KOCHI: The expert committee appointed by the state government to study the fears raised by the local community on the safety of the LPG project promoted by Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) has said that some of their concerns are genuine. The government appointed the panel in July following state-wide outrage over the police action against the protestors at Puthuvypeen. “There are certain genuine apprehensions and grievances for the community regarding the project which need redressal,” the report submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) states. “Compliances stipulated in the clearances and permissions are not fully complied with”.
The committee found the IOCL obtaining all the necessary statutory approvals required to initiate the project work except the disaster management plan which has to be looked into. It has submitted 17 recommendations and suggestions for moving ahead with the project. The LPG project is part of the Rs 5,000 crore investment planned by the IOCL in the state. The work has been stalled since February following the protest by the local community expressing safety concerns and its environmental impact. The IOCL refused to comment on the recommendations. "The report has to be examined in detail before making any comment," said an official.
The main recommendations and suggestions:
The IOCL should comply with all the conditions stipulated in various permissions and clearances from statutory authorities.
The mismatch in the distance from high tide line (HTL) to the project site given in the environmental clearance (EC) with actual construction undertaken should be revisited and if necessary corrected.
The project/ study report for coastal protection may be redesigned with reliable data and should cover the sediment cell between Kochi and Munambam inlets. Coastal protection may be taken up to address the erosion adjoining the IOCL, CPT, BPCL and Petronet LNG and adjoining areas together. Sand-based solutions are preferred for coastal protection.
Multi-hazard coastal vulnerability may be considered in the design of coastal protection measures. A recent study titled 'Climate Resilient Coastal Protection and Management' by Central Water Commission has computed the sea level rise and storm surge levels for the Indian coasts including Kochi. This could also be used.
The study by Central Water Commission under the Climate Resilient Coastal Protection and Management has given guidelines for construction of coastal protection measures. This may also be referred. The coastal protection measure now being designed for Pondicherry is one such good example.
The suggestions also included a proposal for orienting the LPG storage bullets to the north-south direction to increase the distance from the sea for better safety from the hazards of the sea.
Risk analysis associated with hazards such as monsoon waves, storm surge, sea level rise and tsunami, facilities such as fish landing centre, compensation for clam collectors, providing sufficient access to the beach and sea, and facilities to continue with the traditional rights of the fishing community are the other main suggestions and recommendations.
The panel also suggested a committee with representatives of the IOCL, Cochin Port Trust, BPCL, Petronet LNG, local panchayat, local stakeholders, local MLA and the district collector as members to ensure compliance of different conditions stipulated in different clearances and its recommendations.
Samithi to continue stir till IOC relocates plant
The Janakeeya Samara Samithi, spearheading the agitation against the LPG Import Terminal Project at Puthuvypeen, is of the opinion that the report submitted by the expert committee is unlikely to bring any material change in the circumstances of the agitation. M.D. Jaya Ghosh, a leader of the Samithi, said their central demand was to shift the terminal to a place without human habitation. “We will continue with the agitation till our demand is met. The terms of reference of the expert committee were not having this core demand of the people,” he told DC.
"The Samithi is happy that the expert committee, although we have several objections to its composition, has acknowledged the fact that the apprehensions raised by the people are genuine.” He said the finding had exposed the government propaganda that the agitation was spearheaded by extremist elements determined to block the development. “We are not against IOC or LPG plant or the so-called development. Our concern is the safety of the people living in the vicinity of the terminal,” he added. "The expert committee did not have representation to handle several areas of concern raised by the local people. It was a committee arbitrarily formed by the government, and its report cannot be considered as the final word on the matter.”