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Sri Lanka criticised for being soft on Indian nuclear plant danger

Publication Date : 18-04-2012


Though the government would go along with the assurance given by the Indian Government, on the Kudankulam nuclear plant that is under construction, the Atomic Energy Authority of Sri Lanka should take a lead role in assessing the possible impacts on Sri Lanka in the event of a mishap, Sri Lanka's Central Environment Authority Chairman Charitha Herath said.

He told The Island yesterday that the Atomic Energy Authority should give its observations to the Power and Energy Ministry.

Herath expressed confidence that the assessment of any possible adverse impact on Sri Lanka would be done soon.

He said that any country could make use of her land for the benefit of her civilians, but it should also ensure that there were no adverse outcomes.

Centre for Environmental Justice Executive Director Hemantha Withanage, who represents a large number of Sri Lankan environmental activists, stressed that the setting up of nuclear plant was not a matter to be dealt with politically.

He said he believed the Sri Lanka government should be firm in its stand, without worrying about its political ramifications.

"This problem is environment and health and all civic societies, both in India and Sri Lanka, should join forces with them to put an end to the project," he added.

Withanage also noted that a leading Indian Scientist had urged that the project should be stopped for the sake of civilians, in view of disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

Scientist, Prof. T. Sivaji Rao, formerly of Rice University, Texas and currently Director of Centre for Environmental Studies, Gitam University, Visakapattinam, also said that he was against nuclear initiatives since the 1960s.

Withanage said that more than one million people lived within the 30 km radius of the Kundankulam Plant which far exceeds the recommendations of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

The plant was within 20 km off Mannar Bay, as a crow would fly, an area that gave the country more than 30 per cent of its fish catch. Besides it was one of the world’s best biodiversity hotspots for cetaceans, dolphins and sharks.

Atomic Energy Authority’s chairman R. L. Wijayawardana said, in a media statement, that both Sri Lanka and India were members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Sri Lanka fully understood the need of utilising nuclear energy for electricity generation.

"As there are power plants in India close to our country, the only possible thing we can do is to have a bilateral agreement with India under the provisions of these conventions to exchange information on the status of their power plants and emergency plans and to obtain assistance in case of a nuclear accident in India," a release endorsed by the Power and Energy Ministry said.

Wijayawardana said that Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka would refer the matter to the International Atomic Energy Authority at a meeting in September. Sri Lanka had not brought up the issue of the safety of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant as a reaction to India’s voting for a resolution targeting Sri Lanka at the 19th session of the UNHRC last month.

Ranawaka, an ardent environment activist since the 1980s, campaigning for a better environment and the welfare of civilians, believes everything should be under the internationally recommended guidelines.


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