By: Karuna Raina, Greenpeace
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Since its earliest stages, the proposed Nuclear Power Plant at Jaitapur has faced concerned opposition from local people who clearly recognised the inherent risks that the Indian government appeared to be ignoring. With the proposed site sitting directly on top of one of India's most seismically active zones, those with the most to lose saw clearly the danger they were being placed in and started the fight for their safety, their livelihoods and the future of their families.
Four years on and under the increasingly dark cloud of the Fukushima disaster opposition to the project has grown into an international campaign. Recognising the role of banks in financing such risky projects, last week more than sixty-two thousand people from all over the world joined the people of Jaitapur and wrote or called HSBC and BNP Paribas to demand a halt to the Jaitapur project.
Opposition to the project is based on a wide variety of issues - from mangoes and fish to the risk of a Fukushima-style disaster. But, all of these people are now united by a common goal: To stop the nuclear power plant being built and avoid the inevitable damage to a fragile ecosystem and the livelihoods that depend on it.
It hasn't been easy and our opponents are powerful and well-organised. As occurs so often in such situations, the Indian government has employed ruthless tactics, carrying out midnight arrests and forcing farmers off of their land. Yet, in the face an increasingly oppressive and brutal state, the people have stood their ground.
Greenpeace has supported the people of Jaitapur in their opposition to this project since the beginning. Recently, we have written to and met with some of the banks invited to finance the project, including BNP Paribas and HSBC. Throughout our discussions we informed them of the many problems associated with the project and urged them to withdraw their interests in it. So far, the two largest banks in Germany - Commerzbank and Deutschebank - have reached the same conclusions as us and steered away from Jaitapur.
As for the other banks, our concerns have been met with characteristic apathy and an almost automated referral to their flawed energy policies; policies whose chief function appear to be the avoidance of difficult questions and the maintenance of a thick greenwash over their otherwise tarnished images. It's difficult to know whether to laugh or cry when we are asked to "Rest assured" that the bank has "a responsible policy for financing projects policy, which takes very seriously into account the social and environmental impacts of the projects we oversee."
It is truly mind blowing that anyone who considers themselves to have a "responsible policy" could look at the Jaitapur nuclear project and see anything other than an ill-conceived and potentially catastrophic folly. Surely, the most "responsible" thing any organisation can do is to stay as far away from it as possible.
Public pressure is one of the most powerful things that will wake these banks up to the foolishness of the Jaitapur project and we would like to thank each one of you who added your voice to this protest - you truly helped make the Jaitapur nuclear plant a pressing international issue. From grassroots opposition to a well supported and publicised international campaign, Jaitapur is quickly becoming an issue that the banks and the Indian government can no longer ignore. With your support we will keep up with this fight till the end and help India move away from inherently dangerous nuclear energy and to achieve its energy ambition through clean power.
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