Increase green belt, pollution board tells Kudankulam N-plant

Chennai, July 9 (IANS) The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has asked the Kundankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) to increase the green belt at the site to 25 percent of the land from the current six percent.

The pollution control board will also inspect the KNPP every three months to assess the safety of the nuclear power project.

The decisions are in line with the directions given by the Supreme Court in May when it gave its nod for the nuclear power project. The TNPCB also filed a report with the apex court Monday, a senior official told IANS preferring anonymity.

Also, M. Pushparayan of People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) told IANS that the TNPCB in its report to the Supreme Court had asked NPCIL (Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.) to "increase the green cover to 25 percent" of the total land for the project.

A committee consisting of officials from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), NPCIL, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the TNPCB had inspected the KNPP May 5, 2013.

According to the TNPCB's conditions, the KNPP should have 25 percent of its 1,050 hectares - 262.5 hectares - should be under green belt, proving thick canopy cover, dense peripherals, biomass producing, dust absorption characteristics, deep rooted and native varieties.

The KNPP should have 400 trees per hectare.

Currently only 63.4 hectares is afforested with tree plantation, states the TNPCB.

On June 24, the TNPCB gave its consent to the KNPP to operate.

India's atomic power plant operator NPCIL is setting up the project in Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district, around 650 km from Chennai, with two Russian-made reactors of 1,000 MW each.

The KNPP is an outcome of the inter-governmental agreement between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988. However, construction began only in 2001.

Fearing for their safety in the wake of the nuclear accident in Fukushima in Japan in 2011, villagers in the vicinity of the Kudankulam plant, under the PMANE's banner have been opposing the project.

City-based environmental activist G. Sundarrajan had filed a case in the apex court demanding the KNPP be scrapped. The court dismissed the case in May and laid down 15 directions for NPCIL, AERB, MoEF and TNPCB to follow.

The project, however, had been delayed mainly due to non-sequential supplies of components from Russian vendors.

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