Shaken Konaseema residents seek removal of pipelines

Stiff resistance: Explanations apart, residents want no more Gail projects in the village

Shaken Konaseema residents seek removal of pipelines

Hailed as the most picturesque region in coastal Andhra Pradesh, Konaseema witnessed its peaceful abode turn into a veritable death-trap for people and cattle, as the pipeline that promised development and economic growth unleashed its inflammable content. 

The blast that claimed lives and damaged buildings here left people in the region’s 150 villages in 14 mandals shaken, worried and angry at the Gail authorities responsible for maintaining the pipelines. 

Indeed, Gail seems to have done precious little to ensure the safety of the 20-year-old pipelines, and people here want them removed. 

Hundreds in Nagaram, Jaggannapet, Gannavaram and Tatipaka blockaded R P Singh,  chairman of the high-level panel set up by the ministry of petroleum, and demanded the removal of the pipeline, showing little interest in the questions from the panel visiting the region to probe the blasts. 

“We want no explanation or reasons for the blasts. Please take your gas and the pipeline from our village,” said Rayudu Nageswar Rao, a local cable operator in Nagaram.Singh was aghast at the buildings close to the pipeline, including houses and educational institutions. 

“The damage would have been severe had the classes (in the school building) begun. Luckily, the blast took place early in the morning,” Singh told a television channel. He said the panel would submit its report to the ministry at the earliest on the strength of the pipe and the reasons for the blasts. 

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Andhra Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Chinarajappa said that the state government has asked Gail to remove the old pipeline and take full responsibility for the incident. 

“We assured local people not to panic as we will not hesitate to take stringent action, including removing the pipeline after the high-level committee submits its report,” the deputy chief minister said, adding that the state would give loans for people to build houses lost in the explosion. 

However, local people have their own reason for the pipeline to be dismantled. “The authorities have not learnt their lessons,” K Venkata Reddy, working as a security guard for an MNC in Kakinada said.

 “I came from Pasarlapudi, where there was a blowout in 1995. Now also there are pipes submerged under flowing water, rusted and ready to blow out once again.” 

Trunk lines of 18 inch diameter crisscross the region, connecting the 48 wells operating here with the Gas Control Stations (GCS), from where natural gas is supplied to power stations. Fifteen such lines supply gas to the GCS in Tatipaka and a few more in Mori, Ponnamanda and Sakhinetipalli villages. 

“Actually there will be valves at every 2 km. These emergency shutdown valves should automatically close if there is variation in gas pressure.  Around 15 km from here at Dindi there is a valve, which could have been shut down manually by pushing a button at GCS.

No one did that in this instance,” an ONGC official said. The failure proved costly as the leakage that happened far-away spread through the village which was deep in slumber.

Gas then poured out of the opening almost for an hour engulfing five acres of land and turning the place into an inferno. 

“Thanks to the sacrifice of Gatikanti Vasu, who runs a tea stall outside the Gail centre, catastrophe of an even greater proportion was averted,” said Vanarasi Raja, who lives near the blast site. 

“He struck the match stick at 5.15 am, saving at least three villages close to the mini refinery, though it killed five of his dear ones, including infants. Had he not struck the match, the oil would have spread up to the refinery and led to unimaginable loss of lives.”

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