Bengaluru: Kerala will temporarily pause construction of a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) import terminal at an island off the coast of Kochi after local protests ended in a police action last week.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan Wednesday met the protestors along with local legislators and representatives of Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOC) which is building the Rs2,200-crore terminal.
The terminal will receive imported LPG and transport it across the state to Tamil Nadu, increasing cooking gas supply. Residents of Puthuvype, the southern tip of Vypin island, have been protesting since February over fears that the gas storage tanks could become a safety hazard.
In a press conference also live-streamed on Facebook, Vijayan said though the government thinks there is no basis to the allegations, it is considering the concerns raised by the locals seriously.
A panel will investigate the complaints and until its report comes in, construction will be halted, Vijayan said. The state is not thinking of abandoning the project, he said, since the concerns raised were not sustained in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Kerala high court.
The NGT in an order in August 2016 permitted the company to carry on with the construction work for the plant, but asking it to strictly follow the coastal zone regulation norms, namely no-work in the inter-tidal zone between 200 and 300 metres away from the coastline. This was followed by a Kerala high court order against the disruption of the work.
However, the locals have again approached the NGT, alleging a violation of the norms on the inter-tidal zone, among others. The case is next up for hearing on 4 July.
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“This is not a state government project, but an important project for the country. If we decide to abandon the project altogether, it will send a negative signal. It will only be helpful for the forces who wants Kerala not to be developed. Development cannot be compromised,” he said.
Residents have been agitating since 16 February on the grounds that construction activity and the plant itself will make life unsafe. On Friday, policemen who tried to disperse protestors at the construction site were pelted with stones, local reports said, resulting in a cane-charging. Human rights activists, civic leaders and political parties have condemned the action.