GAIL must deal with Kerala farmers, says Chandy

Vol 15, PW 26 (12 Jul 12) People & Policy

Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy is telling GAIL to deal directly with angry farmers holding up completion of its 948-km R-LNG evacuation pipeline from the under construction Kochi terminal.

PETROWATCH learns a senior GAIL team led by executive director projects Ashutosh Karnatak met Chandy and other officials on June 21 in the capital Thiruvananthapuram but returned disappointed. “All he (Chandy) said was GAIL should invest in an advertising campaign extolling the pipeline and shattering any myths prevalent among farmers,” says an upset source.

“GAIL expected him to help actively. They think GAIL is doing the project to make money only for itself.

” Chandy’s refusal to get involved is a politically shrewd move, but could adversely affect completion of the under-construction Kochi LNG terminal. Petronet-LNG expects to commission the terminal in September.

Yet farmer protests in north Kerala’s Kasargode, Palakkad, Thrissur and other districts have prevented GAIL from laying even a single kilometre of the pipeline to evacuate R-LNG from the terminal to Mangalore and Bangalore in Karnataka. Farmers wrongly believe the gas pipeline is an underground bomb and a leak might repeat the infamous Union Carbide Bhopal gas tragedy.

GAIL has its work cut out convincing farmers there’s no comparison between R-LNG and the poisonous ‘methyl isocyanate’, which leaked in Bhopal. “Each (pipeline) contractor is spending about Rs1cr/day ($180,000) on salaries and other expenses,” adds an observer.

“Who will pay” Four pipeline laying contractors were mobilised in March to lay sections of GAIL’s pipeline: a consortium of Tecpro Systems and AMKV; Corrtech International; Fabtech Projects & Engineers partnering Zen Gas; and Punj Lloyd - all are sitting idle.