G Sundararajan is an environmental activist associated with the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, which protests against the Koondankulam Nuclear Power Plant. A software engineer, Sundararajan has been providing technical and legal assistance to the movement. He talks about why building the nuclear plant there is a bad idea.
EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
How did you become part of the protest movement?
The Koodankulam struggle has been going on for the past 20 years, but it attained mass support only after the Fukushima disaster because the media focussed on the after-effects. I’m a member of Poovulagin Nanbargal (Friends of Flowers), which became part of the movement’s legal and technical committee in 2008. We were able to bring out a comprehensive technical report on why Koodankulam is not a suitable place for a nuclear reactor. The plant is sitting on a faultline, which is becoming active now due to various geothermal activities. There is no such thing as low or high radioactivity. Even if we go by the figures provided by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, 60 lakh litres of low radioactive material of about 35 degrees Celsius will be dumped into the sea, when the ambient temperature of the sea is only around 28-29 degree Celsius. The living organisms in the sea will not survive this after five or six years.
The protesters claim that the state government is intimidating them. How are they doing it?
Ajmal Kasab, who was instrumental in holding Mumbai to ransom, has one case of sedition against him. Udayakumar and Pushpnarayan, the leaders of the anti-nuke movement, have 13 sedition cases. Similar cases have been slapped on 8,600 others. The police is toying with the emotions of the people and trying to instigate them. Luckily, the movement is led by a formidable person such as Udayakumar who is ready to die, but die protesting peacefully.
About 1.6 lakh people have been charged under sections such as disturbing communal harmony, singing obscene songs, attempt to murder, looting and arson. Initially, they arrested 54 women, out of whom four are still behind bars. Four juveniles have been booked for sedition and waging war against the country. Their only crime is that they are the children of people who are sitting in protest against the nuclear plant. They have been sitting there for the past 450 days. What is so seditious about people asking the government to produce electricity using wind and solar energy instead of nuclear power?
There are rumours that your movement gets foreign funding.
Let me tell you about how the money comes for the protest movement. Every day, there are people from one village who sit on fast and it is they who don’t go fishing for that particular day. People from the rest of the 29-30 villages go to work. It’s a cycle. Another village fasts the next day. If a fisherman earns about Rs 10,000, the family sets aside Rs 1,000 for the struggle committee.
What is the one idea that has shaped you and which you think ought to shape the world?
Love for the Earth. Earth is not an asset that we have inherited from our forefathers. It is a liability that we need to repay to our future generations with interest. You and I have been left with a decent amount of environment, and it is the duty of our generation to leave this world as a better place for the future generation.
G Vishnu is a Correspondent with Tehelka.