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GAIL has started issuing compensation to land owners who have lost their land to the gas pipeline project, connecting the Kochi LNG terminal to Bangalore and Mangalore. The first set of cheques were handed over to the land owners of Poyya village in Kodungallur taluk in Thrissur district on Thursday. Deputy Collector M Anil Kumar handed over the first cheque to Benny Alex, a resident of Poyya village.
GAIL is laying the gas pipeline from Kochi to Koottanad in Palakkad district, and thereon to Bangalore and Mangalore. Phase 2 of the project that has a length of 900 km, passes through Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. About 505 km of the pipeline's alignment is in Kerala running through the districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur. Public hue and cry over the land acquisition has slowed down the pipeline-laying work and so far only 4 kms have been completed in phase-2.
The slow pace of laying the pipeline and delays in entering marketing tie-ups for the sale of natural gas had delayed the commissioning of the Petronet LNG Terminal at Puthuvype, near here. The company planned to commission the project in 2012. But, the delay in the pipeline project has hit the schedule of the project. According to information available, the commissioning would be prolonged further and is likely to happen in February or March. The terminal is now ready to receive LNG.
Phase -2 of the pipeline project, to Mangalore and Bangalore which involves an investment of Rs 3,400 crore is now held up. 505 km of this pipeline passes through Kerala, 310 km through Tamil Nadu and 85 km through Karnataka. Inadequacy of the compensation package is the key issue in the case of land acquisition. Only 10 per cent of the market value of land can be paid to the land owner under Section 10(4) of the Petroleum & Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act. This led to serious protests from the owners as land prices are pretty high in Kerala.
The state government is considering a proposal to issue a direction that the market value for this purpose shall be three times of the fair value. It is learned that the government would issue a notification in this regard shortly.
According to GAIL sources this will speed up acquisition process. The political administration of the state is helpless as the pipeline passes through all the northern districts, except Wynad. The protests from the public is intense, while the government is not in a position to forcefully acquire land.
Though agriculture and related activities are possible over the pipeline, building construction would not be possible and this is the major concern of land owners. For practical purposes, GAIL has reduced the width of the land required under the Right of Use (RoU) from 20 metres to 10 metres.
Top officials of GAIL, Petronet LNG and Cochin Port said, the work of the gas pipeline from Dhabol to Bangalore is progressing fast, and if the delay continues in Kerala, Mangalore may get connected from Tumkur on the Dhabol-Bangalore pipeline, depriving Kerala of the Koottanad-Mangalore stretch of the gas pipeline.