CHENNAI: In what appears to be yet another environmental violation against the fragile coastal ecosystem of Ennore, the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) is laying a Regasified Liquefied Natural Gas (R-LNG) pipeline across the wetlands of Ennore creek allegedly without obtaining the necessary Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance. However, IOCL officials have refuted these allegations, stating that out of 22.656km of the pipeline just over 600 metres is CRZ area.
The 22.656 km of underground pipeline, being executed under a common corridor pipeline project connecting IOCL’s under-construction LNG import and re-gasification terminal at Kamarajar port and Manali industrial area, cuts through the CRZ area of Ennore creek. It falls in CRZ-I (116 metres) and CRZ-III (518 metres) and prior CRZ clearance is mandatory.
Although, the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Union Environment Ministry recommended IOCL’s proposal for CRZ clearance — subjects to certain conditions in November 2017 — the ministry has not accorded the clearance till date. Currently, as there is no Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) in place, the process of getting the clearance may be delayed further.
Despite this, IOCL appears to have commenced laying the pipeline without the clearance. When Express visited the spot on Wednesday, heavy machinery was seen deployed and pipeline being laid in Ennore creek area, which environmentalists claim falls under the CRZ. In the absence of the mandatory prior clearance, such work is illegal, activists alleged.
Besides, two roads have been laid across the wetlands to facilitate movement of heavy machinery employed by IOCL. Environment activist Pooja Kumar of Coastal Resource Centre said the work was being carried out with no foresight as the site would be excavated for remediation. “The Expert committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal has recommended a scientific remediation of the polluted Ennore Creek wetlands, which is long due. Transmission of high pressure gas through such fragile ecosystems could have dangerous consequences. How can such a project be executed without CRZ clearance and Consent To Establish (CTE) from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB),” she asked.
Meanwhile, fisherfolk in Ennore have expressed grave concerns as no scientific study has been conducted to ascertain the safety of laying such a pipeline through the wetland. “There is no information available showing that the company has conducted any safety studies. We are totally dependent on the river for our livelihoods,” said Ravindran, president, Ennore All Fishermen Association.
IOCL refutes allegations
When contacted, S Thangaraj, general manager, Southern Region Pipelines, IOCL, told the Express that there was no violation as such. “Out of 22.656 km, just over 600 meters is CRZ area. We are carrying out works in other stretches and have already laid about 18 km of pipeline. This is a very ambitious project and the terminal is scheduled to be commissioned next month, after being inaugurated by the Prime Minister,” he said.
In contrast to activists’ charges, Thangaraj said that IOCL had obtained a CTE from TNPCB. “The CTE clearly lays the condition that IOCL can’t carry any work in CRZ area without the clearance. The work on `5,151 crore worth 5 MMPTA (million metric tons per annum) LNG import and re-gasification terminal is nearing completion and this pipeline is required for evacuation of gas and distribution to various starving anchor customers like Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited, Madras Fertilizers Limited and Tamil Nadu Petroproducts Limited in Manali industrial area to cater to gas demand of region,” Thangaraj said.
The official said the pipeline was being laid underground along the entire stretch at minimum depth of 1.5 m and in most of the places, concrete coated pipeline would be laid and at important crossings it will be laid, through trenchless Horizontal Directional Drilling Method, to a depth of minimum 8 metres. “The underground pipeline is protected through 3 LPE coating externally and Epoxy coating internally in addition to cathodic protection and round the clock operation and maintenance of this R-LNG pipeline through SCADA Master Control Station,” he said.