Hundreds of tribal people are raising their voices against the nuclear plant in Mandla district.
The government plans to build a mega nuclear power project that would affect 60 thousand people in the area. 400 families from the surrounding villages will soon be evicted to make way for the plant.
In the 1980s, they were evicted for another government project, the Bargi dam. Narotam Dubey is the secretary of a local committee which is against the government’s plan.
“No one can understand better than us. We have given our water, forest and land for the development of this country. But the government failed to do anything for us. And now they want to displace us again for a nuclear plant.”
In February, following mounting public pressure, the district administration organized a public hearing. It aimed to gain the consent of local people for the environmental impact of the nuclear project. Meera Bai from Chutka village says the public hearing was a sham as it took place behind closed doors.
“The public hearing was conducted under police protection. People from Chutka and the surrounding villages were protesting outside and weren’t allowed in. They organized a fake public hearing with outsiders.”
The Indian government wants to produce 25 percent of its energy from nuclear power by 2050. There are currently 21 operational nuclear power reactors in India across six states. But the country has no long-term radioactive waste disposal policy. Lokesh Malti Prakash is with the NGO Shiksha Adhikar Manch.
“The villagers have made it clear that they are not only opposing the Chutka nuclear power plant, but ANY plans for nuclear plants in India. So their struggle has gone beyond the local level to the national stage”
Back at the protest. Devki Thakur from Gorakhpur village is voicing women’s concerns over the nuclear power project. “We women, want to tell the government that we will not allow the construction of this nuclear plant, even if it costs our lives. How will our children grow up? Where will they go for education if they evict us like this?”
So far the state government has declined to comment on the matter.