GAIL prepares for pipeline battle in Tamil Nadu

Vol 16, PW 22 (30 May 13) Midstream & Downstream

GAIL is preparing to challenge Tamil Nadu state authorities in court after it was told to stop laying sections of a 948-sq km pipeline to carry R-LNG from Kochi to Mangalore.

“Going to court is the only solution,” says GAIL. Pushed by angry farmers, chief minister (Ms) J.

Jayalalithaa on March 25 ordered GAIL to stop laying a 310-km stretch of the 948-km pipeline that passes through Tamil Nadu, arguing it should run parallel to highways, not across farmland. GAIL is furious, saying no state government can dictate a pipeline route if it abides by the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962.

“They have no case,” adds GAIL. “Any court will throw out this order.

” Under the law, says GAIL, a state government’s role is only to “facilitate” land acquisition by appointing a Land Acquisition Commissioner to compensate landowners. GAIL accuses Tamil Nadu authorities of over-stepping their brief.

Attempts to organise a meeting in early May between GAIL executive director AK Singh and state officials came to nothing. GAIL also wrote to state authorities quoting the Act, with no response.

Across the world, adds GAIL, trunk pipelines are laid along farmland, never along roads. Farmland is less populated making it easier and safer to lay and maintain high-pressure pipelines.

“Alongside highways the population is denser,” says GAIL. “There are shops and houses and this presents an engineering challenge to deploy big diameter pipes and heavy equipment.

Entire shops and houses may have to go when laying a pipeline.”