Chennai: Asking the Centre to rescind notification on GAIL gas pipeline passing through Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking changes in the central law to provide for social impact assessment for the project.
In a letter to Modi she said the proposed alignment would cause “irreparable damage” to Erode, Tirupur, Coimbatore, Namakkal, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Salem districts through which the Kochi-Koottanad-Mangaluru- Bengaluru gas pipeline would traverse.
Referring to the last week’s Supreme Court ruling against the state government’s 2013 order asking GAIL to stop the project on its present alignment, she said the apex bank had also made it clear that Centre was the “competent government” on this matter.
The court had held that once the right of use of land was notified, the state government had no power to direct on the issue of alignment.
“Since the competent Government under the relevant Act is the Central Government, the Government of India may rescind the notifications, issued under the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User) Act, 1962, for the GAIL pipeline in Tamil Nadu,” she said.
“The Central Government is empowered to withdraw the Notification under Section 93 of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, read with Section 18 of the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962,” she said.
Further, as per Proviso (a) to Section 7 (i) of the Petroleum and Minerals Act, 1962, it was “mandated” that no pipeline shall be laid under lands which were used for residential purposes or near such houses or with permanent structures, she said in the letter which was released by the state government.
Referring to Petroleum and Minerals Act, 1962, she said it was one of the 13 Central Acts, which had been exempted from the requirement of carrying out Social Impact Assessment under the UPA’s 2013 Land Acquisition Act.
The Petroleum and Minerals Act was “technically” not a Land Acquisition Act “but only provides for right to use the land for laying pipelines for petroleum products,” she said.
Jayalalithaa further said the impact of laying pipelines for transport of gas and other petroleum products was “very wide and affects the life and livelihood of farmers in multiple ways by restricting their usage of land and exposing them to risks.”
“It is particularly so in this project since the Act prohibits planting of trees in the lands taken under the Right of User in Land clauses and fruit bearing trees are the main crops in this region and no crop can be grown adjacent to fruit bearing trees.”
“In this context, it is urged that the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, 1962, should be amended to have a specific provision for carrying out a Social Impact Assessment similar to the provisions of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013,” she urged Prime Minister.
She also asked him to direct GAIL to not to act upon the “said notifications” (allowing the pipeline project) pending a final view over the matter.
GAIL could also be directed to be part of the state’s Expert Committee, “for the purpose of exploring the possibility of laying the pipelines alongside the National Highways,” she said.
“I am confident that this sensitive issue which has huge implications for the farmers and common people of Tamil Nadu can be resolved through a joint constructive and accommodative approach and a solution can be arrived at to lay the pipelines along the National Highways,” she added.
Among others, the project would result in the removal of over an estimated 1.20 lakh mango, jackfruit and coconut trees besides bringing restrictions on excavating tanks and wells even as the pipeline band “fragments a large number of land holdings, rendering them completely uneconomic,” she added.