National

GAIL project hit as TN seeks realignment of pipeline

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on March 25, 2013

Small and marginal farmers near Sirukalanji in Erode district have expressed concern over the loss of livelihood as a result of GAIL’s gas pipeline project (file photo). — M. Govarthan

Tamil Nadu Cheif Minister J. Jayalalithaa has decided to urge GAIL to run the pipeline adjacent to highways to avoid damage to agricultural lands.

The Tamil Nadu Government is against GAIL running its Kochi-Bangalore natural gas pipeline across agricultural land in the State, said Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa in the Assembly on Monday.

Responding to a calling-attention motion on the Central public sector enterprise’s project, she said the farmers in the seven districts the pipeline will traverse have expressed concern on the loss of livelihood.

GAIL should align the pipeline along highways to avoid farmland and habitations, remove pipeline-related structures from the fields and restore them to original condition, and compensate farmers for the loss, said the Chief Minister.

The pipeline runs for over 310 km in Tamil Nadu, covering Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Erode, Namakkal, Salem, Dharmapuri, and Krishnagiri districts.

Fair minded persons will not accept industrial growth coming at the expense of farmers being affected, the Chief Minister said. If a project will have an impact, then the impact, benefit and national good have to be assessed before a decision can be taken.

It is on this basis that the State Government had thought deeply on the issue and decided that the pipeline should be aligned along the highways.

This will make available the Liquefied Natural Gas to the industry and other consumers without affecting the farmers, she said.

The Government’s announcement follows a series of Madras High Court-ordered public hearings it conducted following a petition by a farmers’ organisation.

According to farmers’ representatives, in the court today, the Advocate General represented the State Government’s stand on the issue. The court has given time till April 2 for the Government to file its stand in writing.

A GAIL spokesperson said, “We will not be able to comment” on the issue.

A source familiar with the project, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the State Government’s stand stalls the Rs 3,263-crore project, with a planned length of 6,126 km of pipeline, carrying 16 mmscmd of gas.

Cross-country

The project has been aligned as a cross-country line under vacant and agricultural land taking the ‘shortest possible route’ as provided by the Petroleum and Minerals Pipeline Act, 1962, a Central legislation.

In India, of the 12,000 km of pipeline for various projects, just about 25 km is aligned along highways as a ‘last resort,’ the source said. Globally too, this is the approach to gas pipelines as a highway alignment will mean more populated areas will be impacted. Such `high pressure’ pipelines `are never taken along the highway,’ the source added.

In Tamil Nadu itself over 270 km of gas pipeline have been laid under other projects under agricultural land in Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and other areas, the source said.

Regarding the GAIL pipeline, the source said, as provided under the Act, the company acquired the Right-of-Use of a 20 metre breadth of land along the pipeline alignment under the Act. Once the line is laid the farmers get their land back with minimal restrictions.

They are only not allowed to construct any permanent structures along the 20-m breadth of the pipeline.

On the status of the project in Tamil Nadu, the source said about 20 km length has been graded and 10 per cent of the pipes transported to the sites and pipeline materials have been procured. Each pipe is about three tonnes and 11 metres long. The pipeline laying contract has also been awarded.

A change in the alignment will mean the cost will treble as the project will need to be redesigned to bring in a different class of pipes.

Also, the project planned to be completed in about a year will be delayed by more than three years, the source said. Also, the consumers – essentially industry which needs the fuel – will end up bearing the costs, the source said.

It is a clean fuel and feedstock in demand across range of industries.

The project had met with some resistance in Kerala and parts of Karnataka where compensation was hiked as appropriate.

For instance, in Karnataka Gail has hiked the compensation for land six times as compared with its initial estimate particularly in urban centres like Tumkur.

In Kerala there are issues in Calicut and Kannur which are being tackled. The gas pipeline project can only proceed with the cooperation of State Governments. Gail is worried that Tamil Nadu’s stand could set a precedent in other States.

The Tamil Nadu Government’s stand has “very much surprised GAIL.”

The company will now explore other legal options once the High Court passes an order, the source said.

Farmers welcome

Farmers in the western districts of Tamil Nadu affected by the pipeline project have hailed the stand of the Chief Minister asking GAIL to take the pipeline along the highways instead of through agricultural land.

Speaking to Business Line, V.T. Balasubramaniam, Coimbatore District President of the Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham, said the Chief Minister had taken a ‘just decision’, which was welcome.

>[email protected]

Published on March 25, 2013
null
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor