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Pakistani fishermen protest against Japanese decision to release contaminated water from Fukushima Nuclear plant in sea

Gwadar: (Bureau Report) Like the rest of the world, fishermen in Gwadar, on the advice of the Japanese government’s Tokyo Power Company (TEPCO), went on a rampage to protest the release of toxic water from the radiation of the Fukushima nuclear reactor into the sea. They staged a silent protest in front of the Gwadar Press Club, holding placards with slogans against Japan’s new policy.

Addressing a press conference at Gwadar Press Club, fishermen leaders Ghafoor Sajid, Afzal Jan and others said that the source of livelihood of fishermen is fishing. Fishermen from all over the world find their livelihood in the sea.The first trawler mafia left no stone unturned to sterilize our seas. Pirates are robbing and marine life in various ways. In such a situation, fishermen around the world are facing a new and dangerous situation.

Nuclear Power Prevents More Deaths Than It Causes

In the costal city of Gwadar, scores of fisherman gathered outside the Press Club to record their protest in solidarity with world fishermen and demanded the Japanese government to reverse its decision to release contaminated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.
Around 100 Fishermen first staged a protest outside Gwadar Press Club holing placards that denounces Japans decisions to throw the contaminated water, another one demanding the government to withdraw its decisions and some criticizing the anti-human rights and anti-fisherman rights policies of Japanese government.

Addressing the press conference, the senior leaders of Fisherman Association of Gwadar, including Afzal Jan, Ghafoor Sajjid, Nakhuda Nabi, Illahi Baksh, Nakuda Obaid and Abdual Khaliq Mangal explained to the audience how the Japanese decisions will affect the livelihood of fisherman and also will damaged the eco systems and marine life.

The fisherman leaders explained that analysts and environmental groups raised doubts over whether Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) the company in charge of the plant can eventually clean up the Fukushima radioactive water before it discharges into the ocean. Is TEPCO and the Japanese government still trustworthy given its frequent stains and scandals in the past?

Fisherman association in Gwadar affirmed their support for the world’s fisherman and demanded the Japanese government through its ambassador in Pakistan to request his government to stop these anti fisherman and anti-human rights policies.

International fishing associations have sent a message to fishermen all over the world, including Pakistan, that Japan, the world’s largest human rights activist, has completed preparations to play a dangerous game. We want to send a message to the Government of Japan through you to refrain from this game and not to risk the life of the sea and everything connected with the sea around the world. It has been brought to our notice by the international fishing organizations

To prevent the nuclear leakage from Fukushima in 2011 caused by the earthquake from getting worse, TEPCO chose to inject seawater into the reactor cores to cool the reactors and the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant has stored 1.25 million tons of wastewater in tanks.

The contaminated water will likely fill up all the plant’s available tanks by summer of 2022, TEPCO said, which prompts the Japanese government to approve the decision of dumping the treated water still containing radioactive substances into the ocean.

Prior to making the decision, reports said TEPCO had studied several versions of the nuclear wastewater treatment plan, such as building additional storage tanks and capacity, setting tanks elsewhere, going underground after solidification, dumping it into the sea after treatment, and evaporating it, but it ended up with this “cheapest plan” which the Japanese government described as the “best option” on Tuesday.

But Greenpeace East Asia had revealed that the ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) pumping and filtration system of TEPCO does not remove tritium or carbon 14, and also does not remove all of the other radioactive isotopes such as strontium-90, iodine 129, cobalt-16.

Analysts and environmental groups raised doubts over whether TEPCO can eventually clean up the Fukushima radioactive water before it discharges into the ocean. Is TEPCO and the Japanese government still trustworthy given its frequent stains and scandals in the past?

Since 1977, TEPCO has been accused of falsifying data and concealing safety risks in 199 periodic inspections of its 13 reactors at Fukushima Daiichi as well as Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plants.

The company, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), lacks credibility due to its violation of safety protocols at another nuclear power plant in Niigata. TTEPCO is facing a temporary suspension due to lax anti-terrorism equipment and the insufficient protection of nuclear materials for which the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) of Japan has imposed a level four “red” warning.

The release of water having even smaller quantities of tritium would be a major blow to the fishing industry in the adjacent areas of power plant. The industry is still reeling from the 2011 crisis and as per an estimate, only 16% of pre-crisis level catch was possible in year 2018, partly because of the public’s reluctance to eat fish caught off Fukushima. almost a third of consumers outside Fukushima prefecture indicated in a survey that dumping the contaminated water into the sea would make them think twice about buying seafood from the region, compared with 20% who currently avoid the produce.

Moreover, Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany who regularly visits Fukushima, said a proportion of radioactive tritium had the potential to deliver a concentrated dose to cell structures in plants, animals or humans. “Dilution does not avoid this problem,” he said.

Burnie believes the solution is to continue storing the water, possibly in areas outside the power plant site – a move that is likely to encounter opposition from nuclear evacuees whose abandoned villages already host millions of cubic metres of radioactive soil.

View of Greenpeace Japan:

Greenpeace Japan said it “strongly condemned” the water’s release, which “completely disregards the human rights and interests of the people in Fukushima, wider Japan and the Asia-Pacific region”.

“The Japanese government has once again failed the people of Fukushima,” said Kazue Suzuki, the group’s climate and energy campaigner.

“The government has taken the wholly unjustified decision to deliberately contaminate the Pacific Ocean with radioactive waste. It has discounted the radiation risks and turned its back on the clear evidence that sufficient storage capacity is available on the nuclear site as well as in surrounding districts.

View of the UN: ‘Very concerning’

Given the warnings from environmentalists and some governments that the discharge would affect many people as well as the environment at large, the experts called the Government’s decision “very concerning”.

It comes after years of discussions with communities – including the fishing sector, which was already severely hit by the 2011 disaster – environmental NGOs, neighbouring countries and civil society.

“The decision is particularly disappointing as experts believe alternative solutions to the problem are available”, they said.

Noting that the water may contain quantities of radioactive carbon-14, as well as other radioactive isotopes, the independent experts raised their concerns with the Japanese Government that discharging radioactive water to the Pacific Ocean threatens the health of people and planet.

Meanwhile, in reply to expert concerns, the Japanese Government has suggested that the treated water stored in the tanks was not contaminated. However, the experts upheld that the ALPS water processing technology had failed to completely remove radioactive concentrations in most of the contaminated water stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

“A first application ALPS failed to clean the water below regulatory levels and there are no guarantees that a second treatment will succeed”, they said, adding that the technology did not remove radioactive tritium or carbon-14.

Isotope concerns
While Japan said that the tritium levels are very low and do not pose a threat to human health, scientists warn that in the water, the isotope organically binds to other molecules, moving up the food chain affecting plants and fish and humans.

Moreover, they say the radioactive hazards of tritium have been underestimated and could pose risks to humans and the environment for over 100 years.  

“We remind Japan of its international obligations to prevent exposure to hazardous substances, to conduct environmental impact assessments of the risks that the discharge of water may have, to prevent transboundary environmental harms, and to protect the marine environment”, the experts concluded.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts, who serve in their personal capacities, are not paid for their work.

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