March 17, 2011

Preparing for a Disaster

No matter how hard you try ‘preparing for a disaster’ is never the same as ‘preparing a disaster.’

In the wake of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster everyone in their right minds has started having second thoughts about the feasibility of civil nuclear power plants. Of course, one can never predict the impending doom with great accuracy but one can simply prepare for the worst. No one’s saying that the Japanese hadn’t thought enough while putting up the Fukushima Nuclear plant and to their credit the reactor did survive one of the worst earthquakes in Japan’s recorded history. You’d think that if nothing else a major earthquake followed by an unforgiving tsunami that destroyed a nuclear reactor is enough to make people think about their locations.

Now imagine the same scenario in India. You won’t doubt for a second that if such a calamity were to occur in India things would be totally different. Our ‘infrastructure’ isn’t equipped to deal with a natural disaster of such magnitude or what’d follow it and no amount of the stupendous 8.something % growth of this emerging tiger of an economy has pushed our civic authorities or the governments of the day to be ready to save lives. With this in background imagine a nuclear reactor somewhere in the middle of this merciless force of nature. Now that you have a picture in mind it wouldn’t really help to know that Jaitapur, one of the proposed locations for a future civil nuclear power plant in India, falls in a Seismic Zone that is Category 3!

Yes, you read it right. Jaitapur has survived 92 earthquakes of various magnitudes between 1985-2005. So, which great mind came up with this location that thought there’s nothing stupid in placing highly radioactive material on a ground that has witnessed earthquakes as big as 6.2 on Richter scale!? The whole idea of zeroing in on a location is based on tests complicated and simple. Now I don’t know about the complications involved in deciding on a location for putting up a nuclear energy plant but the simpler tests would surely include a no-brainer like RUNNING THE HELL AWAY FROM GROUND THAT IS UNSTABLE!

Look at the two images below.

Look at the location of the Fukushima from the epicenter. Jaitapur is located right on the coast. So if an earthquake was to be followed by a tsunami or even, as the concerned people behind this plan would like the nomenclature to be ‘tidal waves’ the chances of the plant coming down like a doll house are way higher. And let’s not forget that Jaitapur is Seismic Zone Category 3 to being with.

This government sold us the idea of nuclear power as the end all of a growing India’s need and there is no denying that alternative sources of energy are the only solution to end our dependence on rapidly diminishing natural sources. But is it too much to ask of this government to try and not put lives on the line? Till three days ago many had no clue about Jaitapur and today’s it’s almost out Fukishima before the disaster. Jaitapur was so under the radar that earthquakes that devoured people’s houses went ‘unreported’!

It is said that nothing unties people like a disaster and while this is so true about Japan, where there’s no looting in the aftermath and supermarkets have reduced prices of essential commodities, ours is a country that witnesses government distancing itself from not only the people but their peers in the wake of a calamity. Here the environment ministry stops some project and the state government meets the Prime Minister and the Lady at 10 Janpath, who then ask the Minister for Environment to be of a ‘practical view’. Those who think Lavasa isn’t a hot deal anymore, this could very well be the right time to go for it; poor Jairam Ramesh…after all with Sharad Pawar’s interests involved in Lavasa, the environment clearances are only a matter of time. This is country where the Minister of External Affairs assures the Opposition and the families of sailors who are held hostage by Somali pirates for over seven months by saying, "there is no use getting worked up and getting emotive. Let us be very objective in our assessment of the situation…’ He then said the he would get information and revert when asked if the Indian government had approached the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) constituted by the UNSC last year for the release of sailors! Even with hours left to be final deadline SM Krishna didn’t address the nation neither gave a half-decent answer to the Opposition. Did you know that it was the Spanish government that managed to free 11 Indian sailors through talks with the pirates?

Is it that India life is so cheap that deaths due to regular natural calamities and other man-made disasters like bomb blasts and riots mean nothing? What are we expected to do? Pray to the heavens to let us ‘flourish’ for another 5000 years? If there’s a God, he/ she is already doing enough for Indians; why…aren’t we suffering more at the hands of a few humans than any natural calamity?

Images: and

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