Thoothukudi petro project: TN told to address plaints
THOOTHUKUDI: The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (Refinery Division), in an order dated October 6, has directed Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu to take appropriate action on complaints against ongoing land acquisition at Allikulam and surrounding villages in Thoothukudi for a private petroleum refinery project.
The Thoothukudi district administration in February this year had earmarked 2,234.82 acre across seven villages surrounding Allikulam, for installation of a petroleum refinery project proposed by the Southern Pearl Refinery and Petrochemicals Private Limited (SPRPPL), a subsidiary of Kuwait-based Al Quebla Al Watya. Following this, in June, Collector Dr K Senthil Raj appointed 125 revenue officials under a special District Revenue Officer for the acquisition of land.
In May 2020, the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change, said such a polluting industry can not be allowed close to dense residential areas. It was suggested that the SIPCOT find a place at least 25 km away from the town and 10 km from any habitation and ecologically important areas.
Over 9,521 people from seven habitats live about 1 km away from the proposed site, and over 15,000 residents live in Pudukkottai, about 10 km from the petroleum refinery project. Also, the Thoothukudi airport is only about 4.2 km away from the project site. The Uppar river that flows through Umarikottai, Kombadi, Allikulam, and other areas, is also fed by many jungle streams that meander through the site. Now, the public have alleged the site violates EAC recommendations.
Drop land acquisition move, say farmers
The EAC had rejected accommodation of the petroleum refinery project at the previous site considering its proximity to a population of more than 15,000 persons. At least seven jungle streams meander through the proposed site, said V Gunaselan, coordinator of Uppar River Protecting Movement. Stating the petroleum refineries and petrochemical complexes involve storage of large quantities of hazardous and volatile chemicals that are subject to uncontrolled releases despite best precautions, Gunaselan said the waterbodies, too, are prone to be polluted.
The Uppar stream drains into the Korampallam tank, close to the Thoothukudi corporation, he added. The farmers and residents of the region want the district administration to drop the land acquisition forthwith. “Once the land has been acquired, it will not be returned,” they said. Sundar Rajan, whose land was notified for acquisition, alleged the district administration had issued orders for acquisition before obtaining public grievances, mandated in the Government Order.
“The petitions in this regard were rejected blatantly without considering our concerns over the loss of agriculture fields and waterbodies. The district administration said the land acquisition has begun following a Government Order and the grievances regarding shifting it to an alternate location cannot be entertained,” he said. When contacted, a top official from the Revenue Department told TNIE a consultation meeting will be conducted with the people of Allikulam and six other villages on November 9, to discuss their grievances.
Break up of the land being acquired
Allikulam: 459.52 acres
Keela Thattaparai: 468.61 acres
Mela Thattaparai: 428.01 acres
Umarikottai: 261.96 acres
Perurani: 347.85 acres
Ramasamypuram: 235.32 acres
Therku Silukanpatti: 16.46 acres
Approved in 2020
The project proponent had planned to set up 10 MMTPA refinery and a 2 MMTPA petrochemical plant at Rs 49,000 crore and it obtained AIADMK Cabinet approval in January 2020