A decade-long legal battle to save their fertile land from being used for the country's largest nuclear power plant ended in a victory for farmers from Saurashtra’s Bhavnagar district.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) recently informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to shift the proposed 6,000 megaWatt (MW) nuclear plant — the first under the Indo-US civil nuclear pact of 2008 — from the coastal district of Gujarat to Kavvada in Andhra Pradesh “on account of delay in land acquisition at Chhaya-Mithivirdi site”.

The plant was to be set up by state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) with technical support from Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC), which will build six nuclear reactors at the new site.

On May 18, MoEF said that in view of shifting of the said project the proposal for environment clearance (EC) before it has been delisted.

The villagers had approached NGT on March 3, 2015, challenging the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance given to NPCIL for the project. NGT’s Western Zone Bench, comprising Justice UD Salvi and Ranjan Chatterjee as expert member, disposed of the petition post the MoEF submission regarding shifting the site for the project.

India has planned to increase its nuclear power generation capacity from the existing 6,780 MW to 63,000 MW by 2032.

It is learnt that farmers in Andhra Pradesh have agreed to give away their lands for Westinghouse Electric’s AP-1000 pressurised water reactors. The project will initially require about 800 hectares of land in the eastern coastal district of Srikakulam.

In Gujarat’s Mithivirdi, however, farmers are celebrating. “A get-together has been planned on June 2 to celebrate the victory. The project would have directly affected about 340 farmer families and about 2,000 people indirectly associated with farm-related activities,” said Shaktisinh Gohi, one of the petitioners.

Gohil stated that NPCIL wanted about 777 hectares of land for the project from three to four villages around Mithivirdi. On March 5, 2013, before the company was granted CRZ clearance for the site, there were about 7,000 villagers who staged a walk-out from the Environmental Public Hearing as a mark of protest. Farmer leaders have been “sensitising” people about the risks of a nuclear reactor in the vicinity by distributing materials and showcasing films of the nuclear disasters in parts of the world.

“Our protests and arguments were backed by academic and scientific facts. We fought a very well-organised battle to get rid of this project. ,” said Rohit Prajapati, another petitioner.