Robertsonpet residents protest against site being used for nuke waste
Residents of towns and villages in Karnataka's Robertsonpet region where the now defunct Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) staged a protest on Friday against the reported proposal of turning the abandoned pits into a site to dump nuclear waste.
Among those who staged the protest rallies were supporters of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that incidentally is ruling the Karnataka state and the regional Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) party.
Holding banners and party flags, they marched through the streets of towns like Robertsonpet, Bangarpet, Champion Reefs, Ooragaum, Marikuppam, Gowtam Nagar among others and denounced the proposal to dump nuclear waste in their areas.
Couple of BJP activists tore down the posters of local leaders of federal ruling Congress party as mark of their protest.
The unrest gained momentum after the surfacing of recent reports about the federal government having filed an affidavit before the apex court to convert the KGF into a dump for the nuclear wastes of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.
Taken aback by the prospects of the gold mines turning into a dump yard for hazardous nuclear waste, a number of organisations irrespective of political affiliations commenced a series of protests in the KGF region from November 22.
Robertsonpet, the nodal town in the KGF region observed a shutdown throughout Friday.
However, Member of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Dr. M R Srinivasan termed such news as rumours.
Speaking to the mediapersons at Bangalore, the state capital of Karnataka on Friday (November 23), Srinivasan who was once the Chairman of AEC asserted there has been no proposal on these lines.
"There is no nuclear waste dumped into any underground mine or any such place anywhere in India at present. And so far as Kolar Gold Fields are concerned, there is no proposal to convert that into a long-term nuclear waste deposit. There is no such proposal," said Dr.M R Srinivasan.
The row over the nuclear waste dumping site comes amid the long going row over the establishment of the nuke power plant at Koodankulam which has already seen a lot of unrest among the activists.
According to nuclear physicists, although nuclear fuel waste is harmful, it can lay buried forever if disposed of in a scientific manner.
Further, Srinivasan said that nuclear waste is always stored in an impenetrable container in a deep granite rock pit and it would not affect the surface area.
The noted nuclear scientist was also quick to point out that all the agitations over the issue is unnecessary as there is no harm possible to the surface or the area nearby.
"For about 30 to 40 years, we have been doing studies in the Kolar Gold Fields. Simply because atomic scientists come there, they are not going to cause any damage to the environment. It is like you and me going and taking samples and all that. So this is completely unwarranted, probably mischievous spreading of baseless rumours. And there is absolutely no reason for the people of Kolar to agitate," added Srinivasan.
The reported conversion of the gold mines into a nuclear waste dump has surprised the KGF residents as well as environmentalists because there had recently been talks of reviving the long closed gold mines into work.
Declared sick and shut down in 2001 after 121 years, the government had last year cleared the proposal to revive the mines, after three Parliamentary Standing Committees to explore gold deposits in KGF submitted a report stating that at least three million tonnes of gold reserves lie unexploited.