Hundreds of people at Puthuvypeen, a coastal area close to Kochi city in Kerala, are up in arms against the resumption of work on a Rs. 2,200-crore LPG storage import terminal of the Indian Oil Corporation.
The project work, that was stalled in 2017 following aggressive public resentment, has resumed under tight police cover and clamping of prohibitory orders. Despite that, hundreds of people, including women and children, took out an aggressive march to the project site on Saturday, defying the prohibitory orders.
While safety concerns are being raised by the local people, the IOC has been carrying out campaigns highlighting the safety features of the upcoming plant. The locals maintain that Puthuvypeen is one of the most densely populated areas and hence, the project poses a high risk to the people.
The IOC claims that apart from the advanced safety features of the plant, once commissioned, it could also stop the frequent movement of LPG-filled bullet tankers on Kerala roads.
M B Jayagosh, a leader of the joint action council of the local people, said that a risk analysis study on the project by a Hyderabad-based expert engineer cited that the plant and the pipeline could pose a risk to up to 52 square kilometres. Even an expert committee appointed by the Kerala government had pointed out the risks. Jayagosh alleged that the IOC authorities manipulated the original risk analysis report.
The IOC officials point out that at least 125 bullet tankers currently ply on Kerala roads daily. About 60 LPG tanker lorry accidents occurred in Kerala between 2014 and 2019, including two major tragedies that claimed many lives. Hence, the upcoming LPG terminal assumes much significance as it could also make it possible to import LPG from Mangaluru and distribute it to the bottling plants through the pipeline.
There were also allegations that a lobby of tanker lorry operators was instigating the stir against the plant as the plant would hit their revenue from LPG transportation.
The IOC officials also said that the plant got all the mandatory clearances and the National Green Tribunal also rejected the safety concerns raised by the people, including its proximity to the high-tide line.
The stir against the plant, which is over four-years long, even witnessed a police action on the agitators on in 2017 leading to the arrest of around 200 people.