KOCHI: Yet another petrochemical expansion project of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd - Kochi Refinery (BPCL-Kochi) at Ambalamugal - has been accorded environmental clearance by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change even as residents demanded the PSU oil major keep 500 m of greenbelt between the residential area and the unit, giving them a fair chance at sustenance.
“The expansion plan with an estimated cost of Rs 11,000 crore pertains to the manufacturing of Polyols, Propylene Glycol, and Mono Ethylene Glycol. The new facility will be set up at Puthencruz area,” a BPCL-Kochi spokesman told ‘Express.’
Meanwhile, Pramod Luckose, president of the residents’ welfare association at South West Ambalamugal, said this 70-acre takeover of land from FACT for the proposed phase of expansion will lead to massive deforestation in the proposed green belt. “Several units are not adhering to the minimum requirement of maintaining 500 m from residential units and water bodies, making it difficult for local people to survive in the highly polluting environment,” he said.
The residents demand that BPCL form a natural boundary as a countermeasure for destroying the thickly wooded area for this Polyol project. “We are not against BPCL or industries, we are bothered only about our children’s health, the safety of the city and state,” said Pramod.
In an open letter, the residents said: “We have supported BPCL for its growth, bearing with a lot of suffering. The refinery started with 2.5 MMTPA and has now reached its production capacity nearly 6 times (15.5 MMTPA) with the expansion of IREP. But, it’s disheartening BPCL is constructing the Petrochemical Project surrounding our residential area. Now the three sides of our houses are BPCL, Petrochemical Plants, and the polluted ‘Chitrapuzha’ River.”
Close to 600 families residing in and around the BPCL and FACT projects in the Ambalamugal industrial belt have long been demanding a fair compensation package for relocation. “BPCL’s recent expansion plans cost Rs 40,000 crore. Even if the company spends 3 per cent of it for a relocation package, the residents will happily accept it,” said Pramod.
Locals alleged since BPCL is a Navaratna company making huge profits, the Ministry of Environment is turning a blind eye to the blatant violation of rules with respect to the expansion plans. The issue of rising water, air and noise pollution had already been a bone of contention with locals, BPCL and FACT at Ambalamugal. The State Pollution Control Board was pulled up for its apathy in initiating action against industries responsible for polluting the environment.However, the BPCL spokesman did not comment on the allegations of environmental violations in the company’s expansion plans.