. This meeting was abruptly discontinued when people protested that the proceedings were not conducted in the local language.

The protest movement around the nuclear plant, People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), gained enormously in strength and support, following the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima, leaping into national visibility and much wider public prominence. The protesters set up an independent, technically savvy expert committee of PMANE to challenge the State and India's nuclear establishment with tough questions.  Their opposition to the project revolved around some very simple and basic positions:

Nuclear industry is associated with well documented hazards - even in normal operations -. which are harmful to the health of humans and environment. People living in the vicinity of the KKNPP had a right to protect their own lives, and the lives of their future generations, and rejected this hazardous technology from operating in their backyards - they also opted not to need its benefits.

The heat dump from the nuclear power plant would significantly increase the temperature along their shoreline - where they fished, and endanger the traditional livelihood - on which they were dependent. They intended to protect their livelihood mechanisms, which could not be guaranteed once the reactor became operational.

Safety of any nuclear plant against a serious accident cannot ever be guaranteed. While suppliers of India's planned, imported nuclear plants scuttled behind and demanded further dilution of India's liability clause, Russians were fully exempt from shouldering any liability in case of a future accident at KKNPP - even if due to their own faulty technology. People around KKNPP  realised that they were being required to risk their lives, while the providers of the technology risked nothing - not even a financial loss.

PMANE demanded scrapping the entire project, arguing on the basis of geologic unsuitability of the site, technical issues related water availability - crucial to the running of any nuclear plant,  large and adverse impact on livelihoods of local fishing communities, and the high population density around the plant - making evacuation a virtual impossibility - in case of a catastrophic accident.

PMANE opposed the Koodankulam nuclear power plant with an ever increasing strength and following of women, men, young and old, across religious, caste, class, and state boundaries. It drew observers, and enlisted solidarity and support from students, professionals, scientists, journalists, as also from people's movements and activists spanning  political ideologies, and developmental paradigms. The movement aroused curiosity, interest and sympathies from the thinking and the comfortable, educated class, and thereby initiated a process of inquiry into India's development, and questions of who sacrifices and who gains. It soon became one of the two largest people's movements in India's current history - the other being Anna's movement against corruption. However, unlike the latter, which was fragmentary in nature and confused in goals, the PMANE movement stood out for its singularly clear demand of a Nuclear Free Koodankulam, Nuclear Free India and Nuclear Free World. The movement belonged to those people who were the chosen victims for India's irrational nuclear ambitions; and they had no option, but to fight - to live.

The protesters sat in peaceful dharnas and observed long periods of fasts - en mass - drawing public and state's attention to their plight. Each day drew crowds of thousands, all fasting, to a village center.  All shops were closed - small fraction made it under the shades of plastic awnings - volunteers carried around buckets with water sachets for free distribution. Women with children sat, under scorching sun or pouring rain, sometimes with a sagging umbrella, listening to their leaders talk, and they spoke themselves - on mikes - with a rare confidence in clarity of purpose - to save themselves, their families and their communities from the immediate danger of a monstrous nuclear reactor. It was uplifting to see their faces - alive, alert, listening - after all what was being spoken about dealt with their future, their combined fates.This group of mostly women, young and old,  succeeded in blockading the entry to the KKNPP in Oct. 2011, till the Tamil Nadu state finally agreed to not allow any further work to proceed on the plant - till all their doubts and fears were allayed.

On March 20, 2012, Jayalalitha - the chief minister of the state ofTamil Nadu, in a clearly political bartering with the center, approved the KKNPP for operations. About 6000 heavily armed police force guarded the the entrance to the reactor site and immediately arrested several hundreds, including key leaders of the people's movement PMANE. Overnight, people who were in active dialogue with the state officials and leadership, became criminals with a large number of cases foisted on them. Today, more than 55,000 people have FIRs filed against them, and more than 6800 are charged with waging war against the state and on grounds sedition - more than filed ever before, in a single police station, in such a short period of time. Udaykumar, the coordinator of PMANE is charged with murder, along with many other serious charges and remains in Idinthakerai - the crucible of the protest movement.

People's opposition to the KKNPP and the excessive, repressive reaction by the state against the protesters, requires that we, the citizens of this nation, ask ourselves some tough questions - on rights of the state versus the sovereignty of people - in a constitutional democracy. It demands that we understand and appropriate our constitutional rights which include right to life, right to livelihood, and right to protest - peacefully. This is what the protesters against KKNPP have been doing. Peaceful protests, like the ones conducted in Idinthakerai and other villages around KKNPP are touchstones of any vibrant, active, healthy democracy. These are processes for creating truly representative governments which act in trusteeship of  people and their interests. To demean a movement like PMANE as being either vested, or anti-national, or anti-development, is to deliberately mislead the people of this nation from the real issues that drive these protests. To further criminalize a peaceful, democratic, opposition movement as waging war against the state or as Seditious (i.e. dis-affectionate or dis-loyal to the State) goes  completely against the democratic principles on which this country is founded. One must remember that issues of democracy, do not require and cannot operate on the basis of either affection or loyalty towards state - it is precisely this act of disaffection or lack of loyalty that enables each of us, as individuals to remove, via the electoral process,  persons or party who no longer represent our interests. To charge peaceful protesters in a free and democratic India, with an act expressly constructed and applied by the British to repress India's freedom movement - is indicative of the harsh reality and repressive culture of India's political climate today. If protesters seeking to safeguard personal and community safety are now criminals waging war against the state, then it is time we, we all, really woke up to the reality of the State we live in - a State of Fear!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant - Feel Safe??

