Protests intensify in Karnataka over move to dump nuclear waste in abandoned gold mines
Protests have intensified in Karnataka over a central government move to dump nuclear waste in the abandoned pits of the famed Kolar Gold Fields (KGF).
On Saturday, activists blocked railway tracks and shouted anti-government slogans, as they marched on 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.
Among those who staged the protest rallies were supporters of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that incidentally is ruling the Karnataka and the regional Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) party.
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.
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 in a scientific manner.
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, the federal government 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.
Initially, during the colonial era, the British owned the mines in KGF and later the Maharaja of Mysore took them over before the federal government nationalised the mines and brought these under the administration of Bharat Gold Mines Limited (BGML).
The row over the KGF may fan the flames of the issue of the power plant in Koodankulam further as activists could launch scathing attacks on the government's proposals.
Protest against the power plant has boiled over the past year, while nuclear fuel has already been loaded in the plant.
While much of the world is turning its back on nuclear energy, the villagers of Kudankulam, in a part of India hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, say their government is gambling with their lives by opening one of Asia's first new nuclear reactors since the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.