CHENNAI: Contending that the proposed alignment of the GAIL gas pipeline would adversely affect the agricultural property of thousands of farmers in seven districts of Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Monday suggested implementing the project along the highways. Meanwhile, the State government filed a review petition before the Supreme Court over its February 2 verdict granting sanction to the project.
“State government believes that a re-alignment of the pipeline route along the highways with the least harm to the people and the least adverse impact on agriculture would be the best way forward to speedily implement the project”, Jayalalithaa said in her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Seeking Modi’s immediate intervention to resolve the issue, the Chief Minister urged him to rescind the notifications issued with regard to the gas pipeline project. She also requested him to direct GAIL India Ltd not to act upon these notifications, pending a final view in the matter. She also pointed out that the Government of Tamil Nadu has already constituted an expert committee to examine the possibilities of re-aligning the pipeline along the National Highways (NH)and the officials of GAIL could be asked to be part of this Committee so that a mutually acceptable solution could be found in the interest of the poor agriculturists as also for the implementation of the project.
Tracing the origins of the issue, Jayalalithaa recalled that the public hearings held by the State government in 2013 had revealed that more than 1.20 lakh fruit bearing trees would have to be uprooted for laying the pipes. “There are binding High Court directions based on which the State government of Tamil Nadu had issued orders for planting at least ten trees in the place of each tree cut to protect the environment. It would be impossible for GAIL to plant 12 lakh trees in the area”, she added. “Further, under Proviso (a) to Section 7(i) of the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962, it is mandated that no pipeline shall be laid under lands which were used for residential purposes or near such houses or with permanent structures” Jayalalithaa observed.
The Tamil Nadu government, on April 22, 2013, advised GAIL to stop laying pipeline on its proposed alignment after considering these facts and the risk of devastating accidents similar to the one that took place in Andhra Pradesh recently on a GAIL pipeline. “In addition, it is a fact that GAIL has laid pipelines in Kerala along the highways instead of on private lands”, she pointed out. The CM also urged the Modi to amend the Petroleum and Mineral Pipelines Act to have a specific provision for carrying out Social Impact Assessment (SIA) similar to the provisions of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.