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Idinthakarai, a majority Christian fishing village near the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in India, has become the epicenter of the anti-nuclear movement in the region. There is an estimated one million people living within 30 kilometers of the plant in villages all along the coast of Mannar — which is against the stipulated safety rules of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of India — and the people deeply fear that poor regulation at the KKNPP could result in a disaster similar in scale to Fukushima.
Representing this cause, since 2011, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) has been holed up in Idinthakarai where their headquarters is located. Idinthakarai's only entry point is closely guarded by villagers which, coupled with rumours about the villagers being armed with crude bombs, means the police are reluctant to enter this zone and deal with protests.
PMANE largely depends on the efforts of the women, and the support of local priests and churches to gather support and manpower in the area for the anti-nuclear protests. They work from the Lourde Mary Church in Idinthakarai, 6 km away from the power plant, dutifully sending out press releases and Facebook updates on the rare robust internet connection provided by the church, demanding for the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) to address their fears.
On May 6, 2013, the Supreme Court of India cleared the way for operations to begin at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP). But despite the villagers' need for energy from other sources, and PMANE's best efforts, they still have received little or no safety-training in the event of a disaster. And the NPCIL continues to do little to assuage the fears of the local fishing communities.
Photos by Jyorthy Karat.
Article by Srinath Perur.