Earthquake activity around Koodankulam Atomic plant created using Google Earth 

The above CLICKABLE image shows the soup of seismic activity that surrounds the KKNPP. Each red dot represents a recorded earthquake; the size is indicative of the intensity - smallest dot is a magnitude 4.0 earthquake while the biggest one towards botton left is a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, 1500 km away. The red line on the image represents a 250km scale. Remember that the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami that devastated the Tamil Nadu coast was triggered by a 9.1 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra - about 2000 km away!!!

Are we sure we are ready to have Koodankulam 1 go critical? Then, brace yourselves guys...

Monday, 19 March 2012

Death of Democracy

Democracy Died Today in Tamil Nadu. At 3 pm. Democracy died for men, women, young, old, and of all faiths, living in the vicinity of the Koodankulam power plant and opposed to this nuclear monstrosity for the last eight months - staking their all in this struggle for life.

Democracy Died today when people became mere pawns in political games of a powerful few, who could wilfully decide whose and how many lives should be sacrificed, when.

Democracy Died when national good was no longer about any larger or common or good; when the dictates of life or free will of many could be sacrificed to absurdities and whims of leadership with enormous and self-appropriated powers. Democracy is not a bully's weapon for imposing sacrifices on some, to benefit others.

Democracy Died today when fundamental rights to life and livelihood were bartered for the sake of money already spent, on an unnecessary technology - too risky for liability, and in areas of volatile seismicity - without consideration of benign alternatives.

Democracy died today with a single nod to the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant. And, yet, can the will of so many be denied? Will their voices and their will, not jolt the nation out of its slumber? Will this Death of Democracy itself bear seeds of a new generation, of true freedom, and of a truly awakened nation?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Why Koodankulam Nuclear Plant Cannot be Allowed to Happen: Voices of Women from the Area

Hon’rable Chief Minister,
Tamil Nadu                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            16/3/12

Re: Why Koodankulam Nuclear Plant Cannot be Allowed to Happen: Voices of Women from the Area

Dear Madam,

We write to you as women against KKNPP and also as emissaries on behalf of mothers, sisters, daughters who have been in staunch and steadfast opposition to the project., KKNPP will irrevocably ruin lives and livelihood of many future generations, if allowed to  operate. We do want energy and electricity for our homes, villages and communities. Yet, as women, we resolutely oppose KKNPP because
1. We will not be mute observers to a real threat of a nuclear accident which depends on occurrence of natural disaster, guarantee of technical safeguards, and also, very importantly, human error and terrorist attack. To claim any nuclear plant is 100% safe is a deliberate falsehood.
2. The impact of radiation on biological and reproductive health of women and girls in particular has been well documented around nuclear power plants. We cannot endanger lives and health, current and future, of our families, our people, our communities, our land, our air , our water, our sea , and our seafood  because the GoI deems us expendable. We urge you to please put the welfare of the people of your state before the irrational nuclear ambitions of GoI.
3. Nuclear Energy is unnecessary. There are sufficient alternate and renewable options for Tamil Nadu. Immediate solutions include enormous gains via conservation (example switching to CFL bulbs, solar thermal water heaters) and reduction in transmission losses which eliminates the need for such large, complex, unsafe technologies.
4. Many countries are moving away from a nuclear option to meet their energy needs. Current generation nuclear technologies with a high cost of insurance undermine nuclear power being the 'cheapest' energy option - as promoted by the industry. Post Fukushima, and with China entering the photo-voltaic market, solar energy will soon be competitive in providing a viable safe and renewable power alternative.
5. KKNPP has unanswered and unresolved technical issues like the known seismic activity of the region; it is also the only nuclear plant in the world that depends entirely on the desalination plant for its entire fresh water supply. 

We write to you from Idinthakarai, the seat of people's opposition movement. What we saw here, inspired us and moved our hearts. Womenfar outweighed men in sheer numbers, their intensity, their loud and vocal opposition, and their complete commitment to the cause. We saw women sit for eight hours without food, water, carrying babies in their arms, and transfixed in attention to what was been spoken on the strage. They had taken to streets, under sun, rain and the elements, to protect their children and their future generations. Their faces showed that they had already crossed a threshold of no-return. They would protect their children and their lives at all cost. They have been at the forefront of a battle for life itself. We urge you, please, to take their side; please take our side, and call an immediate halt to this mindless project.

Arati Chokshi (People’s Union for Civil Liberties - PUCL)
Lalita Ramdas (Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament & Peace –CNDP)
Gowru Chinnapa (People’s Union for Civil Liberties - PUCL)
Raminder Kaur (Anthropologist)
Dipti Desai (JANASTU) &
Thousands of Women from the KKNPP Struggle Area 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Gujarat Grief, Gujarat Guilt : Ten Years Old on 28/2/2012

The original blog contained poems reproduced from 'After Gujarat and other Poems' by Seeme Qasim - without permission. Seeme's poems authenticated my imaginations of Gujurat violence; they pained  my waking days and scattered nightmares into my dreamless nights.
With apologies to Seeme, I have now deleted her words.

Whatever caused this...

also deliberately caused this...



Lest we forget....

...we are all born 
from ashes 
of the same stars 
that celebrate our nights, 
and are children 
of the same Sun 
that warms our days... 
We are all the same 
and also the One - 
the Universe 
and also its illusion
We are all One.                           ---- Arati Chokshi
** all images are taken from a google search for 'gujarat riots'