THE KOODANKULAM EXPOSÉ-AND THE RIGHT TO KNOW


Reproduced from 

Sunday 10 June 2012

THE KOODANKULAM EXPOSÉ-AND THE RIGHT TO KNOW

Aerial view of Tamil Nadu, India from Space ta...
Aerial view of Tamil Nadu, India from Space taken by NASA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s front-page lead story tells us everything we need to know about the premium value of Right to Information in any democracy. Indian advocacy groups making use of new Right to Information laws have unearthed an evaluation report which exposes startling information that has implications not just for South India and Sri Lanka, but almost the entirety of the Indian Ocean — particularly the Bay of Bengal.

For those who have not read the story, the Koodankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu is poised to deposit dangerous quantities of nuclear wastes in the Indian Ocean, which is a potential calamity facing our people, and possibly a calamity facing the people of India as well.

The story speaks for itself — and what action the Government of Sri Lanka will take in this regard remains to be seen. This is in short order, a disaster waiting to happen. Indian environmental scientists themselves are saying so, as could be gathered from our front-page story and the other feature story in perspective on page 5. (sic)

How all these dangers were exposed is another issue in its entirety. No Indian could have got close to ferreting out the truth on the calamitous dangers of the nuclear plants in Tamil Nadu had they not had the benefit of Right to Information laws.

So, the Koodankulam example is one in which it could be said without hyperbole that Right to Information legislation possibly meant the difference between life and death. No doubt the Indian authorities would heavily contest the assertions of the environmental lobbyists, but it clearly is a tall order to contradict the Site Evaluation Report (SER) which states unequivocally that a good part of the Indian Ocean is bound to become a dumping site for nuclear wastes once the T’ Nadu plants are commissioned.

How the entire issue would play out in India, and with reference to Indo-Sri Lankan relations would be interesting, and would be moot, but the success of the Indian lobbyists in making use of Right to Information legislation leaves us Sri Lankans envying our Indian neighbours, trying as we have been to get similar legislation passed in our parliament.

The government stymied the UNP’s efforts to ram through such laws, but this was at that time on condition that the government would come up with its own draft. It was argued as many observers of events at that time would recall that the UNP Bill was in fact redundant as the government had plans for a Right to Information Bill, and was close to making the whole thing a fait accompli.

But no Bill on the Right to Information has materialized, and despite the fact that noises are being made about Private Members’ motions etc., that might gift the people this vital legislation at last — everybody including lobbyists, journalists and private citizens have waited in vain.

There could be larger calamities than the Koodankulam plants that are waiting to happen, particularly at a time when concerns of ‘development’ seem to take precedence over all rational considerations.

Please also read about the flouting of environmental legislation to install an entire village in the Nilagala/Gal Oya forests, elsewhere in this newspaper. How many more such depredations are being kept under a lid, simply because we do not have the right to know?


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