Melbourne: Noted environmentalist Sunita Narain has said the West cannot ask India to stop using coal while they were still “addicted” to it.

“You need to get rid of hypocracy. You cannot tell me that India cannot go coal when Australia, Germany, US and lot of other countries are still addicted to coal,” said Narain, director-general of Centre of Science and Environment.

“You have not made that transition which you are preaching to the rest of the world,” she said during a public lecture at the University of Melbourne-based Australia Indian Insitute (AII) yesterday.

Narain said coal was the most sustainable and the only cheap option for India, now eyeing Australian uranium reserves for expanding its nuclear power industry.

“I am not against nuclear power. But I think the scale we are looking, nuclear power does not fit in. It is much more expensive and it takes lot of time to build,” Narain said.

She said nuclear power was also not a viable option as the resources were lying with “very few hands like Australia who could possibly turn off the tap anytime and not sell”.

“It also has huge problems of contamination and safety and when you start adding those costs to a nuclear plant then costs only go up,” she said, adding currently there was a debate attached to it on liability issue.

“If the cost goes up because of safety then costs will rise. So, nuclear to my mind is only one of those fantasy of a very big man.

“Coal is a reality and there are challenges to deal with the coal in an increasingly warming world,” Narain said.

Even today Australia was still addicted to coal, she said, adding that for India given the large demand for energy, coal was the only cheapest option and the only accessible one for poor people in the country.

“Give me the country which has scale of the needs that we do, have gone solar, wind renewal or any other way yet,” Narain said.

Referring to a recent study that found the highest level of mercury in coal, Narain said her organisation was now working on controlling mercury levels which could possibly increase the prices of coal in the country.

“Even if we add up that price rise, coal would still be the cheapest option for people in India,” she said.

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